While the campus of Judson College in Marion is no longer buzzing with students, classes or extracurricular activities, it remains a vital location for the business operations focused on dissolving the corporation.
Judson President Daphne Robinson continues the quest of ensuring the historic institution closes with dignity.
Robinson, who became president July 19, confirmed in late September that Judson ceased to exist as a school on July 31 — the date announced following a difficult decision made by the board of trustees in May.
All but three or four of the then-registered students (around 80) found a new home, she said, noting the ones not in school this fall chose to take a break rather than enroll elsewhere.
The University of Mobile agreed to take responsibility for student transcripts and has already been processing requests, Robinson shared. “I personally delivered the information … microfilm, pdfs and all former catalogs,” she said, expressing a sense of gratitude to the sister Alabama Baptist school.
Most faculty have found new positions and some are reporting better hours and better pay in their new roles, Robinson said.
As far as staff, about 10 people remain employed by Judson in the areas of administration, maintenance, janitorial services and security.
Robinson’s focus now is on wrapping up paperwork required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools along with negotiations with creditors to find an agreeable solution for the $15.9 million debt.
“They are all being very cooperative and understanding,” she said. “We are still trying to work out a situation where we do not have to file bankruptcy.”
Along with recruiting a national real estate group skilled in marketing the sale of large campuses that have closed, Robinson has been contacting donors to see if they might consider unrestricting their scholarship endowments. By unrestricting the funds, Judson can use the money toward closing costs.
And while it may seem like an odd way to allow the money to be used, Robinson noted that it all really comes full circle because the banks played a part in Judson’s story the past 20 years.
“These banks loaned us money when we didn’t have enough income coming in that allowed students to go to school on the scholarships,” she said. “It was because of the banks that Judson continued running.”
Robinson also noted that while Judson officials are optimistic in the sale of the property, they are anticipating a careful vetting of any potential buyers.
“We want to make sure whoever buys the campus is good for the community,” she said. “We have such a strong relationship with the community.”
Once everything is settled, the remaining restricted endowments will be rerouted to another location based on an assessment by the state Attorney General’s office, according to Judson officials earlier in the year and confirmed by Robinson. Officials in the AG’s office will look at the intent of the donor in their decision, she explained.
Also, still pending is the future home of all the archives stored at Judson, Robinson noted.
“There’s a lot of history there and you don’t want that lost,” she said. “Judson is continuing to pursue the best location of the archives.”
Robinson will attend the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting in November to give Judson’s final report to messengers.
Cooperative Program funds from Alabama Baptists will continue through the end of December to complete the 2021 year of funding, but Judson is not in the proposed 2022 CP budget for Alabama Baptists.
Still, Robinson shares the same sentiment as a long history of Judson presidents have — gratitude to Alabama Baptists.
“Alabama Baptists are very generous and supportive and have been really appreciative of what all Judson did through the years,” she said. “They … like the majority of the alumni … are very sad and disappointed Judson had to close but understand the reality of how things are.”