Judson College board of trustees vote to move forward

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(Photo from judson.edu)

Marion, Ala. –  Since 1838, Judson College has equipped young women for life and leadership for the good of others and to the glory of God. The 183-year-old institution has been dedicated to providing an excellent education and transformational leadership opportunities in a Christ-centered environment focused on helping young women succeed.

During a special-called board meeting on Friday, April 2, the board made a renewed commitment to this mission and to Judson’s future.

Board members acknowledged the reality of what the school faces with continued changes across higher education. Judson’s current declining enrollment and budget deficits also have been exacerbated by the economic burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But after prayerful consideration and an encouraging all-in commitment-raising campaign, the 24-member board voted 14 – 5 to approve the College’s 2021–2022 budget, allowing the college to continue its operations. Four board members were not present for the vote and one abstained from voting.

“No decision by this board is ever taken lightly,” said Joan Newman ‘73, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “Today’s vote is the outcome of months of interviews, research, fundraising and yes, prayer. We accept as a group God’s call to boldness. Now, the work continues to ensure a Christian education that affords young women opportunities to learn and to lead.”

The campaign to raise $5 million in statements of future financial support was launched by the board March 3 during a special-called meeting as a final effort to find the needed funding to move forward.

During that meeting, the board voted unanimously to delay a vote on the College’s proposed operating budget for the 2021–2022 fiscal year for 30 days in order to explore the college’s ability to secure sufficient financial assurances to meet the demands of that budget and continue without interruption of its mission.

Throughout the month of March, the College and its constituents worked tirelessly to secure statements of financial support for the 2021–2022 year. 

College administrators launched an “All In For Judson” campaign, supplemented by print and digital ads, student videos, Judson stories and other shareable content to raise awareness of the campaign. The college launched an aggressive advertising campaign with Baptist media outlets in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Illinois, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia and New Mexico, as well as with the email distribution of Baptist Press. “Reaching out to Baptist friends in other states was crucial,” said Judson President W. Mark Tew. “Judson is an American treasure for all who hold Christian values dear,” said Tew, who noted that Judson is the only evangelical Christian women’s college in America.

This campaign resulted in a total of $1,255,273 in statements of financial support from friends, alumnae and students over the past 30 days.

Devoted alumnae directly contributed almost half of the funds for the effort, and current Judson students contributed nearly $10,000 to the campaign.

The board also voted unanimously today to affirm the leadership and work of Judson’s president and administration, and expressed gratitude for their “tireless work.”

“The college is very grateful for the many sacrificial gifts and letters of intention it has received,” said Tew. “The generosity of those who love and appreciate Judson’s unique mission is overwhelming. The board and administration are excited about the future of providing women’s education from a biblically-informed Christian worldview,” said Tew.

During the past week, students initiated a campus-wide prayer time before each meal. Alumnae and students gathered for prayer on campus during the day Friday. In an email this morning, Student Government Association President Anna Johnson ’22 encouraged her sisters, “Just as other women attending Judson were given Jewett fires, wars and economic depressions, we have been given this unprecedented time where we must stand firm and pray for the school that we love.”

The 2021–2022 budget includes action items for selected recommendations of Fuller Higher Ed Solutions, a firm engaged in December to explore potential paths forward for the College. Fuller’s findings indicated two choices for Judson — to close “with dignity” or to “invest in turnaround.” The college’s new budget reflects the board’s analysis of revenue and a scrutiny of planned expenditure that would put into motion many elements of the “turnaround” Fuller suggested, chiefly capital improvements, rebranding and marketing and curriculum review.

Newman addressed the students, faculty, staff and present alumnae in a gathering immediately following the board meeting in Alumnae Auditorium. To thunderous applause, Newman told the campus community that she and the board were “thrilled to tell you that Judson will be around for a long time.” She thanked students and alumnae for their efforts to promote the College’s fundraising efforts. A 1977 Judson graduate, Newman said, “It’s hard for us to not be aware of the legacy we all have–the generations of lives that have been changed by your experiences on this campus; the lives that you’ve then influenced in your professional lives, family lives, your church lives. The ripple effect continues. God is not done with us or with this campus. On behalf of the board, we are thrilled to tell you that Christian education for women in Marion, Alabama at Judson College will continue.”