By Elizabeth Well, Historian and Judson College alumna
From The Alabama Baptist
Judson College, named in honor of Baptist missionary Ann Hasseltine Judson, was founded in 1838. From the beginning, Judson’s mission was to offer educational opportunities for women to develop their God-given gifts and talents and to equip them to serve Christ as His hands and feet in the world.
On Jan. 7, 1839, Judson Female Institute opened its doors for the first session. Incorporation came two years later on Jan. 9, 1841.
Traditionally, 19th century women’s education provided basic instruction in literature and mathematics but focused on the social graces of womanhood, proficiencies in needlework, drawing, penmanship and music.
However, founding president Milo Parker Jewett included in Judson’s curriculum classical male academic offerings — mathematics, laboratory science, Latin and Greek, literature — along with the “finer” skills and Bible.
The Judson woman was well read, able to conduct business and professional work, teach and gracefully preside over and see to the needs of her household.
She was active in her community and her church, providing leadership when called upon and financial aid where needed. Judson women were challenged to be leaders in this world, to meet those needs in whatever circumstances they encountered.
“The Judson” demonstrated her resilient spirit over nearly two centuries. She survived two devastating fires, rebuilding and improving the campus each time.
Students and faculty ministered to the community, state, nation and world. Her women pioneered in research, served in all professions and nourished home and family.
Judson College students and faculty partnered with Alabama Baptists in missions work too. Hearing God’s call to local and international ministry, students prepared themselves to be of use. Even now, they continue to lead in local churches, associational and state ministries.
No matter how large or small the task, countless women answered God’s call to full-time missions. In the words of Drucilla Collins McCullum, class of 1887 and the first Southern Baptist missionary woman to Japan, they all answered, “Send me.”
Judson alumnae were the institution’s most loyal supporters, giving sacrificially to fund specific needs. They promoted the school and encouraged young women to attend.
These women are bound together by Judson traditions passed down from one generation of students to another.
Sadly, Judson College closed its doors July 31, 2021. In his announcement of the closing, Mark Tew, president from 2019 to 2021, said Judson’s dwindling student enrollment and financial difficulties amid a global pandemic were the major factors in the decision.
Judson alumnae and other loyal supporters rallied to their alma mater’s crisis with prayer and financial gifts, but sadly they could not save the school.
Loss to region
Judson’s loss extends into Marion and Perry County. Frances Ford, outstanding alumna and executive director of Sowing Seeds of Hope, expressed it well: Not only “we but the community will suffer and will feel the hurt and the devastation of losing that college. Judson was a college that encouraged you to give back.”
The doors of Judson College may close, but her influence will continue. The gifts Judson women bestowed upon this world are far reaching and will continue to be strong and fruitful in God’s fields.This story republished with permission from TAB Media Group. This article also appeared in Fruitful, a special publication produced by TAB Media in partnership with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.