Category Archives: Community

Judson’s Favorite Time of The Year

by Camry Sturdivant

Hockey All-Star team. Photo by Sarah Fowler.
Hockey All-Star team. Photo by Sarah Fowler.

Hockey Day is one of the best days here on campus, as well as one of the alumnae’s favorite times to fellowship with their past and present Judson sisters. This special day is an annual tradition at Judson College.  Hockey Day is always the first weekend in November. Judson faculty, students, and alumnae don their hockey sticks, shin guards, and socks and play hockey. The hockey field lies at the heart and center of the Judson campus.  As soccer coach Justin Pino sprayed the hockey field lines on the field, excitement was flowing through the air for the weekend. The requirements to play on Hockey Day are quite simple: all you have to do is sign up! To participate in Hockey Day, you cannot be a basketball player because of the risk of injuries before the season.  If you are a part of the soccer, volleyball, softball, or equestrian teams, all you have to do is ask your coach for permission to play.

Hockey practice began on Tuesday, Oct.  9 at 4  p.m. The rain at the Judson campus postponed a couple of Hockey Day practices.  When practice was held, the field was quite damp, so many students got down and dirty to show off their skills.  After a couple of practices, the teams were finally formed. For the teams, there are the seniors, Jr-Frosh, all-stars, and alumnae.  The Jr-Frosh are the sophomore and freshman players combined. The all-stars are the best of the best, and they are voted among the players to play against the alumnae.  The captain of the Jr-Frosh team was Jyasmine Torres. The captain for the senior team was Megan Matthews.

Senior  hockey team. Photo by Sarah Fowler.
Senior hockey team. Photo by Sarah Fowler.

Hockey Day finally arrived on  November 3, 2018, and the campus was filled with laughter and smiles for the big day.  Sophomore Jyasmine Torres said, “I have been waiting for this day to claim victory.” Sadly, this victory did not come.  The seniors won their hockey game against the Jr.-Frosh, and the all-stars won against the alumnae. The time increments for the games were two 20-minute halves filled with hard work, hustle, and teamwork as the players scrapped for the hockey puck.

The students also had the opportunity to order hockey day shirts to keep that memory with them forever.  The alumnae had the option to stay on campus to bond with their past and present Judson sisters. Quite a few of them revisited their old rooms in the Kirtley, Barron, or WMU dormitories and told stories of their times at Judson to the current students.  This becomes a very loving moment and shows what Judson is all about.


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Judson and Francis Marion High School Play Collaboration

Judson crew and FMHS cast members.  Photo by Dr. Stacey Parham.
Judson crew and FMHS cast members. Photo by Dr. Stacey Parham.

The Judson College English Department had the chance to work together with students from Francis Marion High School for a production of a play called “Wedding Bell Blues” on November 15, 2018. The director of the production was Dr. Billie Jean Young, along with managing director Dr. Stacey Parham, and 14 crew members from Judson drama classes.

The “Wedding Bell Blues” drama production was a success under the lead of the two professors from the Judson English Department. They created this service learning project for drama class students to obtain field experience and to interact with people outside of the Judson community. All 14 students and both professors went to FMHS for drama workshop on every Friday at 1 p.m. starting on the third Friday of September. Through the professors’ efforts, there were 24 FMHS students and their teacher, Ms. Francois, a faculty member of Francis Marion High, who volunteered to participate in the workshop together with the Judson crew. On the day of auditions, students were excited about landing actors’ and actresses’ roles when Dr. Parham divided all of the students into different theater position groups according to their preferences—drama publicity group, set designer group, costume design group, lights/sounds group, stage crew group, and actors and actresses. The publicity group was responsible for making posters of the production and programs for the production night. The set designer group, led by Sam Queijsen, a senior art major at Judson, designed the background and set, while the costume and stage crew crafted clothes for the casts. Energetic high schoolers participated with all of their hearts in hopes that the  production would go well and without any interruptions.

Laura Grace Terry, a Jr.-Soph at Judson, shared that her greatest takeaway from the workshop “would be better understanding of the role of teamwork and communication in theater. Not only do actors and actresses need to take direction, but the crew and directors must also collaborate to have the best performance possible.” She was assigned to be the student director of the play who does in-depth training with actors and actresses while being watched by Dr. Young. As a current actress at Judson College, Grace explains her “experience has been a great opportunity to instill an interest in drama into high school students. Along with having the ability to collaborate with Francis Marion High School, we have been able to give students a taste of the theatre, which may eventually produce those who are willing to perform in plays in local community theaters or even at Judson, should any Francis Marion students decide to enroll into Judson College.” The purpose of doing this service learning project is, according to Parham, that “we would be able to understand drama from multiple different perspectives from the lens of directing, getting props, getting the set design, and casting the actors that we otherwise would not necessarily be provided understanding of just through reading all the plays that we’ve been assigned.” The production of the play was a success as all participants from both schools went back home with great satisfaction.


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Welcome New Faculty and Staff

by Kassidy Giles and Kate Wright

Many faculty and staff members have moved on from Judson this semester and there have also been changes in the administrative structure of the school. The current administration paradigm has Dr. Scott Bullard serving as interim president (as he has been since Dr. David Potts took on his role as chancellor and later passed away). Once Dr. Bullard stepped into that role, Dr. Stacey Parham and Dr. Lesley Sheek both received the title of associate dean. Dean Susan Jones is still the dean of students.

New Faculty and Staff

Dr. Jessica Spafford has joined the music faculty in Tucker as Assistant Professor of Music. Dr. Spafford earned her degree in microbiology and music at Ohio Wesleyan University, and then her Master of Music degree from Duquesne University. She lived abroad in Austria and Germany, performing in opera houses in these countries, and still maintains an active performing career today. Dr. Spafford pursued her doctorate at James Madison University, where she was also teaching. She also previously taught at Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University and Mary Baldwin University before coming to Judson College.

    Dr. Cheryl Washington joins our education department this year as Judson’s Associate Professor of Education. Dr. Washington earned her BSW at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, her M.Ed. at Auburn University at Montgomery, and her Ed.D. at Alabama State University. Before her arrival at Judson College, Dr. Washington served as the Vice President of Academic Affairs and as a professor in Education. She has over 20 years in the education and social work field.

Dr. Mary Anne Garner joins our faculty members in Lowder this year as Judson’s Assistant Professor of Biology. Dr. Garner earned her B.S. in Biology from Samford University and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Cornell University. After graduating from Cornell, she earned her post-doctorate degree from Francis S. Lee’s laboratory at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, N.Y. Dr. Garner taught in Samford University’s biology department for five years before coming to Judson College.

Dr. Robin Parnell begins serving in the nursing department of our college this year as Judson’s Associate Professor of Nursing and our Director of the Nursing Program. Dr. Parnell received her B.S. in Nursing at Pensacola Christian College, her Master of Science in nursing from Troy University and her Ph.D. in Nursing from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She specializes in medical and surgical nursing, and has practiced at the V.A. Hospital in Beckley, West Virginia, and the Vaugh Regional Medical Center in Selma. Before coming to Judson College, she was an Assistant Professor of Nursing in the Associate of Science in Nursing program at Troy University.

Mrs. Laura Boltz has been an adjunct in the social work department of Judson College for the last few years, but has recently begun working at Judson College full-time as the Assistant Professor and Director of Field Education. She earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Alabama and her master’s degree in public health from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She is currently working on her Ph.D. at the University of Alabama. After completing grad school, Mrs. Boltz worked at the Jefferson County DHR in the foster care unit.

Coach Bridget Goodnight joins the Judson faculty this year as Judson’s Head Basketball Coach. Coach Goodnight has over 20 years of coaching experience at the junior high, high school, NJCAA, NCAA II, and NCAA levels, and has seen both increases in scholastic accomplishments and conference championships in the programs in which she has been involved. She holds multiple degrees from Northwest Mississippi Community College, Blue Mountain College and Delta State University.

Mrs. Shannon Stewart joins our faculty as our librarian in Bowling Library. Mrs. Stewart served in education as a librarian in the city of Selma for over 20 years before her arrival at Judson College. She has expressed her enthusiasm for working with students here at Judson where we are “supported within a Christian environment.” Mrs. Stewart is also thankful for the opportunity to aid students in their own self-discovery and in their location and evaluation of information as they proceed in their curriculum.

Miss Whitney Mitchell has joined the administrative staff of Bowling Library in place of Mrs. Vanessa Nicholson as our library assistant. Whitney is a 2016 graduate of Marion Academy and a native of Marion, Ala. She openly expresses her excitement to service Judson College and experience her hometown in a new perspective through it.

Mrs. Carrie McWhorter is now serving Judson College as our journalism adjunct. Mrs. McWhorter has been teaching college-level English for over twenty years, and also serves as a writer and editor for the Alabama Baptist newspaper, as well as several other publications over a 20-year journalism career. She is currently presiding over the publication of The Triangle, and works closely with its staff.

Mrs. Arwen Dillard is an adjunct in the English department this semester.

Mrs. Alyssa Snyder has joined our Judson staff this year as our registrar at the departure of Mrs. Susanna Barkley. Mrs. Snyder earned her B.A. in Theology with a minor in Counseling at [insert college here]. Previous to her tenure at Judson, Mrs. Snyder as the Student Success Advisor for Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, Ala., as well as various roles in admissions there.

Miss Noelle Hanna, Mrs. Ashley Smith, Mrs. Shacovah Edmonds and Miss Kaitlyn Garrison have all joined our Judson family as staff members of the Admissions office this year.

Mrs. Mary Kathryn Avery has joined our Judson staff this year on the marketing team. Mrs. Avery earned her B.A. in Communication Sciences and a Master’s in Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Alabama. She previously worked for the American Cancer Society as the Marketing and Communications Specialist and at Regions Bank as the Corporate Marketing Area Support Manager.

Mrs. Ashley Washington is teaching in the nursing department.

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What Family Are You In?

Amoeba family members. Photo by Shelby Lauzon.
Amoeba family members. Photo by Shelby Lauzon.

by Kai Bu

As the semester begins at Judson, many new faces walk around campus and sign the honor code at the second week of chapel. As newcomers officially become Judson students, Jr-Sophs and some seniors start their mission: look for their little-to-be through activities or dining hall chats. School activities such as Back-to-school Bash and Game Night offer Jr-Sophs the opportunity to get to know more about freshwomen.

After that, the Jr-Sophs’ next moves are leaving invitation signs in front of freshwomen’s rooms asking them to sit on their blankets for the first serenade, where they spend time together and learn about traditions together. Finally, on the night of the Big-Little Banquet and Signing Ceremony, freshwomen sign to become an official little sister of her respective Jr-Soph for the rest of her time at Judson. This has been how sisterhoods are born between loving Judson sisters for decades.

While many Jr-Sophs ask freshwomen to join their previously-existing families, other Jr-Sophs might ask their little sisters to join in creating a brand new family. Judson’s big-little tradition is not all about following what has already existed, but it is also about creating a new route that makes the tradition even more exciting and loving.

Judson is a place where one can become a pioneer of tradition by creating her own family under the lead of a god-big (a senior who is currently participating in traditions). Shelby Lauzon, the 2017-2018 senior class president and 2016-2017 Chemistry Club president, created the “Amoeba” family in her junior year with three amoebae family members. When asked the reason for building a new family, Shelby answered,“Noaf I. Bader [a graduated senior] has no little and I was really close to her. So, we decided to create a new family, but she didn’t want to create so I made her my god-big and I started the ‘Amoebae.’”

As aforementioned, there are very few rules and regulations to create a family. Current senior class president, Megan Matthews, said, “You just come talk to me and Dean Susan Jones. We have to make sure whether the family name is appropriate and different things.” According to Matthews, there are 15 families on campus and the estimated count for students participating in traditions is about 170 students out of over 300 students. Students are not the only participants in traditions—some staff members are participating in traditions as class sponsors. Ms. Courtney Tindale and Mr. Joshua Pickens are class sponsors of Jr-Soph class while Ms. Katlin Bailey (a Judson alumna) serves as senior class sponsor for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Creating a new family is also an option for transfers, depending on their situations. “Oftentimes we have transfer students that come in and they cannot find a big sister in time, so they decide to make their own family,” explained Matthews.


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New Faces in Familiar Places


As students and faculty members of Judson College bid farewell to the familiar faces of faculty that have long served on our campus, we also welcome new staff members into the Judson family. During their daily routines, students may notice new faces in several different departments, such as music, art, education, and religion.

One new face in particular belongs to Assistant Professor of Education, Dr. Allison Newton. Dr. Newton received her undergraduate degree in Communications at the University of Alabama before pursuing her Master’s as a Reading Specialist and her PhD in Early Childhood Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Prior to her employment at Judson, Dr. Newton taught secondary English and literature in the Pell City school system for thirteen years, as well as teaching as an adjunct instructor of grads and undergrads at UAB.

Dr. Allison Newton
Dr. Allison Newton

“[My experience at Judson] has been both a similar and different experience than what I’ve had before,” Dr. Newton began eagerly. “I’ve taught undergrads and graduates at UAB, but in much larger settings. What I love about Judson are the relationships that you build right away. I teach mainly junior- and senior-level courses—so as a teacher you feel a profound sense of responsibility at this level, knowing that your students are going out and becoming teachers. It’s very exciting.”

An immediate characteristic that is apparent upon first conversation with Dr. Newton is her sincere love for teaching and her genuine care for the impact that she makes on her students. “Having an impact on 125 students a day was hard to walk away from,” she said, “[but] I thought, ‘Wow, I might not have an impact on 125 a day, but I could impact way more than that in the future by being able to impact young women [. . .] who will then impact their students.’”

Similarly, another prominent feature of her character is her enthusiasm for literature and engaging young minds in the world of reading. “My passion is literacy. My mission is to really engage in the local schools here—we’ve really started re-igniting the reading mentor program, and we’re doing it through the school’s literacy courses now. I could not be prouder of anything than what [the program is] doing right now. There’s no greater gift than to empower a child with the love of reading and the ability to do so.”

Dr. Newton notes that although the transition from teaching at a co-ed school has had surprisingly little effect on her teaching compared to what she expected, she has noticed that there is a “greater comfort” for the young women in her classes than what she saw in her high school classroom. “It’s wonderful that women don’t have to compete with men to get the attention that they deserve. The research is there that in the public-school system, the males get called on more in the classroom than the females, and it’s pretty fabulous to be able to honor women in that way.” Her face lit up as she began to laugh over her following statement, “Especially since I am one!”

A particularly exciting Judson experience that Dr. Newton mentioned is none other than Judson’s unique traditions, such as Pageant and Hockey Day. “I really did not understand what Pageant was going to be at all,” she expounded. “Everyone just told me ‘just go’—and when I got there, all I could think was… what is happening?! And then I went to Hockey Day, and I wasn’t sure of what to expect of that either—and then [the players] came out, and they had rolled the goal lines, and everyone was wearing tutus! I have really loved [experiencing traditions]. It’s all been brand new because I had no idea!  It’s more surprising. No one has told me ‘oh, this is what’s gonna happen’—I’m glad my colleagues have let me have the surprise without telling me. It makes the whole experience really special!”

Anna Mag Reynolds, a freshman who took her Judson 101: Foundations for Success course under Dr. Newton, spoke highly of how Dr. Newton’s openness helped her to adjust to her college life. “Dr. Newton was a very fun teacher while also keeping the class productive,” she stated. “I really appreciated how caring and open she was as a professor.”

“Dr. Newton has been a wonderful addition to the education department and to the Judson community,” said Dr. Lesley Sheek, Head of  the Department of Education. “She has especially impacted our teacher candidates’ involvement with the students in local schools. In addition to taking students each week to read with elementary learners, Dr. Newton has organized our candidates to lead high school students in college-planning/mentoring through a federally funded program focused on supporting students in Alabama’s Black Belt.  Her previous high school teaching experiences have enriched her college classes and are supporting our teacher candidates’ preparation to work with preschool through 12th-grade students.”


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Letting “This Little Light” Shine: Young Captures the Spirit of Prominent Civil Rights Activist


Dr. Billie Jean Young performs her one-woman show, Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light.
Dr. Billie Jean Young performs her one-woman show, Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light.

Silence filled the air of the Ramsay-McCrummen Chapel on the night of March 2, 2018 as Dr. Billie Jean Young’s voice sang the concluding line of her one-woman show, “Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light.” The final note echoed across each individual in the chapel, eliciting a moment of awe from the audience, before those in their seats burst into applause and rose from their chairs as Young took a final bow.

“Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light” is a two-act drama both written and performed by Judson’s very own Artist-in-Residence, Dr. Billie Jean Young. The show, which first premiered in 1983, has been performed over a staggering eight hundred times on four different continents, as well as in nearly all of the fifty states. “This Little Light” reveals the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi-born sharecropper whose desire for equal voting rights and equality as a whole for all American people played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. Hamer’s stirring valor and bold courage inspired a generation of Southern civil rights activists to step up and join the fight for equality. Her message still has great impact on millions of American citizens today.

Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer was born in Montgomery County, Mississippi on October 6, 1917. At a young age, Hamer began working in the fields, eventually dropping out of school at age 12 in order to work full-time and help support her family. In 1944, she was married to Perry “Pap” Hamer; afterwards, the couple worked on a cotton plantation near Ruleville, Mississippi.

However, in the summer of 1962, Hamer’s life would be forever changed by her decision to attend a meeting held by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, where she, along with a group of other African Americans, were encouraged to register to vote. In the following August, she and seventeen others set out for the county courthouse in Indianola to do just so—but during their journey, the group endured intense opposition from both local and state law enforcement.

Ultimately, only two individuals from the group were allowed to fill out a voter’s application form—one of whom was Fannie Lou Hamer

Hamer’s brave actions did not follow through without a price, however; as a result of her courage, she lost both her job and the home that she and her husband had shared for nearly two decades. Rather than cease and desist, these events only strengthened Hamer’s robust determination to aid in the battle for the right of the African-American vote.

Fannie Lou Hamer speaking at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, NJ
Fannie Lou Hamer speaking at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, NJ

Young’s show observes Hamer’s journey on the path to finding equality in a society where oppression ruled, following Hamer’s life from the early days of movement to the times of injustice that Hamer and her fellow civil rights activists suffered, as well as Hamer’s passionate testimony at the nationally-televised 1964 Democratic National Convention. It was at this convention that Hamer’s most famous declaration was made: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

Victoria Smith, a freshman who attended the drama, gives her own account of her experience at the show. “Fannie Lou Hamer was an amazing woman. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard about all of her accomplishments before,” she exclaimed. “The play was amazing, and it helped me understand more of what was really going on during the Civil Rights Movement. I never really understood how great a struggle it was for black women during that time, but the play helped me get a new perspective, one that I can share with other young women who may not realize all that happened during the Civil Rights era.”

“The Judson community is so fortunate to have Dr. Billie Jean Young as our Artist in Residence and Associate Professor of Fine and Performing Arts,” proclaimed Ms. Angela Dennison. “Because she walks with us on a daily basis, we may not all realize what an amazing actress, playwright, director, and author we have here. Her one-woman show, “Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light” is truly remarkable and is world-renowned.  Once you see it, you will know what a force for good Mrs. Hamer was and what a talent Dr. Young is. Everyone at Judson should avail themselves of the opportunity to see this show at least once, though once is really not enough. It is so very powerful.”

Young’s internationally-acclaimed drama depicting Hamer’s story is one that brings light to the struggles, hardships, and dangers that Hamer endured to gain the rights she was due, but wrongfully denied for so long. By tapping into Hamer’s spirit, Young’s performance not only reminds her audience of the life of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer; it also reminisces life of a woman whose fearlessness and determination made a significant impact on the betterment both of the world around her and the world that was yet to come.


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“No Matter the Cost”: Celebrating Selma’s 53rd Bridge Crossing Jubilee

Ms. Dennison and students proudly display the Judson College Social Work Banner as they march over Selma’s historic Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Ms. Dennison and students proudly display the Judson College Social Work Banner as they march over Selma’s historic Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Every year, during the first weekend of March, tens of thousands of people congregate in Selma, Alabama, to honor and celebrate the universal concepts of freedom and acceptance. Known as “The Annual Pilgrimage to Selma,” the Bridge Crossing Jubilee memorializes “Bloody Sunday,” an important historical event in which a group of over 500 African American demonstrators joined together and demanded the right to vote. Crossing the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge, freedom fighters were brutally attacked by state troopers. Many demonstrators were hospitalized and treated for severe effects of tear gas. A result of the untimely death of Marion Deacon and activist, Jimmy Lee Jackson, “Bloody Sunday” later resulted in the march of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and over 3,200 civil rights protesters as they journeyed to Montgomery, Alabama. King’s march hastened the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As stated by the website, the Jubilee’s goal “is to inspire people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds to respect and appreciate the power of their vote.” Including various events, such as a mock trial, a battle of the bands, a Jubilee parade, a Miss Jubilee pageant, and a theater festival, the annual Jubilee offers an enlightening and life-changing experience for everyone.

While people from various walks of life joined together at this event, students of Judson College were also in attendance. Student Jessica Thompson had the opportunity to cross the legendary bridge this year with fellow classmates for the first time. “For me, it was an eerie experience that has lingered with me,” Jessica said. “It gave me a new insight and visual to these experiences I’ve really only talked about in classes.”

“It’s an important part of being a well-rounded person to remember history. To not just remember it as an abstract thought but how that history impacts how we live together today,” said Ms. Dennison, assistant professor of Social Work, who attends the Jubilee every year. “The result of activism of the civil rights movement, in Selma in particular, really led us to be a freer and fairer society for everyone. We still have a long way to go, but it is the commemoration of those events that lead us to look around now in our contemporary life and say where are the gaps? Where are the barriers?”

Previous attendees also include Judson’s own athletic director, Ms. Marsha Ford, and student Nicole Stewart. “It was very inspiring to experience the dedication of the people who marched. It was crowded, but to be able to see how long the actual march was was very insightful,” Nicole said, remembering her past experience with the Jubilee’s Bridge Crossing event.

“To be able to see those people come and talk about things that actually affect us and how that when adversity comes, we can come together as a country to make a change. It’s uplifting. It’s encouraging. It inspires you to push farther and continue to do good, even when sometimes it may be hard,” Ms. Marsha Ford stated.

The annual Jubilee serves as a platform in which people from different backgrounds are able to hear personal stories from surviving activists from this important moment in history. It offers a chance to celebrate the brave people who would have given their lives to provide freedom to those who had been silenced in our country. The Jubilee has also brought forth prominent figures and celebrities, such as former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as Mrs. Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Congressman George Lewis, an honorary recipient of a doctorate of letters from Judson College.

According to Dennison, it’s as important now as it was then for students to be involved. The active participation of students in the civil rights movement led to important milestones in history, such as the creation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, which served as a platform to provide younger African-Americans with a voice. “The students were a big part of the civil rights movement. The young people really pushed for those changes to happen because they believed that ‘the present is not the future we want to have.’ The reenactment of the Bridge Crossing is in some ways a celebration of how far we’ve come, but it’s also paying attention to issues of the day and not letting the hard-fought successes slip away,” Ms. Dennison stated.

In attending events, like Selma’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee, students obtain an understanding of past efforts and are able to relate to other points of view. “You hear the stories and you’re able to connect. You’re able to put yourself in that place and think through those ideas. It’s a good experience for anyone that goes there, if you’re willing to just open your mind to where society was at that time,” Ms. Marsha concluded.

After walking in the steps of so many before her, Thompson stated, “To say I felt inspired after that Bridge Crossing would be an understatement. That experience was so moving and encouraged me to stay active with social movements and to never be afraid to fight for social justice no matter the cost.”

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Powerful Engines of Change: Celebrating the Lives of Austin and Berman at the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame

Governor, Kay Ivey and Sara B. Beasley, Chairperson of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, great each other with open arms.
Governor, Kay Ivey and Sara B. Beasley, Chairperson of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, great each other with open arms.

On a bright and chilly day on March 8, 2018, throngs of people flocked to the Alumnae Auditorium on the Judson College campus. Traveling distances both far and near, audience members joined together to celebrate and honor the lives of two special and innovative women and their pivotal roles in Alabama history. Jessie Welch Austin and Jeanne Friegel Berman were inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame during its forty-seventh installation ceremony. Enticed inside by the melodic singing of Judson’s choir, attendees heard the heartfelt stories shared by members of the inductees’ families. As the ceremony began, Dr. Scott Bullard, Interim President of Judson College, welcomed attendees stating, “Welcome to a place, every day, that embodies higher education, especially for women. Welcome to a 48-year-old institution that honors some of the finest examples of women leaning into callings all over . . . our state of Alabama.”

Described as a “renaissance woman,” Jessie Welch Austin became the first female sheriff of Alabama in 1939 and held the position until 1943. As of 1947, Austin served as warden of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for six years, overseeing the care for female prisoners. Known by many as “Miss Jessie,” Jessie Welch Austin, along with her husband, William A. Austin, ran successful businesses in her home of Dothan, Alabama, including a mercantile business, an automobile dealership, a dry goods store, a grocery store, and eventually, one of the largest farming operations in Elmore County.

Sharing a story about his grandmother, J. Max Austin Jr. told audience members of his times driving his grandmother around in her car through the unfinished, unpaved roads of Alabaster, Ala. Her grandson’s driving speed was never truly fast enough for Mrs. Austin. Always ready to move on to the next point and goal in her life, she would simply say, “I would really like to go faster.” While highlighting her accomplishments, her grandsons also deeply stressed the love and dedication she had for her family. Another of her grandsons, Hugh W. Wheelless Jr. said, “She was a baby. She was a little girl. She was a woman. She was a wife. She was a mother. She was a sheriff. She was a warden. She was our grandmother.”

“Mrs. Berman was an icon,” Walter J. Berman declared. Reading aloud a letter written about his aunt by a close friend, Mr. Berman shared past memories with eager audience members.

A winner of multiple beauty contests, Jeanne Friegel Berman won the hearts of many, including Johnny Weissmuller, Olympic swimmer and actor best known for his leading role as Tarzan in the films of the 1930s and 1940s; she later declined his marriage proposal. During her lifetime, Jeanne Friegel Berman fought at the forefront of change, paving the way towards the promotion of women’s voting rights, disease prevention, educational progress, and mental health access.

“It was her charm, perseverance, and her deep conviction that women in Alabama should be registered voters, be active in national, state, and local government, and knowledgeable of the significant issues that concerned all citizens, not just women,” Walter J. Berman said, lovingly.

While caring for her three young sons, Mrs. Berman lobbied tirelessly for the greater good, serving as founder of the Alabama League of Women Voters, state chairman for the Christmas Seal Fundraiser, state treasurer of the Alabama Tuberculosis Association, president of the Montgomery Lung Association, and the first female member of the Southern Regional Education Board. Robert Berman, Jeanne Friegel Berman’s youngest son, began his speech, stating, “This is going to be a salute to my mother, Jeanne Berman, but also it’s going to be dedicated to the young women of Judson College because it’s an example of what you can be as well.”

Berman went on to share countless tales of his mother’s true love and dedication to her family, as well as her maturation into the innovative trailblazer she was meant to be. “Hoping to escape their oppressive life in Europe, both sides of my family were immigrants from across the pond. They had heard that the streets of America were paved with gold. Gold! Shining Gold!” Berman continued, “When they arrived on America’s shores, they found out three things: first, the streets were not paved with gold, secondly very few of the streets were even paved, and, three, they found out who was going to pave them. Mom was a paver, forging the way for equal rights for women and all people no matter what race, color, origin, or status.”

Sharing the stories of these “women of distinction,” helps present students of Judson College with uplifting and inspirational examples of the women they can grow to be. As Dr. Bullard stated, “they [Judson College students] study on the second floor. Above those memorable plaques, above those honorees.” Women such as Jessie Welch Austin and Jeanne Friegel Berman paved the roads of change and good will for all. He shared memories of his mother with the women of Judson College, Berman echoed Dr. Bullard’s points, stating that they, too could “become powerful engines of change.”

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Happy 175th Birthday Alabama Baptist

It was my pleasure and honor to write about a historical time not just for our school, but the whole Baptist community. As most of you know February 4, 2018 marked the 175th anniversary of The Alabama Baptist newspaper. Most of the paper’s staff and more than 100 visitors around the state came to celebrate this day with us in the Marion and Judson Community.

The paper was first published in 1843 here at Judson College by four founding members: James DeVotie, a pastor from South Carolina and one of the co-founders of Howard College, which is now known as Samford University; Gen. E.D. King, another one of the founding members, who donated space for the paper in Marion, Alabama; and finally, two founders who are commonly known throughout the Judson Campus, Milo P. Jewett and Julia Tarrant Barron.  Without these four individuals fulfilling their God-given vision, the paper would not have ever gotten started.

Dr. Bob Terry and Dr. Bullock relieved the first ever paper published The Alabama Baptist back in 1843.
Dr. Bob Terry and Dr. Bullard revealing a copy of the first ever edition of The Alabama Baptist published back in 1843.

Today, the paper is received in 65,000 homes and has 1,500 subscribers online.   It has already won 200 national awards and the title of award-winning publication. The Alabama Baptist has upheld a wonderful mission statement and has continued “seeking to empower [Christian readers] to live out discipleship in their personal, professional, and church life.”

A couple of days before the big event, I got to interview Mary Amelia Taylor, a graduate and Director of Marketing and Communications at Judson.  I asked her how reading The Alabama Baptist made her feel, and her response was “The Alabama Baptist helps me feel connected to what is going on in the Alabama Baptist community.” I also asked her what her opinion on the event as a whole was, she said “It is exciting to commemorate the paper’s achievements. It deserves a moment in the spotlight.”

These are the four founding members of the Alabama Baptist.
These are the four founding members of the Alabama Baptist.

Pastor John Nicholson of Siloam Baptist church, also instrumental in the founding of both Judson and TAB, agrees. “It is incredible being a part of the history; it does, however, get overwhelming knowing that I have the responsibility of carrying on this legacy.”

The morning of February 6, the day of the birthday celebration for TAB on Judson’s campus, I was told to go interview people at the three touring locations: Reverie, Siloam, and Marion Military Institute.  The people whom I interviewed all said they came to hear about the wonderful history and to see the beautiful campus.  I met one woman who was a former student at Judson she told me “I’m always interested in Baptist history and was a graduate from Judson, so any excuse to come back is great.”

This Flag was hanging above the chapel doors at MMI.
This Flag was hanging above the chapel doors at MMI.

It was a privilege to meet and question some of the staff members, the current editor Dr. Bob Terry and the editor-elect Jennifer Rash. Dr. Terry will be retiring soon so I asked him to reflect upon the accomplishments of the paper during his tenure. He said, “When I talk to people about their opinion of The Alabama Baptist no two answers are the same, and in every print of the paper the is bound to be an article that will influence a person’s life.”

Rash further expanded upon the benefits a publication like TAB offers both those who work for it and those who read it. She said, “It gives me the opportunity to merge my Christian ministry and my passion for writing.”

Once Dr. Terry retires, Ms. Rash will become the first woman to be the editor of The Alabama Baptist, and when I asked her how this made her feel she said, “Grasping the fact that my tenure as editor of The Alabama Baptist will mark the first time a woman has served as editor of one of the major state, Baptist newspapers adds to the honor and overwhelming sense of duty for this role in which God has entrusted me. The road to this point has been such a natural flow during the past 20-plus years and the sense of calling so strong that I can only look forward with anticipation about what is next. Being a part of such a tremendous legacy as what surrounds The Alabama Baptist as a communications ministry inspires me to do better than my best to add to the amazing work from the past 175 years and continue carrying out the foundational purposes for which the ministry exists. I am thankful to current editor Bob Terry for investing in me, the TAB board of directors for believing in me and Alabama Baptists for trusting me.”

As a Judson woman, I too am excited to see what God has in store of the future of The Alabama Baptist, and on March 2, the Alabama Baptist will host a lecture at Samford University where Dr. Terry will talk about the future of the publication.

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“Teanga Rúnda”: Ireland Comes to Marion with MMI’s Gaelic Club

MMI Gaelic Club members, including Dr. Rankin Sherling, wife Claire, and Dr. Nicole Peacock., stand proudly alongside cadets displaying the Irish flag in the lush countryside.
MMI Gaelic Club members, including Dr. Rankin Sherling, wife Claire, and Dr. Nicole Peacock., stand proudly alongside cadets displaying the Irish flag in the lush countryside.

Every Thursday night, under the cover of an Irish flag, a small group meets at the local coffee house and bookstore, As Time Goes By. Consisting of both Marion Military Institute faculty and students, as well as a few local residents, the group gathers to celebrate their shared love of Irish heritage. The owner of As Time Goes By, Charlie Flaherty, a fellow Irish-American, is also a member of the group and is happy to host the discussion and activities each week. MMI’s Gaelic Club was created in the Fall of 2014 by Dr. Rankin Sherling, a History professor specializing in Irish immigration and immigrants in America, in his first year at MMI. “Every Thursday night we eat cake, pie, drink coffee, look at and buy books, and then learn the Gaelic language. Sometimes, we watch short Gaelic language films or English language documentaries about Ireland and Scotland,” Dr. Sherling said.
During the last year, Dr. Sherling and a group of cadets were able to independently raise the funds necessary to take three students to Ireland to participate in a Gaelic Language Immersion program at Oideas Gael, an Irish Language and Culture Summer School located in Western county Donegal. Several MMI faculty members were able to attend — including English professor Dr. Nicole Peacock and Public Relations Officer Claire Sherling — who serve as “house-moms,” assisting students who have never had the opportunity to travel abroad. After the completion of three trips to Ireland, the Gaelic Club has now grown to the size of 15 students.
While attending the weekly classes at As Time Goes By, the club is now in the process of attempting to raise funds for a returning trip to Ireland. Students who have become active participants in the Gaelic Club have come to enjoy the team work and life-changing experiences associated with international travel and exposure to a differentiating culture. “The kids absolutely love it, and they greet me in Gaeilge when they see me on campus. We all love it. It makes us happy to use our own secret language here,” Dr. Sherling stated in his article written for The Irish Times.
The Gaelic Club, while founded at MMI, is open to all who wish to take part. “The Gaelic classes are definitely open to anyone who wants to join, and students from Judson are welcome to come to Ireland with us. If we can raise enough money, this will be our fourth straight year of going to Ireland for five weeks to learn Gaelic in Gaelic-speaking areas of Ireland,” Dr. Sherling said.
As part of their process to raise funds, the Gaelic Club held an event on Sunday, February 11, 2018 with live music provided by Henri’s Notions, a Tuscaloosa-based band that plays both Irish and Scottish music. Admission was $15 per person, while students paid $10. The event was held at the Train Depot, located at 1200 Washington Street, and lasted from 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m.
If you would like to participate in the Gaelic Club and travel abroad, visit the Gaelic Club’s Facebook at or email Dr. Sherling at

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