Judson celebrates the legacy of outstanding alumna Jo Randall
The Judson College community is saddened by news of the recent death of Mary Jo Randall, a devoted and distinguished alumna who spent her personal and professional life sharing the love of Christ. In her memorial service last week, her pastor, Tripp Martin of Auburn First Baptist Church, noted that Randall “loved three things: Jesus, Judson, and Japan.”
After earning a degree in English Education at Judson College in 1949, Randall attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas before beginning four decades of work in ministry and missions. She served as Education Director at the First Baptist Church of Andalusia and then became Baptist Student Director at Florence State College, now the University of North Alabama.
Jo Randall was appointed by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention as a missionary to Japan in 1959. In her words, she was sent “to continue the work begun by the former missionary on Judson’s campus, Mrs. Dru McCollum,” the first Baptist missionary to Japan who spent her later years mentoring and ministering to Judson students, including Jo Randall.
Randall served in Japan for twenty years, ministering to students and working in local churches in Tokyo, Kanazawa, and Kumamoto. Her work was instrumental in the founding of Kanazawa Baptist Church, a congregation still in existence today.
Randall placed special emphasis on ministering to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of women. She hosted a women’s group in her home and was an outspoken advocate for women’s education and fair treatment in Japan. This work resulted in special recognition by the Japanese Ministry of Labor in 1976.
Randall returned to Alabama in 1979 to become the Campus Minister at Jefferson State Community College and Birmingham Area Coordinator for student missions for the Alabama State Board of Missions. She “retired” in 1992 and returned to the Opelika area, where she immediately became involved with student ministries at Auburn University, and began coordinating English classes and leading Bible study for internationals at Auburn First Baptist Church. She regularly returned to Japan to renew friendships and visit churches. In one letter to Judson friends, she notes that she had spent two months “speaking in churches and visiting former students, pastors, and friends in Tokyo, Kobe, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Kumamoto, Nagasaki, and Toyota City” at the age of seventy-three.
Randall’s exemplary Christian service led to recognition as the Judson College Outstanding Alumna of the Year in 1974, while she was in the United States on furlough from her work in Japan. Her devotion to her College was extraordinary long before she received that honor.
Jo Randall served the Judson College Class of 1949 as president during each of the four years they were on campus and continued to write letters to keep her “‘49ers” organized, updated, and involved throughout her lifetime. She and her classmates were instrumental in the effort to rebuild Jewett Hall after it burned in 1948, selling bricks to fund construction. She was a devoted contributor to the College, serving as the first chair of the Triangle Loyalty Fund, helping to establish the Class of 1949/1951 Scholarship Fund, and making regular contributions to the Annual Fund in honor or memory of friends.
In a letter to her Class of 1949 to notify them of the death of a classmate, Jo Randall recalled that one of her most lasting memories of Judson was professor Bessie Welch’s love of Wordsworth’s poem, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.” In her reflection on the poem many years later, Randall noted that one lesson she carried with her from Judson was that “the best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” Each of the honors that Jo Randall received, positions that she held, and places that she lived reflect countless small, perhaps even unknown, but meaningful acts of goodness intended to illustrate the love that Christ has for each of us.
Our condolences to Jo Randall’s family and her friends around the world.