“We are Judson Girls”: Finishing 2020 with “good grace”
On Thursday, Nov. 5, Judson College announced its transition to online classes for the final two weeks of the fall semester due to ongoing water quality issues in the City of Marion in the aftermath of Hurricane Zeta.
That evening, the Judson Senior Class reenacted their class’s favorite memories from their time at Judson in a traditional skit series called “Wishing Well.” Seniors ended the evening with an impromptu Senior Serenade, another Judson tradition in which Seniors sing songs passed down through many generations of Judson students for an underclassmen audience. Though the scene looked slightly different, with cell phones and casual clothes taking the place of typical candles and academic regalia, the tradition celebrated the same deep sense of sisterhood between Judson’s classes.
One serenade tune was especially poignant as students said goodbye to their friends and residence halls for the rest of the year. “Halls of Ivy,” popularized by The Lettermen and adapted for Judson Senior serenades in the 1950s, expressed students’ nostalgic ties to their college community, no matter where they are: “Oh, we love the halls of ivy that surround us here today, and we will not forget, though we be far, far away.”
Just a few summers before “The Halls of Ivy” was added to the Judson serenade canon, Jewett Hall, Judson’s main academic, administrative, and residential building, burned to the ground after lightning struck its dome. The 1947 fire marked the second time in Jewett Hall’s history that it was completely destroyed by fire. Judson administrators had only fifty days before the fall semester to erect temporary housing for students, who were eager to return to help their College.
The College did complete temporary housing and academic spaces in enough time for students to return in September, and the prefabricated cottages in “Jewett Village” became a new place where the Judson Spirit thrived. Daughters of the Dream authors Frances Dew Hamilton and Elizabeth Crabtree Wells said of students’ response to the campus changes that fall semester: “Students accepted the inconveniences with good grace, making the best of a trying situation.”
The year 2020 has been just as unexpected as that year in 1947, but Judson students have again adapted with graceful resilience. The campus moved to online instruction for the final weeks of the spring 2020 semester as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic reached our region, and Judson students and their faculty adapted quickly to finish the semester well. To accommodate social distancing and “mak[e] the best of a trying situation”, the College held its first outdoor Commencement ceremony in June, which actually became a beautiful reward for students after months of being away from their beloved campus.
After last week’s announcement that classes would again be moving online as the City of Marion recovers from power outages and water issues in the wake of Hurricane Zeta, which moved through the region October 29, Judson students again showed their determination to adapt “with good grace” and finish well.
Judson senior and Vice President of the College’s Student Ambassadors, Molly Grace Register of Oneonta, Ala., emailed the student body late Thursday night encouraging them with the 1947 Jewett fire story.
“One of the stories Ambassadors tell when we give a campus tour is about when Jewett burned down (for the second time),” wrote Register. “The senior class president, Carmen Botts, sent a telegram to Dr. Riddle, Judson’s President, which said, ‘Will live in pup tents, if necessary, until a new Jewett is built right where the old one stood.’ I think about that story often and I have a feeling one day that people will tell stories about our class–about the girls who endured a pandemic and a hurricane, about the girls who loved their school so much they cried each time they had to leave.”
“Remember,” Register charged her sisters, “we are Judson Girls; we are sisters; we are children of God. Everything will work out in the end.” Referencing Luke 1:37, Register reminded her sisters that “nothing is impossible with God”, and that employing the same determination and faith in God shared by generations of “Judson Girls” could carry them through the final weeks of their semester.
Since 1838, Judson College has faithfully continued its mission of Christian higher education for women, steadily persevering through a litany of outside circumstances threatening her “halls of ivy”: wars, economic depressions, attempts to relocate or consolidate with other colleges, natural disasters, and global health crises. The College’s tenacity is both a testament to the faithfulness of God and the resiliency of the Judson community. “The more things change, the more they often stay the same,” said Judson President W. Mark Tew of the newest challenges facing Judson students. “Our students have responded amazingly well this year, through first the COVID-19 pandemic and now the aftermath of Hurricane Zeta,” said Tew. “Our faculty and staff have supported our students incredibly well during these unprecedented times, staying committed to providing the exceptional Christian higher education Judson has offered for more than 180 years. “Our students are disappointed about leaving early, yes, but they will persevere. Judson women always have.”
The last day of fall classes is November 19, with final exams ending Nov. 24. Judson plans to resume face-to-face instruction on campus January 7, 2021.
By Mary Amelia Taylor ‘09, Associate Vice President for Marketing & Communications