A two-week fundraising campaign in December exceeded the $500,000 Judson College needed to remain open this spring, officials at the all-women Baptist school have announced.
The grassroots effort that included students and alumnae also got the Baptist school in Marion, Ala., more than halfway to the additional $1 million in pledges it needs to operate this year.
The flood of giving was accomplished between Judson President Mark Tew’s Dec. 15 urgent plea for financial support and Dec. 28 – three days ahead of the deadline.
Instead of weighing closure that day, the Judson board of trustees convened to move ahead with a spring semester.
“We have seen a lot of God’s provision through the generosity and creativity of Judson people. The community has come through for us again,” said Mary Amelia Taylor, associate vice president for marketing and communications at the 183-year-old institution and a 2009 graduate.
According to Judson, donors gave $27,665 more than the $500,000 required by year-end and made $584,065 in pledges toward the $1 million needed by May 31. As a result, the college also is planning a fall session in 2021.
“This little community has so quietly and faithfully persevered,” Taylor said, adding that this was not a case of big donors saving the day. “These were individual, sacrificial gifts from our community.”
A lot of the money was raised in just a few days. In its Dec. 24 Christmas message, the college said $357,643 had been donated and another $290,680 pledged up to that point.
Taylor said she was relieved by the development and by the college’s plans to launch its spring term this month. But she never believed the college’s situation — or that of her job — was hopeless. “I was never packing my desk.”
The reason: Judson has survived too many challenges — including those that eroded the college’s bottom line.
Like other institutions, Judson had to close its campus in March 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Students returned in the fall and already were planning to leave in late November when Hurricane Zeta swept through the region.
“It knocked out our water, and health concerns in Marion about serving food forced us to close a couple weeks early,” she said. “Through it all, our students have been incredibly resilient. They have been through so much this year.”
That resilience has been called on before, Tew said in his mid-December plea for funds. He thanked the community “’for exemplifying the steadfast Judson Spirit which has kept this institution afloat through multiple wars, two fires, the Great Depression, several recessions, and, now, a pandemic.’”
In addition to the coronavirus outbreak, Tew said declining enrollment over a 20-year period and the 2008 recession were among the factors behind Judson’s financial challenges.
The recession impacted Judson’s endowment “pretty heavily,” Taylor explained. Enrollment is hovering just below 300 students. “And with everything that happened this year with the pandemic and the hurricanes, it’s been a perfect storm.”
Judson was founded by members of Siloam Baptist Church in 1838, making it the fifth-oldest women’s college in the country. Its namesake is Ann Hasseltine Judson, the first American female missionary to serve in Burma, today known as Myanmar.
The school, which sits on 118 acres about 75 miles from Birmingham, is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention, from which it receives $1 million a year.