Judith Greeley Hendrickson has been named Centralia College’s 2023 Distinguished Alumna, according to a news release from the college.
Hendrickson “is arguably the most versatile woman,” the news release stated.
According to the college, Hendrickson helps support philanthropic projects and nonprofit organizations.
“She is energetic and funny, and full of joy for all the things she devotes her considerable energy,” the college stated.
Hendrickson, who will be formally honored at the Centralia College Foundation’s Night of Celebration on June 15 and at the college’s commencement ceremony on June 16, was born and raised in Centralia. Her grandfather, Harry Bradford, was on the school board when Centralia College was founded in 1925. The college described her as a “creative, energetic” child who explored many interests. One of her initial interests was tap dancing.
“When recitals would come up, the tap instructor would say to my mother, ‘Judy isn’t quite ready for the recital. Let’s have her sing instead.’ That tells you all you need to know about my dancing skills,” Hendrickson said with laughter.
Hendrickson was also a gifted singer who would earn $5 per service singing at churches across the Twin Cities. She auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera and did well, but the opera was not a realistic option for her future. Hendrickson continues to be involved in singing and was able to solo at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and at Bruton Parish in Williamsburg, Virginia, as well as at several churches in Seattle and Raleigh.
In high school, Hendrickson had many interests and she made time to perfect them. After graduating from Centralia High School, she earned a music scholarship for Centralia College. She played bass clarinet in the high school and college bands and sang in all the vocal groups. She was selected for the All-Northwest band in Boise.
After graduating from Centralia College in 1960, she transferred to the University of Washington, where she studied music. She sang and soloed in UW choral groups and also played bass clarinet in the UW concert band. When Washington played in the Rose Bowl, Hendrickson played tenor saxophone and marched in the Rose Bowl Parade and during pregame and halftime at the games.
In the summer, she worked at the Centralia and Chehalis swimming pools as a lifeguard and swim instructor and was selected as a member of the UW women’s synchronized swimming team.
When she left UW in 1963, she became the director of recreation at Maple Lane School for girls, a juvenile corrections facility in Grand Mound. She worked there for nine years and found a passion for supporting incarcerated youth by teaching them survival skills as well as supporting their educational endeavors.
After Maple Lane, she transferred to Cascadia Juvenile Reception-Diagnostic Center and McNeil Island Corrections Center, where she felt she could help people to live productive lives and be better citizens. She was a tireless advocate for education and rehabilitation programs in state prisons and was part of a team of individuals who drafted and lobbied for legislation to allow volunteers and college interns to serve in the Department of Social and Health Services agencies throughout the state.
During this time, she was chair of the United Way Volunteer Bureau of Seattle and King County and was honored for four consecutive years as a Woman of Achievement by the Matrix Table in Seattle. In addition, she was honored for outstanding contributions to the field of corrections by the Washington Correctional Association and by the McNeil Island staff and inmates.
As successful as she was, she stepped away in 1985 when she and her husband, Richard, moved to North Carolina, where Richard grew up. Hendrickson’s first job in North Carolina was with North Carolina Amateur Sports, during which time she met Dr. LeRoy Walker, who was on the board of that organization and chancellor of North Carolina Central University. Her 20-year affiliation with Walker provided many opportunities as a volunteer, including assisting in organizing two Pan-Africa track and field meets at Duke University; establishing the office in Durham, North Carolina for Walker when he was elected president of the United States Olympic Committee; and serving on a sports administration and facilities management three-week immersion program for graduate students from throughout the United States.
Hendrickson’s 18-year career in North Carolina was as corporate secretary for International Lead Zinc Research Organization (ILZRO), an international trade association that moved from New York City to North Carolina in 1987. ILZRO did not do research, rather it established a wide variety of research programs, based on need, by various member companies throughout the world in the use of lead and zinc. As corporate secretary, Hendrickson traveled extensively in Europe, North America and Asia, organizing and participating in international meetings.
“Throughout my life and work careers, I was able to continually grow and build upon my experiences,” she said. “I was fortunate to meet and spend time with many interesting and successful people.”
A short list would include George Steinbrenner (owner of the New York Yankees), numerous Olympic track and field gold medalists, Franklin Williams (U.S. ambassador to the Social and Economic Council of the United Nations and Ambassador to Ghana) and Roscoe Brown (Tuskegee airman and president of Bronx Community College of the City University of New York).
For all she’s done and continues to do, she credits Centralia College with giving her a good start.
“I encourage people to consider attending a community college,” she said. “Try out a trade. Try out a lot of things. See what appeals to you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, it matters what you learn and community college allows you to do that.”
“Find out who you really want to be and go do that,” she said.
Hendrickson and her husband continue to be involved in a number of philanthropic projects, both in Washington and North Carolina. They funded a large landscaping project at Elon University in North Carolina where the football center is named in honor of Richard’s father. Currently, they are supporting Friends of Seminary Hill in Centralia to continue improving that area and to make ADA-accessible trails. In North Carolina, they have funded four police dogs for the town of Cary. They contribute to a variety of scholarships and simulators for the nursing program at Centralia College and the “Tranquil Waters” feature outside Washington Hall.
Hendrickson is a firm believer in education, trades, sports and the arts, and she puts her energy toward those projects as much as she is able.
“There isn’t just one path and you don’t have to stick to one path,” she said. “Take advantage of opportunities along the way. I think that is where community colleges come in. It is more important to be diversified and to do many things well. That is how to be successful on any path you choose. Finally, If you are able, be sure and give back.”