On November 9, 2013 the Gold Elevator Lobby in Deacon Tower was renamed in honor of former trustee Jim Judson and his wife, Beth. Jim and his wife Beth tragically died in a plane crash while returning home from their daughter Lauren’s golf tournament in 2010.
Leading up to November 9, Jim’s friends and Lambda Chi fraternity brothers rallied around the idea of leaving a meaningful legacy for their former fraternity president at the heart of the Deacon Tower project Jim believed so firmly in. Jim felt that investing in Wake Forest football was the best way for his donation dollars to have the biggest impact on raising national awareness of the University. This hypothesis was realized when Wake Forest won the 2006 ACC Championship and went on to the 2007 Orange Bowl.
Total alumni donors to Wake Forest University reached what is still an all-time high of 14,510. The largest traffic spike to the wfu.edu website in University history happened on January 2, the day of the 2007 Orange Bowl in which Wake Forest played University of Louisville. A year later, the second largest spike in year over year applications to Wake Forest of 26% followed. The story of the “Orange Bowl Effect” is represented on the new display in the Judson Lobby.
The day of the dedication started as I met the Judson family in the VIP Parking Lot. From there, we went to view the display in the Judson Lobby. It was a special moment as the Judson Family enjoyed time alone with the Orange Bowl Effect display that now proudly adorns the wall in the Judson Lobby.
From there, we moved to the tailgate that Jim’s Lambda Chi brothers had arranged in celebration of their former president. Brian Heelan and John Millican helped arrange the tailgate, where a brief ceremony was held in remembrance of Jim and Beth and their contributions to Wake Forest.
During the ceremony, I commented on how Jim was a perfect blend of inspiration and irritant during the process of planning and constructing Deacon Tower. He was one of the first suite commitments, far before plans had been finalized, and was instrumental in pushing our staff to keep dreaming big and driving toward a successful conclusion.
Ron Wellman presented the Judson family with a plaque as a token of the Athletic Department’s appreciation for Jim and Beth’s contributions to the department. Ron also spoke of how Jim was always questioning in a manner that would cause our staff to think, debate and challenge the status quo as we strived for excellence. He was the consummate University Trustee, never too shy to speak his mind.
Jeff MacIntosh spoke from the Lambda Chi perspective, reflecting on Jim’s role as fraternity president and leader in many ways. Jim’s son Dean, the final speaker in the ceremony, spoke eloquently of his father, sharing memories of Jim’s passion for success in athletics and theory on how it drives the message of the University to a broader audience. Jim’s belief in the power of athletics was not limited to Wake Forest; he also made similar investments in High Point and Southern Mississippi’s athletic departments where his children, Dean and Lauren, attended.
After the tailgate, the group moved to Deacon Tower, to the suite Jim originally purchased. It was the same suite where I last saw Jim as he enjoyed time with his friends after his last homecoming game in 2010, just weeks before his untimely death. Some two hours after that game I stopped by the suite to encourage Jim to close down his party; however, it was clear that Jim and his friends were not ready to depart. In light of all Jim’s contributions we allowed the party to continue well into the night. The final patron to leave, Jim walked out of the tower he was so instrumental in inspiring for what would be the last time that night.
As I mentioned at the ceremony for Jim and Beth on November 9, Wake Forest will never be the same without the presence of Jim Judson; however, I can assure you that Wake Forest is a better place because of Jim. The next time you enjoy Deacon Tower and enter the Judson Lobby, take a moment to enjoy the Orange Bowl Effect display that captures the value of Athletics to the broader University and memorializes a man extremely instrumental in its success.
To read the full Orange Bowl Effect article, please click here.
Lauren & Dean Judson pose in front of the display honoring their parents, Jim and Beth.