Looking back on a rich and rewarding career which has included prominent leadership roles in health care and performing arts management, and distinguished awards in her field, Judith Allen ’55 clearly remembers the moment when her life was directed toward success.
The daughter of working-class Italian immigrant parents, Judith grew up in post-Depression Providence and worked hard to enroll in Bryant’s one-year secretarial diploma program. But, she found herself struggling, and after a typing class she confided in her professor, Leger R. Morrison, that she was considering withdrawing from Bryant. He listened, and then told her that he saw potential in her that she, herself, could not yet see. “You can quit, or you can believe me and stay,” he said. She decided to stay, and with his support and encouragement, she completed the program near the top of her class.
"He gave me the gift of courage, and his impact was immeasurable."
After nearly seventy years, Judith has not forgotten Professor Morrison and his impact. “He took the time to talk with me and learn who I was, and he showed me who I could be. He changed my life.”
To express her gratitude, she has recently expanded her commitment to the Leger R. Morrison Endowed Internship Fund with a generous bequest. She created the fund in 2017 to provide need-based support to students pursuing internships in arts, cultural, and non-profit organizations. Now, her bequest will ensure a lasting legacy for Professor Morrison, who taught at Bryant for nearly 40 years until he retired in 1972.
Judith’s career began with her rise from a clerical position at Rhode Island Hospital to Director of Human Resources and Public Relations. After earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Rhode Island, she became a nationally recognized leader in management of all aspects of the design, construction, and start-up of prominent performing arts centers. But, she believes, “none of that would have been possible without Leger.”
Over the years, she stayed in touch with Professor Morrison, who died in 2017 at age 95. Once, when she was contemplating a new opportunity, she recalls advice he offered that changed her career trajectory. He told me, “Jude, you’re a clinging vine.” It was a warning about staying too long in your comfort zone.
“He taught me, every five years, you need to ask yourself, where am I? Am I moving forward? If not, you need to find the next challenge. It’s the only way to grow,” she says. Her gift reflects her belief that internships are vital to gaining the transferable skills that prepare students for their next opportunity, but she also believes that financial compensation is critical. “Providing a salary or a stipend can completely change the quality of life for a person who is beginning their career,” she says.
Currently a faculty member at College of Charleston (SC), Judith is gratified to share the life-changing lessons she learned from Professor Morrison with her own students. She says that, apart from the practical skills that help us find a job, we also need to gain self-confidence and the ability to recognize when the time is right to take the next step—skills that are part of everything we do, every relationship we make.
“If I hadn’t listened to Leger, I would have been doing the same old-same-old forever,” she says. “He gave me the gift of courage, and his impact was immeasurable.”
Learn more about planned giving to Bryant University.