Judy Williams, ’62 drew inspiration from being the only woman in her accounting program. Never intimidated even now, nearly 53 years later Judy works in an accounting role at Saladin Shrines, a non-profit that provides support for Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. Learn how Judy is aligning her passions with her love of numbers below.
Tell us about yourself!
I was born and raised in Grand Rapids and went to Creston High School. In high school, I took a bookkeeping class and absolutely fell in love with it. I loved the numbers and the challenge of balancing the books. After high school, at the age of 17, I started at Davenport. I attended for a seven terms from September of 1961 to June of 1962. Then I worked in various bookkeeping positions until September of 1968. The at the age of 25, I decided to fulfill my first dream of joining the military and went to bootcamp at Parris Island. I joined the Marine Corps and was selected to attend electronic school. At Davenport, I was the only woman in the accounting program of 44 students – in the military I was in a class of 2000 where there were only six women. I completed a year of electronic school and was in the military for two years. I married a career marine and we started a family. After my husband retired, we moved back to Grand Rapids and I decided to attend Davenport again to finish my degree. Numbers have always interested me and I can proudly say that, thanks to Davenport, I have been in accounting for 53 years.
Why did you pick Davenport?
Davenport was known for accounting and I was selected to be a part of the top of the line professional accounting program. Back then, we didn’t get to pick our class, just our program. When students arrived, administrators would hand us a paper that would have all of the classes on it. I was about 27 years old in a program full of 18 to 20 year old men, but that didn’t intimidate me. I normally got the best grades in the class!
You were never intimidated by being one of the first woman to achieve something noble. What advice do you have for other women who might be in a similar situation?
Be inspired! I remember my professor, who was not very fond of me being in his accounting class, saying things like “this test is going to separate the men from the boys.” Then I got the best grade in the class! He would respond to that by saying, “Well, I guess Miss. Johnson is the biggest man we have in the class.” That backhanded compliment inspired me to continue to prove my knowledge and strengths. My advice would be to find out what peaks your interest and follow your heart. Apply yourself and learn as much as you can. If you are doing something, you really like you will do your best.
In a nutshell, what do you do?
I am the jack-of-all-trades at Saladin Shrine in Grand Rapids. Shriners formed our organization with the goal of providing healthcare services and funding to children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. I was “retired” when I started working here part-time to help manage patient records. Then, my position became full-time and I took over the role of managing the Children’s Trust, bookkeeping, assisting with fundraisers and helping with patient transport. Knowing that my job directly impacts the children we serve is very rewarding.
What are you passionate about?
My military experience is what I am most proud to claim. As a military family, I am very passionate about working with veterans. I volunteer my time to help people returning to civilian life. The most memorable experience in boot camp happened when I was sitting in the bleachers with my platoon watching the senior platoons of men march in their graduation ceremony. Our drill instructor quietly said, “a year from now about one third of these young Marines will be gone.” Unfortunately, she was right. Many came back with serious injuries including PTSD. Back in the 70′s and 80′s this was an unknown malady. It continues to plague many and I try to reach out to veterans who show signs whenever I can.
What do you do when you are not working?
I enjoy spending time with and visiting my two sons and their families. I volunteer as the finance chair for my American Legion post, where I am one of only two women in a leadership role in my post. Also, in my spare time, creating doll clothes has always been a passion of mine. My sewing business is called Unique Bowtique.