Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

Jim Judd family creates $5,000 endowment

It’s coincidence that creation of a $5,000 Bea and Jim Judd Endowment falls close to Southwestern Michigan College’s 50th anniversary Sept. 20, but 50 happens to be how many years the Dowagiac couple contributed.

James J. Judd was the only wrestling coach SMC ever had, for 38 years (1968-2006).

The former city councilman was one of three original Roadrunners coaches along with Ron Gunn (track, cross country) and the late Jim Tansey (basketball).
Tansey played for John Wooden at South Bend Central before the “Wizard of Westwood” won 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years, including seven straight.

The Jims tossed a coin to decide Judd would also coach golf.

Bea, his wife of 53 years who died July 8 at 74, retired from financial aid after 12 years. She volunteered with Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.

Bea loved spoiling her family with Amish-style chicken and dumplings and her special brown-sugar oatmeal.

Their endowment is available to students pursuing Associate in Science degrees in physical education.

Jim’s coaching career brought the Judds to Michigan from his native Ohio.

Bea was born in Field, Ky., on Aug. 26, 1939, to a coal miner. Her family moved to Lima, Ohio, after World War II.

Her stepfather established his own company in Jim’s hometown, North Baltimore, between Bowling Green and Findlay and 30 miles south of Toledo in northwestern Ohio.

They married June 11, 1961, in North Baltimore before Jim’s senior year of college.

Jim was a sophomore at the University of Findlay after getting out of the service when they met. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Findlay and a master’s degree from Bowling Green State University.

Bea worked as a secretary for Cooper Tire in Findlay.

The Judds have two sons, James C. (Judy) Judd of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Todd Judd of Dowagiac; six grandchildren, Tim, Jessie and Annie of Iowa and Gavin, Nate and Nick of Dowagiac; and four great-grandchildren.

James C. Judd works for the Iowa Braille and Sight-Saving School, which Mary Ingalls, sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder of the “Little House on the Prairie” series, attended.

Todd, who played soccer for Findlay, teaches elementary physical education for Dowagiac Union Schools.

Football “was my main sport,” said Judd, who also played baseball. “I was exposed to wrestling at Findlay, which had a good program with guys coming out of Cleveland and western Pennsylvania.”

Judd’s coach, Jim Young, guided the University of Arizona (1973-1976), Purdue University (1977-1981) and the U.S. Military Academy (1983-1990) before induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

Young was interim coach for the Michigan Wolverines during the 1970 Rose Bowl after a heart attack hospitalized Bo Schembechler.

“I also became an actor by chance at Findlay,” Judd said. “I took a couple of classes in play production and drama. Ironically, I pulled a prank that got me in hot water. We were building a set for ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice.’ We were up in the attic of the main building, ‘Old Main,’ looking for stuff for props and came across a big 1930s banner. We got the bright idea to hang it back up, which made the front page of the Findlay Republican-courier and the Toledo Blade: ‘How the heck did it get up there? How are we going to get it down?’ Luckily, the president was a retired colonel and I was an ex-paratrooper. He kind of liked me, so I got off with a lecture.”

As an actor, “I played Inspector Hearne in ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ ” by Agatha Christie.

“The whole football team came and sat in front opening night,” Judd said.

It takes only $2,500 to create a perpetual scholarship endowment.

Donations between $2,500 and $25,000 are matched 100 percent by the SMC Foundation, doubling their effectiveness.

The foundation accepts contributions to existing scholarships in addition to establishing new scholarships.

Direct endowment donations to: SMC Foundation, Director of Development, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047.

Contact Eileen Toney at (269) 782-1301 or etoney@swmich.edu for more information.