Judith Campbell Stearns ’67 cherishes her time at St. Joseph’s College. The professors challenged her intellectually, she bonded with friends over a shared passion of ballet and the opera, and she lived out some of her favorite college memories at campus events. Decades later, Ms. Stearns is back at her alma mater — this time, as a member of the Board of Trustees.
“What I want to do is to be a champion of St. Joseph’s and a champion for the students,” said Ms. Stearns, who joined the Board in August. “Some students are on untraditional tracks, but I want them to know that can take them to places they never imagined.”
Ms. Stearns also took somewhat of an untraditional track after she earned a bachelor’s degree in history and sociology from SJC Brooklyn in 1967. Immediately after graduation, she flew to Paris to attend art school and travel with a few of her St. Joseph’s friends, spending her summer in London and at the Wagner Festival in Germany, among visits to other European countries.
“The friends, and freedom, and the ability to express yourself in so many different ways made it such a joyful experience,” Ms. Stearns said.
Over the years, she got married, lived in several states across the country and stayed in close touch with her college friends — some of whom she met before St. Joe’s as a student at Bishop McDonald’s Memorial High School and Holy Cross Grammar School.
Ms. Stearns is the founder of Refine-It-Today Decorating in Arlington, Virginia, where she serves as an interior design and building contractor, designing living environments and overseeing high-end projects. She also served as a fundraising and events consultant for various Silicon Valley growth firms and continues relationships with nonprofit organizations there.
Ms. Stearns lives in Arlington with her husband Frank, a retired lieutenant colonel who works at the Pentagon as chief of policy for Army Military Intelligence.
“My life is serendipitous,” said Ms. Stearns, who was born in the country of Jamaica to Anglo/Irish and Portuguese/East Indian parents and moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn, when she was 6. “Nothing is planned.”
Ms. Stearns, whose family moved to Jackson Heights, Queens, while she studied at St. Joe’s, said her parents instilled in her the values of hard work and integrity, as well as an interest and participation in the arts at a young age — which is all made clear by her impressive résumé.
She attended the Management Development Program at Stanford University, where she served as associate director of development. In that capacity, she was involved in the orchestration and launching of the 1987 Centennial Capital Campaign — the first billion-dollar campaign of any university. Ms. Stearns also guest lectured at Santa Clara University’s Graduate School of Business in California, and has held board positions for such organizations as the American Air Museum in Britain, the UN 50th Anniversary Celebrations Committee, the California Professional Engineers Educational Foundation, and Doorways for Women and Families, among others.
To this day, Ms. Stearns said, her St. Joseph’s College journey was among the most influential steppingstones of her life. She is excited to return to the College to support the rest of the Board of Trustees, under the leadership of an “extraordinary” president, with her finance background to ensure all students have the resources to develop personal and professional relationships and receive the same impactful education she did.
“The friends you make at St. Joseph’s College will be with you for the rest of your lives,” she said.