Distinguished Alumni

The Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually to an individual who attended Centralia College for at least one year and/or has made significant contributions to his or her profession or society in general.

Judy Greeley Hendrickson

2023 Distinguished Alumna

Centralia College’s 2023 Distinguished Alumna honoree, Judith Greeley Hendrickson, is arguably a most versatile woman. Even now, Hendrickson can rattle off a list of philanthropic projects she’s working on and non-profits she’s assisting. She is energetic and funny, and full of joy for all the things she devotes her considerable energy.

Hendrickson was born and raised in Centralia. Her grandfather, Harry Bradford, was on the school board when Centralia College was founded in 1925. Hendrickson was a creative, energetic child and started exploring her many interests early. Initially, it was tap dancing.

“When recitals would come up, the tap instructor would say to my mother, ‘Judy isn’t quite ready for the recital. Let’s have her sing instead.’ That tells you all you need to know about my dancing skills,” she recalled with a laugh.

Hendrickson was a gifted singer and earned $5 per service singing at churches across the Twin Cities every Sunday. She auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera and did well, but that was not a realistic option for her future. She continues to be involved in singing and was fortunate to solo at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, and at Bruton Parrish in Williamsburg, Va., as well as several churches in Seattle and Raleigh.

In high school, Hendrickson had many interests and she made time to perfect them. After graduating from Centralia High School, she earned a music scholarship for Centralia College. She played bass clarinet in the high school and college bands and sang in all the vocal groups. She was selected for the All-Northwest band in Boise. After graduating from Centralia College in 1960, she transferred to the University of Washington, where she studied music. She sang and soloed in UW choral groups and also played bass clarinet in the UW concert band. When Washington played in the Rose Bowl, Hendrickson played tenor saxophone and marched in the Rose Bowl Parade and during pre-game and halftime at the games.

In the summer, she worked at the Centralia and Chehalis swimming pools as a lifeguard and swim instructor and was selected as a member of the UW women’s synchronized swimming team.

When she left the UW in 1963, she became the director of recreation at Maple Lane School for girls, a juvenile corrections facility in Grand Mound. She worked there for nine years and found a passion for supporting incarcerated youth, by teaching them survival skills as well as supporting their educational endeavors. 

After Maple Lane, she transferred to Cascadia Juvenile Reception-Diagnostic Center and McNeil Island Corrections Center, where she felt she could help people to live productive lives and be better citizens. She was a tireless advocate for education and rehabilitation programs in state prisons and was part of a team of individuals who drafted and lobbied for legislation to allow volunteers and college interns to serve in the Department of Social and Health Services agencies throughout the state. 

During this time, she was Chairperson of the United Way Volunteer Bureau of Seattle and King County and was honored for four consecutive years as a Woman of Achievement by the Matrix Table in Seattle. In addition, she was honored for Outstanding Contributions to the field of corrections by the Washington Correctional Association and by the McNeil Island staff and inmates.

As successful as she was, she stepped away in 1985, when she and her husband, Richard, moved to North Carolina, where Richard grew up. Hendrickson’s first job in North Carolina was with N.C. Amateur Sports, during which time she met Dr. LeRoy Walker, who was on the board of that organization and chancellor of North Carolina Central University. Her 20-year affiliation with Dr. Walker provided many opportunities as a volunteer, including assisting in organizing two Pan-Africa track and field meets at Duke University; establishing the office in Durham, N.C. for Dr. Walker when he was elected president of the United States Olympic Committee; serving on a Sports Administration and Facilities Management three-week immersion program for graduate students from throughout the United States. 

Hendrickson’s career, for 18 years, in North Carolina was as corporate secretary for International Lead Zinc Research Organization (ILZRO), an international trade association that moved from New York City to North Carolina in 1987. ILZRO did not do research, rather they established a wide variety of research programs, based on need, by various member companies throughout the world in the use of lead and zinc. As corporate secretary, Hendrickson traveled extensively in Europe, North America, and Asia, organizing and participating in international meetings.

After taking several years away from a paying position, but continuing her involvement as a volunteer with the Olympic Committee, Judith took a position as director of development and donor relations for The Opera Company of North Carolina. She continued her involvement in singing and was a member of the opera chorus and continues to be involved with the Opera Company in a variety of areas.

“Throughout my life and work careers, I was able to continually grow and build upon my experiences,” she said.  “I was fortunate to meet and spend time with many interesting and successful people.” 

A short list would include George Steinbrenner (owner of the New York Yankees), numerous Olympic track and field gold medalists, Franklin Williams (US Ambassador to the Social and Economic Council of the United Nations and Ambassador to Ghana), Roscoe Brown (Tuskegee Airman and President of Bronx Community College of the City University of New Yori (CUNY).

For all she’s done and continues to do, she credits Centralia College with giving her a good start.

“I encourage people to consider attending a community college,” she said. “Try out a trade. Try out a lot of things. See what appeals to you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, it matters what you learn and community college allows you to do that.”  

“Find out who you really want to be and go do that,” she added.

Hendrickson and her husband continue to be involved in a number of philanthropic projects, both in Washington and North Carolina. They funded a large landscaping project at Elon University in N.C., where the football center is named in honor of Richard’s father. Currently, they are supporting Friends of Seminary Hill in Centralia to continue improving that area and to make ADA accessible trails. In NC, they have funded four police dogs (K-9) for the town of Cary. They contribute to a variety of scholarships and simulators for the nursing program at Centralia College and the “Tranquil Waters” feature outside Washington Hall.

Hendrickson is a firm believer in education, trades, sports, and the arts, and she puts her energy toward those projects as much as she is able.

“There isn’t just one path and you don’t have to stick to one path,” she said. “Take advantage of opportunities along the way. I think that is where community colleges come in. It is more important to be diversified and to do many things well. That is how to be successful on any path you choose. Finally, If you are able, be sure and give back.”

Nominate a Distinguished AlumnusNominate a Distinguished Alumnus

The Centralia College Foundation is currently seeking nominations for its Distinguished Alumnus Award. The award is presented annually to an individual who attended Centralia College for at least one year and/or has made significant contributions to his or her profession or society in general.

The recipient of this prestigious award is announced in the spring and recognized at the college’s graduation ceremony in June.


Centralia College Foundation
600 Centralia College Blvd
Centralia, WA 98531-4099