Judy Shepherd DeBrandt ’66 recalls seeing a T-shirt imprinted with the words “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” It’s a statement that resonates with her.
“After my husband, Dennis, died in 2013, I suddenly had complete financial control. Even though I have an MBA and worked in finance, this was a shift,” Judy says. “I began thinking about what I want to do with whatever money I have. Along with providing for my children and grandchildren, I decided to make a small bequest to Mount Holyoke.”
As a volunteer and consistent donor to The Mount Holyoke Fund, Judy has long given back to the College. She credits her liberal arts education with helping her succeed in a series of careers.
“After Mount Holyoke, I earned a master of arts in teaching at Northwestern and taught middle-school English for six years,” she says. “I had married in 1968 and when our first child arrived, I was ready to step away from teaching. But, as so many women experienced in the 1970s, I found being a stay-at-home-mom isolating. I started thinking, ‘What do I do next?’”
Judy began volunteering at the YWCA of Westchester County, writing press releases about events for women returning to the workforce. At the time, she knew nothing about marketing, but says that her liberal arts experience served her well. After a year, she was offered a part-time job at the YWCA and began balancing work with raising three young children.
“Within a few years, my husband was transferred to Washington, DC, where I discovered that part-time jobs for women just didn’t exist. By then, I wanted to work full-time and earn professional pay. My father and both my brothers had earned MBAs so I thought ‘I can go back to school and get an MBA.’”
Judy did just that. She took evening classes at American University for more than three years, and had a fourth child along the way. Degree in hand, she joined the staff of Booz Allen Hamilton, where she spent three years before heading to Ernst & Young. Her consulting work on government contracts placed her among numerous retired military officers. “I was one of the few women at the table and, I think, was the only woman with children.”
Judy’s work on budgeting led her into technology and then into writing about technology. She also worked for ten years at Fannie Mae. “I looked at what I had enjoyed most over my entire career, and it was writing. So I spent the next four years doing proposal writing at a school in Washington that taught government workers. The writing skills I developed at Mount Holyoke held me in good stead.”
Currently, Judy is the co-head class agent for her class’s 50th reunion. She’s also involved with several book groups in DC. Last summer, a new MHC graduate from Bangladesh lived with her for a few weeks. That experience offered Judy a view of the College through the eyes of an international student.
“There is a strong need for what Mount Holyoke offers, particularly to ensure that all women get an education,” Judy says. “Making a bequest is a way of recognizing women and what they continue to face in so many arenas—from accessing education to being respected as working mothers.”