Alumni Achievement Award Winner
Non-Profit and Volunteer Manager
Mary Lu Hudson Aft '60 has influenced the development of organizations and
people in seven "home towns" since she left Carroll, Iowa, to attend Knox
College, where she pursued a degree in mathematics. In each city, most recently Cincinnati, Aft has found ways to strengthen non-profit organizations and their services to people in need.
She has worked with the American National Red Cross as a volunteer trainer and training designer for more than 30 years and, since 1987, she has been involved with the Cincinnati Friends of the Public Library, serving as their book sale chair since 1989. Her library work has made available millions of used books and recordings to schools, hospitals, and prisons and raised more than $1 million each year for the library system.
For these accomplishments, Aft was named the 1999 "Woman of the Year" by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Together with her husband, Richard '60, she has served as a founding member of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's Community Advisory Council and as been an active volunteer for her alma mater. In addition, the Afts have represented United Way International in Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Indonesia, among other countries, and have published two books on United Way International since 2004.
In February 2012, Aft was recognized by the College with an Alumni Achievement Award for her achievements in non-profit and volunteer management.
Describe your Knox experience.
I transferred to Knox in January of my freshman year, and it always felt like I was at home. Whiting Hall was my home for four years -- high ceilings, flowered wallpaper, one telephone for the whole floor! Primitive by today's standards. Puddles -- our synchronized swim organization -- sharpened my swimming skills so that became a regular part of my life for many years. (This was before women had the opportunity to participate in intercollegiate athletics. I really envy the women these days.) Chairing Puddles and the Whiting Hall Council gave me invaluable experience and self-confidence. Each student experienced the arts, sciences, and history, but our most stimulating moments were the conversations in the Gizmo, the dorm, or the lawn where, frankly, a great deal of our education took place. And as many students, I met my future husband. He is a major part of my Knox experience.
How has that experience affected your life?
It has given me confidence and assurance that I can lead a group or organization, utilize the talents of members of the group, and trust that teamwork is the best way to accomplish any goal.
What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
My most notable achievement is not a single achievement but the continuing ability to adjust and adapt to new situations and environments and assume leadership in those situations. A liberal arts education is very much a part of that ability to adapt and adjust. My Knox education taught me to be open to new ideas, new experiences, and new learning and how to process them for my own development.
What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?
Being at Knox is a privilege. Never pass up an opportunity for a new experience just because it is new. Take advantage of everything the college has to offer -- you are here for a liberal education -- experience, sample and enjoy.