The Pro Bene Meritis Award is the highest honor bestowed by the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. First granted in 1984, it is given each spring to alumni, faculty and friends of the college who are committed to the liberal arts, have made outstanding contributions in professional or philanthropic pursuits or have participated in service related to the college.
Hometown: Bay City, Texas
A sixth-generation Texan, Judy Perkins is a longtime supporter and ambassador of the College of Liberal Arts. She serves as an active and passionate member of the College of Liberal Arts Development Council, the Liberal Arts Honors Campaign Committee and has been a driving force in support of the Shakespeare at Winedale Program. She has been involved in the education system throughout her life as a teacher, school board president and parent. She lives with her husband, Dick, in Houston, where she serves in many volunteer roles, including the Houston Junior Forum. The Perkinses have established two endowments within the College of Liberal Arts, including one that supports student scholarships and a second that supports Shakespeare at Winedale.
“Liberal arts helped me learn the value of approaching life from many sides, to have balance and joy in learning and living.”Judy Perkins
You’ve been a generous supporter of the Shakespeare at Winedale program at UT. How did you get involved with this program, and what do you think students gain from participating in the program?
We became involved with Shakespeare at Winedale after attending a play—Romeo and Juliet. I think students gain lifelong friendships, confidence, an ability to overcome obstacles and a love of Shakespeare.
What do you think Shakespeare teaches us?
A love of the poetry of his day as well as the history of his day. He also teaches us how to write great romance and drama.
Do you have a favorite play?
Romeo and Juliet, Henry V and Hamlet.
When you were a student at UT, you studied education, history and government. Can you talk about the value of a liberal arts education in your life?
Liberal arts helped me learn the value of approaching life from many sides, to have balance and joy in learning and living.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self, and by extension, current college freshmen?
Take advantage of all that UT has to offer. Join clubs, volunteer, take a semester abroad, travel, find a part-time job, make friendships with people from other parts of the world. Swim in Barton Springs.
You’ve spent many years involved in education at all levels—teaching in the classroom, serving on the board of trustees in Spring Branch ISD and giving back through philanthropy. What drives your passion for education?
Wanting to see children succeed. Thinking of every child as gifted. Knowing education is the key to the future of our country.
How do you define success?
Finding joy in whatever you are doing, for yourself and for others.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Our children, Keith and Stephanie.
Who’s been the greatest influence in your life, and what lessons have you learned from this person?
Amali Runyon Perkins, my mother-in-law. She taught me how to have faith, love large, laugh often, continue learning, that family is everything and to always think of others.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, The Last Lion: William Spencer Churchill Defender of the Realm by William Manchester and Tough Customer by Sandra Brown.