Judith Valente Reynard '76, a poet, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and on-air correspondent for the national PBS-TV show, Religion & Ethics News Weekly, was inspired by the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola. She feels that learning and understanding the great Ignatian prayers and the values they represent develops men and women who are "steeped in service, in compassion for others."
Judith was raised in a diverse community, sparking a lifelong love of international travel and experiencing other cultures. She lived in a two-family home on Avenue E in Bayonne with her parents, siblings and close relatives. "I feel fortunate to have had extended family close by. To this day, I love a house full of family and friends," she remembers. Another early memory was a special principal of her public elementary school, who arranged for field trips to ballets, opera and Broadway plays. She credits these cultural experiences as the beginning of her love affair with the performing arts.
During her formative teenage years, Judith was influenced by the Sisters of Charity, who operated the Academy of St. Aloysius in Jersey City, where Judith attended. They encouraged her love of music and appreciation of the humanities, recognized that she had writing talent, and nurtured her dream of being a writer. They also encouraged her to study abroad, a suggestion which Judith accepted, spending time in Paris studying at the Sorbonne.
As a high school junior, she was able to participate in a summer scholars program for outstanding students at Saint Peter's University, allowing her to accumulate a semester's worth of credits for free. Judith was sold on Saint Peter's: "I very much liked my professors that summer, and the matriculating students from Saint Peter's were very kind and friendly to me." The following year, Saint Peter's offered her a generous scholarship and on-campus employment.
"One of my fondest memories is of my first day of college, when my father drove me to school in the huge Mack truck he used to deliver roofing asphalt. I might have been embarrassed, except that I was far too excited about entering the life of the mind that Saint Peter's represented to me," Judith notes. She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college. Another fond memory is the day she was selected by peers to be editor of the Pauw Wow newspaper. Judith was the first woman in the history of Saint Peter's to lead the paper and she remains in touch with two Pauw Wow colleagues from those days.
Writing was her passion so Judith took every writing course given by Professor James C.G. Conniff, a professional writer and tough taskmaster who ran the University's Prose Control Writing Program. He once wrote something to her that she kept on her desk at both The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. It said: "Be a pro. The differentiating note between that status and something less is mercilessly hard work and total dependability. Most people don't have what it takes." Judith says, "I took to heart his definition of what it means to be a top professional writer and it has served me well throughout my career."
Judith decided to include Saint Peter's in her estate planning "because I was very impressed with Dr. Marylou Yam and Dr. Kathy Monahan, and several of the other women I've met in recent years who have leadership roles at the University, including, I am proud to say, my cousin Donna Furina '06, who works in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies." For Judith's further motivation, the gift is a way of honoring her parents, Theresa and Charles Valente, and their hard work to pay for her education. She intends that her gift be used "to foster an appreciation of poetry and the arts as resources for building a strong inner life, particularly a life of the spirit." Judith credits the "constant lifeblood of poetry and the arts" as a defining factor in her life.
The Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth as well as the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, Kan., are also named as beneficiaries in Judith's will. Over the past three years, she has made regular visits to the monastery which developed "a deep appreciation of our rich monastic tradition in the Catholic Church." Judith just finished writing a book about her experiences, and how "those of us in the secular world can try to live more contemplative lives by focusing on the monastic values of listening, simplicity, prayer, praise, consensus and compassion."
Judith emphasizes that material possessions are secondary to a strong interior life and cites theologian Karl Rahner, S.J. as her inspiration: "The only thing that still counts (at the end of life) is what we can take with us in death: that is, I myself as I was in the ultimate depths of my own heart, a heart that was either full of love, or full of spite and hidden selfishness."
Judith is married to Illinois Circuit Court Judge Charles G. Reynard, who is also a poet. They reside in Chicago and Normal, Ill.
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