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Judith Runstad

Judy Runstad

Inspired by Idaho: Runstad Says Time at Campus Shaped Future Career in Law

Judith Runstad, '66 and '68, arrived at the University of Idaho from a tiny Idaho town that was, like many such places at the time, largely isolated. "It just opened up the world for me," she said of the university. "It inspired me. I wanted to know more about the world. I wanted to be more a part of it."

Runstad, a land-use attorney in Seattle, recalled her years at U-Idaho as a time of optimism, despite the Vietnam War and President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Women were beginning to feel that they could make a difference and have successful careers. After graduation, Runstad moved to Seattle and took a job teaching high school. "I really wanted to go to law school," she recalled, "but I was not in a financial position to do that." When budget cuts cost her the teaching job four years later, Runstad took it as a sign. "I thought, 'This is fate. Something is speaking to me here.'" Despite an incomplete application, she was accepted to the University of Washington Law School. Runstad attended, even knowing she'd have "some pretty serious loans to work through." The political science degree undergraduate, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, credits U-Idaho for giving her the foundation to survive the highly disciplined "boot camp" that was law school.

In 2005, Runstad's husband, Jon, established the Judith M. Runstad Lecture Series Endowment at U-Idaho as a gift to her. The lectures focus on bringing interdisciplinary perspectives to current issues and were inspired, in part, by "just the idea that there are these students coming to the University of Idaho whose eyes and mind will be opened the way mine was," Runstad said.

The gift is also recognition of public universities' growing need for private funding. "Public universities are going to be depending more and more on the private sector to help them finance the same kinds of programs that we took for granted, which were publicly funded at the time that I went to school," Runstad said. "A big challenge is to educate those of us who are alums who still think of public universities as publicly funded."

Read more stories or visit the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences' website.

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