Growing up in the small town of Fruitland, Idaho, UI’s main campus in Moscow seemed far away to Judy Runstad. But for her, going to college and achieving great things were always aspirations close at hand.
“My parents had drummed into me that I would go to college,” Rumstad said. “My mother had gone to the University of Idaho, and they were adamant that I go to college.”
To make a college education possible, Runstad took advantage of scholarships and worked to support herself. Compared to Fruitland, the atmosphere of the university and the town of Moscow loomed large.
“For me to go to the University of Idaho from this tiny, tiny little town was like, the metropolis, you know?” she recalled. “This was a big city, big town, big campus.”
As a Vandal, Runstad took advantage of the opportunities available at the university, immersing herself in campus life. She was a cheerleader, involved with the Associated Students of the University of Idaho, and a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority.
“There was just so much,” she said. “They sky was the limit. You could get involved in anything you wanted and you could really make things happen.”
Runstad graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science, then followed that by attaining her master’s degree in the same subject. That education, combined with the personal growth and opportunities gained at UI, helped prepare her for law school and a high-profile career in real estate law in the Pacific Northwest.
“It was an era of optimism,” she said. “We were quite optimistic about what we could do. Many of us did not have great economic advantages growing up, so we had made our own way.”
After law school at the University of Washington, Runstad embarked on a successful career in real-estate law. She joined the firm of Foster Pepper & Shefelman in Seattle in 1997, and has been an active member of corporate boards and community groups for many years, lending her time and efforts to an abundance of charitable causes. She has served on many boards, and once led the board of directors as chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Runstad was inducted into the University of Idaho Hall of Fame in 2001, and awarded an honorary doctorate of letters in 2014. She and her husband Jon endowed the Judith M. Runstad Discovery Lecture Series at UI, which annually funds the lectures of scholars, authors, filmmakers, actors, poets and activists presenting before UI students, faculty, staff and community members.
She credits her home-state alma mater with helping launch her to great heights in the life and in law.
“We felt that if we could go the University of Idaho and graduate,” Runstad said, “we could do anything. We thought we could go conquer the world.”
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