She wouldn’t admit it, but Teresa Hudkins is among the most widely known and well regarded members of Willamette’s administration. We sat down for a discussion about her student days and the changing world of university enrollment.
Let’s start with memories from your student days. What stands out?
Well, things changed dramatically from my freshman year to my senior year. It was an interesting time. When I arrived as a freshman, there were curfew hours for women, and housemothers. All the men lived on one side of campus, and the women lived on the other. The housemothers, at least where I lived, seemed to think they were running a finishing school [laughs]. By the time I graduated, there were no curfews, no dress codes, and new expectations for residence hall staff.
A highlight of my time here was singing in a small folk group, The New Folk Impressions. We spent part of Christmas break my sophomore year in San Francisco singing in clubs. Here we were, these kids from Willamette, playing gigs all over the Bay Area. We stayed at our bass player’s home in Palo Alto and referred to his mom as “Odd Job” because she had the audacity to expect us to do chores around the house while we were there!
What’s one thing that has stayed the same at Willamette over the years?
The professors were as attentive and kind and inspiring and eager for students to learn then as they are now. During my early years here we attracted an exciting crop of new faculty — like Bill Duvall, Carol Long, Roger Hull, Walt Farrier, Grant Thorsett, Jerry Bowers and Ken Nolley. And my impression was that the older professors were actually very welcoming to the new faculty bringing in lots of new ideas. I enjoy hearing students today talk about their professors and how much they mean to them.
You arrived in the undergraduate admission office just about when enrollment programs were expanding in the U.S. How did you end up there?
Sheer luck. This job is something I just fell into. Buzz Yocom was the dean of admission and registrar at the time, and Frank Meyer was the director. They decided it would be smart to have a young graduate work in the office, and I thought that sounded good.
I had two days of training and the next week they sent me to Chicago. I got into downtown Chicago, ran a few red lights, got pulled over, and finally got onto the turnpike where I needed to go. It was a great adventure. We traveled a lot more then than we do now.
How else has the admission world changed?
There used to be much more quiet time in the summer! Certainly technology has changed so much of what we do, and there’s more focus on marketing. The competition among colleges was always there, but I don’t think it was as keenly felt as it is now. No one ever mentioned the word ‘marketing’ in the ’70s. That would have been taboo. In fact, we didn’t even want to refer to what we did as ‘recruiting.’ You told your story, and if students liked that and enrolled, great.
When you’re meeting today with prospective parents and their students, who’s the more critical consumer?
At Willamette, students’ families have always been pretty involved. We’ve always included parents if they come along on the campus visit. But in recent years, parents have been more involved than ever. They speak in terms of ‘we’ and talk about making ‘our’ college decision. Parents want a practical discussion about what they’re going to get from Willamette — we are a product and they are the consumer — or what the school can offer to their National Merit Scholar bassoon player. Once in a great while I’d see that approach from a parent 20 years ago, but it was rare.
What’s something you tell people about Willamette during the admission process that tends to resonate with them?
Certainly the academic strength of Willamette. Now more than ever, students and their parents want to know that Willamette’s liberal arts education will mean a good job and a good life, whether that means going to graduate school or not. That, coupled with the participatory opportunities — being next door to the Capitol, internships, undergraduate research, study abroad — is so important. And, of course, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.” We certainly have plenty to talk about.
This interview has been edited for length.
Teresa (Krug) Hudkins ’69
Director of Admission, College of Liberal Arts
A stage shot and an album cover, both from the days of The New Folk Impressions.