While still in high school, Judith “Jude” Swenson relocated with her family to New Orleans—a home Jude has never abandoned, although these days she spends a lot of time in Paris, home of her ancestors. After graduating from high school with a business background, Jude immediately went to work as an administrative assistant for the vice president of a steamship company. After a few years she attended Holy Cross College and then Loyola University, majoring in English and journalism with a minor in art and photography. Those pursuits led her to a career as editor of a corporate magazine where she honed her journalism skills traveling the state of Louisiana and conducting personal profile interviews and writing editorial content for a major Louisiana energy corporation. This experience gave her credentials for monthly social columns in Southern Woman and New Orleans Living magazines.
In the late 1970s she met and married James W. Swenson, a New York securities analyst and CEO from Minneapolis, MN.
After raising their two daughters, Jude went back to college to pursue a degree in interior design and began her own design firm which has been very successful for many years. Her keen sense of color and design composition has been featured in several publications and she earned a Silver Alpha Award for her design of a commercial space in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
After his retirement in 1991, Jim Swenson was a pro-bono professor of finance at the University of New Orleans until his death in 2000. He also taught in the 1980s at Tulane University School of Business in the MBA program. He was an outstanding leader of the utmost integrity. An astute chronicler of his own time and life, he was a voracious reader of history, valuing its ultimate contribution to the understanding of future perils and progress in human relations.
The Faulkner Society has been one of Jude’s pet projects for many years. Since her husband was such a wit and a wordsmith and he loved to dance (he was an Arthur Murray dance instructor in college), she decided a few years ago to become a dedicated sponsor of Words & Music in memory of her late husband. Jude says, “Because of his devotion to his life of words and music, the Faulkner Society’s annual festival, just seemed so appropriate as a cause to support in his memory, you see.” But the Faulkner Society is the only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jude’s community contributions to the arts. She has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for her adopted arts organizations.
Jude is currently on the board of the New Orleans Opera Association, the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Statewide Advisory Board, the Faulkner Society Executive Board, the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion Foundation Board, and the Women of Fashion Executive Board. She is a member of the WYES Capital Campaign for the Channel 12 Center for Public Media, the WYES Producers Circle, the New Orleans Opera Master Signers, the Capital Campaign Committee for La Fete du Jardin, the Fellows of the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a member of the Steering Committee of the New Orleans Ballet Resource and Volunteer Organization, as well as a founding member of the New Orleans AIDS task force.
Jude Swenson is a legend in her own time.