Dr. Dick Hudson
Growing up, Dick Hudson was always the organizer. He went from organizing ball games with his friends in elementary school to being the president of his high school and college student government, though he never ran for either position. He was the captain of his baseball team junior and senior year of college and he’s in the Mercer County, PA, and Slippery Rock University Sports Halls of Fame for those years. Now, Dr. Hudson is a retired faculty member at the University of Georgia and the current Executive Director of the Athens Symphony Orchestra.
He directed a project to restructure the University Systems Schools of Nursing, coordinated UGA’s Olympic involvement in 1996, been a consultant for the 2000 Olympics and spurred a project to plant 1,000 oak shade trees on the UGA campus. Dr. Hudson has been president of the Athens Rotary Club and the Athens Symphony and has also been a member of the Oconee County Board of Education. For his dedication to the Athens Community, he has received the UGA Public Service Award, the UGA Athletic Service Award, the Athens Rotary Service Award twice and he has been presented Sweden’s Medal of Appreciation by Their Majesties King Karl XVI Gustaf and Queen Sylvia of Sweden for work with Sweden’s Olympic committee. Outside of his astounding career, Dr. Hudson has also cultivated a love of reading, playing tennis, writing, kayaking, gardening and traveling.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you became the Executive Director of the Athens Symphony?
I’ve been fortunate all my life to have a curiosity about all kinds of things and a genuine like of people. Will Rogers once said, “He never met anyone he didn’t like.” In high school, I wrote an essay where I said, “I’ve never met anyone I wouldn’t like to know more about.” I have always been curious about other people in a genuine way.
I moved to Athens in 1971, and over the years became more involved with the community. During my presidency of the Rotary Club, I was asked to be on the board of the symphony. When I became President of the Symphony, I began helping Albert Ligotti, the founder of the Athens Symphony, with much of the logistics outside of music. And when Mr. Ligotti retired, I was asked to be the Executive Director to oversee the Symphony’s non-musical needs.
The thing that I love about my job the most is the moment at the concert when I get to sit there and look around and I think to myself, all of this has come together through so many exceptional, creative people who all have one goal in mind: to put on a performance for the community of Athens. When I sit there and marvel at that, I get emotional, I’m doing it thinking about it even now. The Symphony is an Athenian treasure in its 43rd year and I’m just so glad that I can get people to come and share in that joy. We’re all in this together and if we can’t make it better for other people, we’re wasting our time.
What are you looking forward to in 2020?
I would like to think that in my small way, in my interactions with people, that I can make this a more pleasant world, perhaps a more productive world, a more understanding world, just by being an example of showing that I care for other people. Our rotary model is “Service Above Self” and I really believe that. I benefit greatly from our Rotary Club, especially the presentations we get to listen to and the volunteer opportunities I get to be a part of. I love that we get to give back and really live by our mission. Beyond that, what I’d like to think, I can continue to do is to, in a small way, make a difference. I believe that we all make an impact whether it be positive or negative in the long run. I look forward this year to continue doing some small things to continue to try to make a positive impact on the world around me.
You seem to be the walking definition of a Renaissance man. Are there any impactful experiences in your life that you’d be willing to share that have helped to shape you into such a multifaceted person?
From Little League to my triweekly tennis games currently, I’ve been involved in sports my whole life. To me, sports don’t just build character, they reveal character. I learned early on that one cannot win all the time. I’ve worked with and for people who have and have not played sports. People who’ve played sports have a calmness about them that I credit to understanding that hard things may happen, but with teamwork, we’ll be able to make it through.
When I went to college, I was going to major in math and physics, but I enjoyed reading, so I decided to major in English literature, as I viewed it as the history of ideas because one not only gets poems and creative writing, but also gets history, government, economics, psychology and on and on. I enjoyed it so much that I went on to get my masters and doctorate.
2o years ago, I joined a group we call the Folio Club, named after a reading club that Poe wanted to start, but never got off the ground. We read a book each month and at this time we’ve read over 240 books. These are books that I normally wouldn’t read, many I’d never even hear about without this group. The books are all nonfiction, and I’m enriched by the lively discussions we get to have. I have an interest in history and people. I can talk to somebody from anywhere, and I can listen and learn so much from them.
How do you age and live well?
In February, on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, I’ll turn 75, but every day, I wake up and I’m active both mentally and physically. To me, that is what’s crucial to aging well. The physical can vary by person. I’m so fortunate to still be able to play tennis three times a week. Then with my folio club, I get to read books I would have never read and learn so much from the people around me. I love talking about ideas and meeting new people and I suppose that’s how I am able to keep both my mind and my body active.
Can you tell us more about your experience with the 1996 and 2000 Olympics?
When they announced that the 1996 Olympics would be held in Atlanta, I was driving in the car. I heard it on the radio, and I thought to myself, “That’s neat.” About a week later, I got a call from Charles Knapp, the President of UGA at the time, who said, “You know the Olympics are going to be in Atlanta in 1996. We think UGA is going to be involved, and I’d like for you to head it up. Would you do it?” I took a walk on North Campus and gave it some thought, but of course, there wasn’t really any question of whether or not I’d accept.
I organized pre-Olympic training for the Australian and Swedish Olympic Teams, as well as the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, Mia Hamm and others who stayed at Rutherford Hall. Together, the University and City of Athens formed the Athens 96 Committee to address the myriad of needs that would ensure that people from all over the world could come to Athens and UGA for a wonderful experience. I just feel very fortunate to have met so many incredible people and be a part of it. After those Olympics, Australian radio stations would interview me and they’d call me, “Dr. Dick” and ask me all sorts of questions about the games. Then one day, I got a call and was asked to work as a Consultant on the 2000 Olympics in Australia and it was such an experience in both Canberra and Sydney.
Is there anything about you that people might be surprised to learn?
It depends on the person. My sports community might be surprised to know that I’ve had a few poems published and vice versa. I think I’d be more surprised to find out what they’re surprised about.
You’ve dedicated so much of your life to enriching the Athens community. What are some things about Athens that you love that have kept you here?
I came to Athens for my doctorate and I thought I would be here maybe 4 years, but the community has welcomed me more than I could ever hope. Athens is so enriched by its university setting and all the opportunities that it implies. I love all the cultural affairs, from awesome pottery studios to the Town and Gown Players to organizations that are doing great things for the community like the ACCA. There’s a real commitment by Athenians to be helpful and to do good things for our community. Athens has been wonderful to me because of the comfortable climate, vibrant social circles and plentiful extracurricular affairs. I’m just grateful to Athens and the people of Athens for treating me the way that they have and giving me so many opportunities. I’m really fortunate. When people ask me how I’m doing, I always respond by saying, “Better than I deserve.”