Newly created fund supports students in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

1952 Liberal Arts alumna hopes endowment will promote program and inspire gifts

Judith Hardes, arts and letters, 1952, has contributed $500,000 to create The Judith Hardes Fund in the College of the Liberal Arts. The fund will provide scholarships for students in the Department of Women’s, Gender, And Sexuality Studies and may also be used for experiential learning opportunities such as research, conferences and lectures. Credit: Arizona PBS All Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Judith Hardes graduated from Penn State in 1952 with a degree in arts and letters. Her mother, she said, instilled in her from an early age the importance of giving back.

“You reach a point in life when you find you don’t really need to live extravagantly,” Hardes said, adding that she lives simply and directs her resources to causes and organizations that matter to her -- the arts, politics, women’s health, education.

Always connected to her alma mater, even working at Penn State for a time when her late husband was drafted into the U.S. armed services, Hardes said she was impressed by Susan Welch, dean of the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts — where Hardes earned her bachelor’s degree — and was convinced the college was going in the right direction. “Liberal arts the way the liberal arts should be,” she said.

“I came out of college at a time when women couldn’t buy a car, open a checking account, or even make a major health decision without permission from a man,” Hardes said, acknowledging that though much has improved for women, there is more to do, particularly related to women’s reproductive health. “A lot of women today don’t understand what it was like in those days.”

Hardes found in the college’s Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies the program and the people who could change that paradigm.

In response, she contributed $500,000 to create the Judith Hardes Fund in the College of the Liberal Arts. “I have always wanted the funds I give to go directly to the people who need them,” she said. Her new endowment honors those wishes; its proceeds provide scholarships for students in the department and may also be used for experiential learning opportunities such as research, conferences and lectures.

“The Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies is delighted to be the recipient of Judith Hardes’ generous gift,” said department head Melissa Wright. “The fund will support our students in their studies and professional development in the expansive field of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. This fund is already opening up so many opportunities for our students and will surely continue to have a lasting impact for generations of Penn State students now and into the future.”

Though she attended Penn State reluctantly — her tuition was free because her father, the late Anthony Luchek, was a faculty member and director of Penn State's Labor Education Program from 1947 until 1959 — Hardes ultimately realized the University provided an excellent education, which, in part, led to her perennial support. Over several decades, she has made generous contributions to the Liberal Arts Future Fund, the University Libraries, Four Diamonds, and other Penn State funds and programs.

In Arizona, where she resides, Hardes is lauded for her generosity to Theater Works in Peoria, the Arizona Theater Company, Prescott Center for the Arts, and the Phoenix Theatre, which named The Judith Hardes Theatre, one of its three campus theaters, in her honor. She gives to several other organizations, educational institutions and causes elsewhere in the U.S.

A long-time advocate for people from marginalized populations including the LGBT community and people from low socioeconomic or underrepresented communities, Hardes has used her voice, her pen and her philanthropy to promote diversity, equality and women’s health. Her latest gift to endow the Judith Hardes Fund dovetails perfectly with her life’s mission.

To make a contribution to the Judith Hardes Fund in the College of the Liberal Arts, contact Danae Blasso, associate director of development, at or 814-863-5832.

The Hardes fund helps Penn State as it seeks to fulfill its mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections. "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence" focuses on three key imperatives: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. Through teaching, research, and outreach, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of the Liberal Arts is able to offer scholarships to deserving students, create life-shaping experiences, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit

Last Updated January 21, 2019