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Susan Hudson’s Gift Improves Quality of Life for Popejoy Hall Patrons and UNM Students

By Michelle G. McRuiz

Posted May 5, 2017

Susan Hudson used to patiently wait outside the men’s room at Popejoy Hall, counting the men who exited, trying not to draw attention to herself. She wanted to make sure the restroom was empty before she would enter.

From left, Jack, Susan, Keith and Scott Hudson pose for an impromptu family portrait.

Over the years, Susan learned more about Albuquerque’s public restrooms than she ever wanted to. She knew which places had easily accessible, universal restrooms meant for one person plus a helper, if needed. And in her world, help was always needed. Only she was the one helping—either her husband or her son, both of whom were confined to wheelchairs. At UNM, unfortunately, the restrooms her family needed were not what they found.

So Susan decided to make an unusual gift to UNM’s Popejoy Hall. Her generous donation has funded the construction of the Jack and Scott Hudson Universal Restrooms at Popejoy. Now, UNM students and Popejoy patrons will not need to go through the inconveniences that the Hudsons did on a daily basis whenever they were away from home.

“It seems like a strange thing to be excited about,” said Susan, “but having these bathrooms is going to be a major thing, especially for students who are handicapped.”

Rapid Adapter

Susan and Jack Hudson had two sons, Scott and Keith. Scott was born with Duchene muscular dystrophy, an illness characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness, and became wheelchair-confined from age 10 until his death at age 26. Despite his disability, Scott—“the apple of my eye, an intelligent kid,” said Susan—played Challenger Little League baseball, skied with the Adaptive Ski Program, sang in the New Mexico All-State Chorus, served as an elder at Albuquerque’s First Presbyterian Church, was a spokesperson for Make-A-Wish, and was a Goodwill Ambassador as well as a Man of the Year for the New Mexico Muscular Dystrophy Association.

After high school, Scott attended UNM and finished his bachelor’s degree in history in four years, graduating summa cum laude. “By the time he got to UNM,” said Susan, “all the movement he had left in his hand was his index finger and thumb. He had to have note-takers and assistance for everything.” He dictated all his papers, and while Susan recalled writing her own college papers in first, subsequent, and final drafts, Scott completed his with adeptness on the first round.

A Fitting Tribute

Susan also recently established a memorial scholarship to pay tribute to Scott’s remarkable achievements and character. The Scott Andrew Hudson Endowed Scholarship will assist UNM undergraduate or gradate history majors with a particular interest in Scott’s favorite history topics: the Civil War and World War II. Scott passed away shortly before earning his master’s degree in history; UNM awarded him the degree posthumously in 2008. A Regents’ Scholar who “had so many honors and awards hanging around his neck” at graduation, Scott’s tuition, room, and board were paid in full, but he lived at home and put his UNM reimbursement for room and board into an account to pay for his graduate studies. That and the earnings from his job as assistant editor of the New Mexico Historical Review went toward establishing the memorial scholarship.

Deserving Dignity

Jack Hudson, who earned his PhD at UNM, became confined to a wheelchair after a stroke in 2003 and passed away in 2014. “Having two people in wheelchairs at the same time makes you very, very aware” of mundane things that many people don’t give a second thought to, said Susan, such as the ability to enter a restroom comfortably with a family member when one needs extra help. “A father needs a place where he can take his daughter,” she said, “and a mother needs a place where she can take her son, and not be embarrassed.”

Jack and Susan enjoyed attending performances at Popejoy, but she admitted that the perk that spurred them to become Popejoy donors was the donor’s lounge restroom, which offered exactly the specifications the Hudsons needed. And although Scott had an aide with him most of the time while a UNM student, if the aide were ill, Susan stepped in and quickly discovered that the only restroom within reason where she could take him was a single accessible restroom in the Honors Department.

“The bathroom issue is near and dear to my heart,” Susan said. “It has become a joke to me in a way, but it’s a serious issue. These two men were very important to me.”

The plaques with Jack’s and Scott’s names would have made them laugh, Susan said. But she doesn’t want Jack and Scott to be forgotten with the passage of time. In creating this gift, Susan is providing untold Popejoy patrons and UNM students with just the space they need to have the comfort and dignity they deserve.

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