In Memory: Betty Duda ’93H

The former Rollins College trustee and recipient of an honorary degree died on December 24.

Rollins Trustee Betty Duda at a community speaking engagement. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections) Rollins Trustee Betty Duda at a community speaking engagement. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)

Engraved on the wall of the loggia near Strong Hall at Rollins College is the phrase “Life is for Service.” For Betty Duda, this Rollins ethos was aligned with her faith and her life’s work in the community and beyond.

For 50 years, many Central Florida organizations benefitted from Duda’s servant leadership style. It was fitting then that in 1978, after years of dedicating herself to the welfare of others, Duda was elected to the College’s Board of Trustees. In 1989, she became the first woman to chair the Rollins board. She retired in 1995, when she was named an honorary trustee, a distinction she held until her death.

For her tireless dedication and leadership at Rollins, the College awarded Duda an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1993, at the conclusion of her service as chairman.

Duda (left) with Thad Seymour during his Rollins presidency. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections) Duda (left) with Thad Seymour during his Rollins presidency. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)

“Betty Duda was a class act, and a great community leader,” says current Chairman of the Board of Trustees Allan Keen ’70 ’71’MBA ’10H. “I was invited by President Thaddeus Seymour to join the board 28 years ago with Betty as chair. Shortly after I joined, she asked me if I would chair the search committee to find Thad’s successor, and that effort led to the selection of yet another great Rollins president, Rita Bornstein. I cherish that work, and I’m thankful that Betty had confidence in a less-than-one-year-old trustee for this big responsibility.”

“Betty was a longtime friend and colleague,” says board member Harold A. Ward III ’86H. “She was vice chairman when I served as chairman, and she was the first woman chairperson of the board immediately thereafter. Despite numerous other civic and family engagements, she showed devotion to Rollins—I don’t recall her missing a single meeting. Aside from all of her official responsibilities, she and her husband, John, supplied wonderful fresh Florida sweet corn every spring for a corn-eating contest, which I fortunately never won.”

“Betty was chair of the board of trustees when I was elected president of Rollins College,” recalls Rita Bornstein. “She asked me if people would be concerned that two women were in charge. We had a wonderful working relationship, and we accomplished a lot. She was supportive, thoughtful, and smart. She championed the value of a liberal arts education. I will miss her.”

Read more about Betty Duda and her leadership in the Orlando Sentinel.

Duda (left) and President Rita Bornstein (center) participate in Habitat along with student committee president Gretchen Pollum in 1993. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)
Duda (left) and President Rita Bornstein (center) participate in Habitat along with student committee president Gretchen Pollum in 1993. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)

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May 23, 1993
Citation of Honorary Degree delivered by Rollins College’s President Rita Bornstein

Betty A. Duda. You list your occupation as “volunteer.” The roll of organizations you have served reads like a community service directory: the YMCA, the Florida State Fair Authority, the Junior League, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Central Florida Civic Center, the Central Florida Zoo, Winter Park Memorial Hospital—the list is endless. No labor in behalf of the community is too menial for you. You happily swept the floors and picked up nails and boards to assist our students in building the Rollins College Habitat-for-Humanity house.

To the gift of service you have added the rare ingredient of leadership. Your recent offices bear witness two of your most enduring commitments, your faith and education; you have served as president of 200,000-member International Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, chairman of the Board of Trustees of your alma mater, Concordia College, and two terms as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Rollins College.

Your dedication is tireless, and your warmth, sincerity, and enthusiasm suffuse every project you undertake. Trained as a teacher, you truly teach by example.

You are known for acting upon your beliefs we have all benefitted from your belief that education enriches the life of the community. In recognition of your devoted participation in guiding and improving the educational and spiritual life of this college, this community, and this country, on behalf of the Board of Trustees of Rollins College, I am pleased to confer upon you, Betty A. Duda, the honorary degree DOCTOR OF HUMANE LETTERS honoris causa, with all its attendant rights, privileges, and obligations.

(Left to right) Duda with Florida Commissioner of Education Betty Castor, Rita Bornstein, and U.S. Rep. Carrie Meeks. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections) (Left to right) Duda with Florida Commissioner of Education Betty Castor, Rita Bornstein, and U.S. Rep. Carrie Meeks. (Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives & Special Collections)