In the early 1990s, Beverly Smith Billings and Judy Wright ended up serving together on the board of the local AAUW (American Association of University Women) branch.
That was the beginning of not only a rewarding community partnership but an extremely close friendship.
That bond was further solidified when former Bert Nash Center CEO David Johnson asked both Beverly and Judy to serve on the Center’s Endowment Board. They served together on the Endowment Board from 2012-2019.
They were a package deal.
“David had separately, unbeknownst to us, invited us both to join the board the same year,” Judy said.
“So, we started at exactly the same time,” Beverly said. “Judy has done so much for Bert Nash; I felt honored to be part of this with her.”
“I’m delighted that we’re a team,” Judy said.
In recognition of their time on the Endowment Board, Beverly and Judy will be presented with the Lyn Smith Distinguished Service Award on today at the Bert Nash Center’s annual Pioneer Celebration. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. at Arterra Event Gallery.
Beverly and Judy both have a long list of philanthropy and community service, which includes the Bert Nash Center. They were proud and honored to serve on the Endowment Board and support the mission of the Center to provide mental health services for Douglas County residents.
“I thought I was familiar with the organization, but then after I came on the board, I really learned about everything that they do,” Judy said. “Mental health has not always been out in the open; it is more now. When we were on the board, we used to talk about how it’s OK to talk about mental health problems.”
“Problems that shouldn’t be stigmatized,” Beverly said. “And with the pandemic, those problems just skyrocketed. The needs are greater, which means it’s even more important that we continue the work.”
“We are all touched by it in some way,” Judy said.
“That’s why Bert Nash is so important,” Beverly said.
Dave Johnson said he couldn’t take credit for Beverly and Judy joining the Bert Nash Center Endowment Board. He gave the credit to the Celebrate Bert Nash fundraising breakfast that both Beverly and Judy attended.
“Judy had retired from KU Endowment. And, of course, she knew everybody. We invited her to come in and talk with us about joining the Endowment Board. She said she had been bombarded with board requests, so she was going to take a year and see where things were at before deciding. It was about a year later when we had our first Celebrate event. She and Bev came. And we had talked to Bev about joining the board, too,” Dave said. “That morning, after that breakfast, Judy came up to me and said this is the kind of organization I want to be a part of, and so did Bev. So, it wasn’t me, it was the impact of that first breakfast that really did it. And those two women came on the board and really embraced what we were doing. They are both women who add credibility to any organization they are involved with.”