April Alumnae Spotlight, Judy Abel-Alexander Thornton, Skipperette of 1959

In what ways did your Ursuline education prepare you for the work you’re doing now?

My Ursuline education prepared me for life. I’m retired. At present, I am a volunteer at Charity Guild of Catholic Women. This is an organization that raises money for underprivileged children in Harris County (greater Houston Area). I have been an active member for the past 28 years. I am also a Stephen Minister. Stephen Ministers are Christian men and women trained to provide one-to-one care to people experiencing a difficult time in life, such as grief, divorce, job loss, chronic or terminal illness,etc. I am a trained and active facilitator for a grief workshop - Walking the Mourner's Path.

Please describe the most significant value you learned from Ursuline Academy.

The most significant value that Ursuline initiated in me is joy. My father died when I was three years old. My mother enrolled me in Ursuline boarding school. My parents were Methodist. For years I attended Mass daily , even vespers, with the nuns. I was growing and being formed in the Catholic faith. (I can remember going to the Methodist church with my mother as a very young child and pulling out my rosary). The good nuns were doing a great job! I could never receive Eucharist. To make a very long story short; I was baptized at Holy Name of Jesus Church when I was 15, a sophomore at Ursuline. I was baptized on a Saturday and came to school on Monday a Catholic. I surprised a lot of folks. Ursuline opened the door for me to experience joy.

Describe Ursuline in one word.

Serviam. So often, the nuns reminded us we were to be good wives and mothers. “I will serve." Reaching out beyond the family unit, to the parish community, neighborhood, volunteer organizations. “I will serve." 

About Judy Abel-Alexander Thornton

Judy was adopted her senior year at Ursuline, her name changed from Judith Abel to Judith Abel-Alexander. Judy is a graduate of 1959 - the very first class of Skips. She attended Ursuline for 14 years, beginning at the age of 3, with a year in junior kindergarten and a year in senior kindergarten. She attended and received her B.A. degree in Speech and Drama from Dominican College in New Orleans. She attended the University of Colorado, summer school for two semesters following her freshmen year at Dominican. Glamour Magazine selected Judy as one of the “10 Best Dressed College Women In America" in1961 along with with Martha Stewart. 

Judy married Ron Thornton and moved to Houston in 1964. There, she worked for Neiman Marcus in their Junior Executive Training Program. Shortly after, Ron was transferred to Harlingen, TX., Corpus Christi, TX., and then back to Houston. Judy and Ron have three children and have been married for 52 years.

Judy was very active in the religious education in her parish, as a teacher and served as president of the Religious Education Board. Judy returned to school to study fashion merchandising and entered the retail sector with Saks Fifth Ave. She retired after 28 years with the company. She was a caregiver for her mother who had Alzheimer's for close to 10 years. Her son Christopher suffered from bipolar disease and died by suicide. Judy also cared for her husband who died from esophageal cancer. She knows grief too well. Following a period of participating in a grief group, she felt part of her healing process would be to help others. She became a Stephen Minister. She was asked and accepted the opportunity to be trained as a facilitator for the grief workshop. Judy often quotes St. Mother Teresa, “I came to do small things with great love."