Dr. James W. Didier Tribute | Judson University Christian College

Judson University Pays Tribute to Former President and Trustee Emeritus Dr. James Didier

James Didier (ELGIN, IL – Feb. 21, 2020) Judson University pays tribute to Dr. James W. Didier of Elgin, who in a span of 45 years, helped Judson College develop new academic programs and a legacy of providing quality programs in a Christian environment.

“Dr. Didier shaped the academic programs and the physical buildings on our campus during his tenure at Judson. He fostered a community committed to providing excellence in academics by starting new programs at Judson,” stated Judson President Dr. Gene C. Crume. “Dr. Didier always led with prayer for the university, its students and its mission of shaping lives for God’s glory. One example of his passion for Judson was his commitment to sharing the history of the university’s mission with incoming members of Judson’s Board of Trustees. This was an opportunity for him to share the legacy of Judson’s mission with the next generation of leaders.”

Dr. Didier had heart problems for years but was diagnosed last December with pancreatic cancer. He was in Advocate Sherman Hospital in January for treatment, but suffered a heart attack, which delayed his cancer treatment. He recently returned to Advocate Sherman Hospital and passed away Thursday, February 20, surrounded by his family.

Dr. Didier grew up in Berkeley, Mich., and married Joan (Meylan) Didier in 1954. He earned his Associates degree from Bay City Junior College and a bachelor’s degree from Alma College of Alma, Mich. He also earned a Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. He then earned Ph.D. of Education from Michigan State University.

Dr. Didier first became involved with Judson when he taught in the undergraduate arm of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1958 to 1959 while pursuing his master’s degree. This undergraduate program would later become Judson University. Prior to that, he served as youth director at Bellwood Baptist Church of Bellwood, Ill., from 1956 to 1958, and then was University Baptist Chaplain at Michigan State from 1960 to 1967. While at Michigan State, he also served as the Director of Christian Higher Education for Michigan Baptist Convention from 1964 to 1967.

While Dr. Didier said he was quite comfortable as Baptist Chaplain at Michigan State, he was invited by Judson’s Academic Dean Edgar Boss and Judson President Amos Barton to consider coming to Judson. Dr. Didier said he felt the Lord leading him to accept a position at Judson College in 1967 as Dean of Student Affairs and later as Executive Vice President. During that time, he supervised five campus building projects, developed Judson’s student services and counseled generations of students.

On Jan. 1, 1992, Dr. Didier became Judson’s fourth president. In his six years as president, the university developed a continuing education program and launched what was then the only architecture degree program among its peer Christian colleges. In 1995, Judson purchased the Elgin Inn and began renovations on what is now Lindner Tower, a seven-story building that houses meeting spaces, classrooms, office space and three floors of dormitory living space.

In 1998, Dr. Didier retired as president and was recognized with an Honorary Doctor of Humanities from Judson. He joined the Judson Board of Trustees in 2004 and served until 2012. In 2015, he received Judson’s prestigious Golden Eagle Award for his 45 years of service to the university.

Jim and Joan Didier

During his tenure with Judson, Dr. Didier’s wife, Joan, served as director of the campus Health Center for 22 years, where she was instrumental in networking with local doctors and hospitals to provide limited health care for students. She also provided training for Judson’s houseparents. The Didiers have two adult sons, Grant and his wife, Becky, and Fred and his wife, Ellen. Their oldest son, Marc, passed away in 1975 following an accident when he was a student at Judson University. The Didiers also have five grandchildren.

Dr. Didier was involved in many professional organizations, including the Religious Advisers Association for Michigan State University, the Board of Education and Publication for American Baptist Churches, the National Advisory Board for the Educational Assistance Limited. Locally, he served as a board member for Ecker Mental Health Center, chairman for Fox River Task Force, and a member of the Elgin Planning and Land Use Commission as well as The Rotary Club of Elgin. The Didiers have also been active in the First Baptist Church of Elgin.

A visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 28 at Laird Funeral Home in Elgin. Funeral services will begin at 10 a.m. on Feb. 29 in the Herrick Chapel at Judson. Fellowship lunch will follow the services at the Betty Lindner Commons.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Dr. James W. Didier Memorial Fund at Judson University, First Baptist Church of Elgin Missions, or American Heart Association.

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