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Bonnie Brown: Q&A with Former Panhellenic Adviser Judy Trott

*The latest installment in the Ole Miss Retirees features is former Panhellenic Adviser Judy Trott. The organization’s mission is to enable all of the university’s faculty and staff retirees to maintain and promote a close association with the university. It is the goal of the Ole Miss Faculty/Staff Retirees Association to maintain communication by providing opportunities to attend and participate in events and presentations.

Judy Trott is a legend.  She’s been a central figure at Ole Miss since 1966 and her legacy continues with the Hotty Toddy Conference Room in the Ole Miss Student Union bearing her name.  Read about her Ole Miss story here.

Judy Trott speaks to the campus community. Photo provided.

Brown:  Where did you grow up?  What is special about the place you grew up?  Please talk about your childhood and family.

Trott:  I was born in Blue Mountain, Mississippi.  My father taught math at Blue Mountain College.  It was such a small campus that my mother could blow a whistle for me to come home.  I had no problems and no worries. We moved to Oxford when I was in third grade. We lived in “Vet Village” also known as married student housing near the women’s softball field.  We skated all over campus and rode our bikes. There were not as many buildings then. My father died when I was in the fifth grade and we moved to Van Buren Avenue. My grandmother lived with us my entire life and I usually shared a bedroom with her.  She read the Bible to me and a chapter of some book every night and so my love of reading was born. My mother worked in the library for 30 years. I had an older brother who was a career Air Force Officer. After he retired, he moved back to Oxford and also taught math on campus.  

Brown:  Where did you go to school?

Trott:  All my degrees are from Ole Miss.  I did leave Oxford and taught in Virginia and Maryland in between degrees.  When I returned to work at the university, Dr. Katharine Rea insisted that I begin taking classes toward my doctorate.  

Brown:  What were you really into when you were a kid?

I was very active and loved to ride my bike.  We went to church a lot and there was always lots going on there.  My mother’s degree was in music so I took piano lessons and sang in the choirs.  I was also in the band in high school. I was a cheerleader in high school. I loved to dance and just did typical high school stuff—I worked on the annual staff and was in the high school stage productions.  

Brown:  Tell us how/when your Ole Miss “story” began?   Who hired you? How long did you work at Ole Miss?

Trott:  Dr. Katharine Rea was the Dean of Women and has been referred to as the “quiet activist.”  She contacted me in 1966 to tell me that the Panhellenic Adviser job was open and asked if I was ready to come home.  I was in Europe at the time and I said yes. I got back to Maryland, packed my car, and started work the next week. I worked at Ole Miss for 35 years.

Brown:  Who influenced you in your early life?  Did you have a mentor who influenced your career choice?

Trott:  Dr. Rea guided me most of the way.  She encouraged me to take classes and then retired as Dean of Women and took charge of the Higher Education degree program and guided me through my doctorate degree.  Also, my mother supported us when my father died so young, so I knew I needed an education to succeed.

Brown:  I know you play golf.  Who taught you to play?  

Trott:  My college goal was to become a physical therapist but I would have had to transfer to the Medical School in Jackson.   I enjoyed my time on the Oxford campus so much that I changed my major to physical education which meant I played a lot of sports. I had an aunt who also played golf. She also bowled well up in her 80’s.

Brown:  Why do you think sports are common across almost all cultures present and past?

Trott:   From day one people had to walk and then run.  Also, people competed for food and other things and our body says move!  Before technology came along, there was nothing else to do, and your parents told you to go outside and play. Then playing sports became a money-making thing and things opened for all.

Brown:  Tell us something about yourself that not many people may know. 

Trott:  With me, what you see is what you get.  

Brown:  What is your guilty pleasure?   

Trott:  Shopping too much!  I have too many clothes.  

Brown:  You likely had many challenges as Dean of Students since college students are often all about drama.   Tell us what challenges stand out in your mind.

Trott:  All of the changes over the years that made us adapt to new policies (Title IX and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) changed the face of colleges everywhere.  Title IX meant there were no separate rules for women giving them equal access to sports and activities.  And the ADA required the colleges to make all activities accessible to students with disabilities.

The everyday things that students deal with are always challenging.   They are away from home—many for the first time—dealing with drugs, managing their time, sometimes dealing with the death of a friend, and difficult classes.  Every day was different.

Brown:  What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?  

Trott:  Being able to see students become successful members of society and knowing I might have had a small part in helping them along the way. I have been honored by my peers with several awards, but I still love seeing our students and have them thank me for my service and support.

Judy Trott (center) pictured with Missy and Ed Scott, Former Cheerleading Coaches and Graduate Assistants

Brown:  What words best describe you?

Trott:  Willing and able.

Brown:  If there was something in your past you were able to go back and do differently, what would that be? 

Trott:  Nothing really.  I guess the Lord puts you where you are needed.

Brown: Please talk about a recent honor in which the Hotty Toddy Conference Room in the Ole Miss Student Union was named for you. 

Trott: This was a surprise to me!  It seems some Delta Gamma alums contacted the University of Mississippi Foundation and family and friends raised enough money to name the room for me.  I was so pleased since my office was in that building. I can’t wait to get in and be able to see it!

Delta Gamma Christmas Party Seated: Mary Sims
Standing: Carol Haney, Judy Trott, Laura Sims Jackson,
and Nina Tollison

Brown:  What’s your favorite way to waste time?

Trott:  I love to shop, mainly at junk and discount stores.  I also play a lot of bridge, usually a couple of times a week.

Brown:   What has been your routine since retirement?  

Trott:  I play bridge regularly, play golf on Tuesday and I volunteer at my church, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.  I travel some and I enjoy sleeping late.

Brown:  What remains on your bucket list?

Trott:  Nothing really.  I love retirement and I’m so glad I did it early while I was in good health.   

Brown:  To quote Katherine Meadowcroft, Cultural activist and writer, “What one leaves behind is the quality of one’s life, the summation of the choices and actions one makes in this life, our spiritual and moral values.”  What is your legacy?

Trott:  I think I have been a trailblazer in many ways. I’m a steady person, and I’ve finished jobs.  I am a trusted friend and all around good person.

Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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