June 17, 2021
Judy Duda graduates with her honorary doctorate from UCF

Judy Duda has made an indelible impact on UCF and the Central Florida community over the years. She has served on countless local, state and national boards to further her goals of education, arts, social ministry and history, fostered a 25-year relationship with the UCF Symphony Orchestra and served as the chairperson of the executive council for the dean of the UCF College of Arts and Humanities for more than a decade. In 2019, she even received an honorary doctorate for her service to the university and community.

This year, Duda further demonstrated her commitment to supporting the arts with a gift that honors the memory of her husband, Col. Howard (Bud) Weber: a generous donation to the Performing Arts Center and the establishment of a fund to help create a Library of String Instruments for the UCF School of Performing Arts.

In the past five years, the string section of the UCF Orchestra has nearly doubled in size to 55 members. However, due to the high cost of string instruments, many students arrive at UCF with the same instruments they were using in middle or high school, not yet able to purchase the instruments that will serve as partners in their artistic journey. Access to high-quality instruments gives these students the tools to excel individually, thereby benefitting the whole orchestra and the audiences who love hearing their music.

Duda was inspired to create the fund for a Library of String Instruments in part by Chung Park, the director of the UCF Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, head of string music education and an assistant professor in the Department of Music. Park shared with Duda his observation that many promising students were still playing on the same string instruments they had played prior to coming to UCF.

“He said, ‘They deserve to be able to hear themselves at their best,’” shares Duda. “It’s an encouragement for them to continue to use their talents.”

Park’s words reminded Duda of her own music lessons in her youth, for which she was loaned a viola to play for free. She was inspired to help provide current students with the same opportunities she once had, which led her to explore the possibility of starting a fund for a library of string instruments. When she discussed the idea with her late husband, he was equally enthusiastic. To help make the library a reality, she generously gave a seed money gift to start the fund last year.

“I literally felt a light bulb going off,” shares Duda. “I already had this wonderful, blessed experience of having had something like this done for me.”

Following Weber’s passing in early 2021, Duda remembered her husband’s enthusiasm for the library of string instruments and was inspired to revisit the fund with an additional gift this year. To Duda, this gift represents a way to honor Weber’s memory while giving back to the arts community that supported her own journey over the years.

“My first gift to me was in junior high in Chicago, when I was chosen as a student who would get a full ride for lessons at the Art Institute of Chicago,” she explains. “And in college, I was given opportunities and mentors and the use of instruments. So, it is giving back, because I’ve experienced it myself, and I want to pay it forward to another generation of students.”

Weber also served as the inspiration for Duda’s generous donation to the Performing Arts Center. “While we were reviewing the candidates for president of the university, Bud was always the one who asked, ‘And how are you going to support the Performing Arts Center?’,” she shares. “When it came time for me to consider my philanthropy for this year, I decided that I’d like to support the Center’s vision.”

Thanks to Duda’s generous gifts in memory of Weber, the UCF Performing Arts Center will continue to shine a spotlight on music, theatre and community, and students will no longer be limited by whether they can afford a new string instrument to accompany them on their educational journey. Instead, students for years to come will be able to hear themselves at their best, just as Park once described to Duda.

“Instruments can last if they’re maintained, and I just feel certain they will be,” shares Duda. “So, it just makes me feel good to think that at least 10, 15, 20 years from now, the instruments that are purchased to begin that library will be used by generations of students.”

If you’d like to make a donation to the fund for a Library of String Instruments in Bud Weber’s memory, click here. Under “Tribute Information,” type “In memory of Bud Weber” in the description box.