May 3, 2019
Judy Duda at UCF Celebrates the Arts 2018.
Judy Duda at UCF Celebrates the Arts 2018.

Judy Duda has left an indelible mark on Central Florida and UCF, and this weekend, she is being recognized for her contributions with an honorary doctorate of humane letters from UCF. She will also be the commencement speaker in Saturday’s morning commencement exercises.

Duda has served on innumerable local, state and national boards to further her goals of education, arts, social ministry and history. She has had a 25-year relationship with the UCF Symphony Orchestra and served as chairperson of the executive council for the dean of the College of Arts and Humanities for more than a decade. In recent years, she co-authored a book celebrating the centennial of St. Luke’s and created a large digital collection that can be accessed on the Central Florida Memory website.

Walter and Judy Duda are married at St. Luke's on June 14, 1959.
Walter and Judy Duda are married at St. Luke’s on June 14, 1959.

Duda graduated from Concordia University, which led to a lifetime of service at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Slavia and Central Florida. She and her late husband Walter raised four children, while she served as organist and choir director of the church. In 1994, she founded the St. Luke’s Concert Series to give the community a venue and opportunity to hear premiere ensembles at no charge.

The first partner of the concert series was the UCF Symphony Orchestra, performing its inaugural concert at St. Luke’s in April 1995. This blossomed into a 25-year relationship that provided UCF students and faculty a much-needed venue and performance experience. Since then, the Orchestra has delivered more than 40 performances to over 30,000 patrons.

The concert series, now in its 25th season, has always been free for all 14 public performances each season, and annual attendance exceeds 10,000. Other performing partners include the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orlando Concert Band and the Brass Band of Central Florida. For her dedication to furthering arts in Central Florida, Duda received the Seminole County Hearts for the Arts award in 2008 and has also received numerous personal tributes from performing groups and composers featured in the concert series productions and by local media.

“Judy is solely responsible for the continuous partnership between St. Luke’s and the UCF Symphony Orchestra,” comments Dean Jeff Moore. “Thanks to her indefatigable efforts and energy, our students have had the opportunity to perform to the best of their abilities and many of them have gone on to distinguish themselves as educators and professionals.”

Duda continues to serve as archivist for St. Luke’s Lutheran Church & School, curating a digital collection of almost 2,000 historic images that can be accessed on the Central Florida Memory website. To commemorate St. Luke’s centennial, she took the lead on and co-authored Like a Mustard Seed: A Century of Faith (2016), a book encompassing 100+ years of local history and containing 1,000 of those images. Her research and archival collections have also resulted in the production of several videos, the creation of large permanent wall displays at St. Luke’s and via presentations she has made to local historical societies.

Over the course of more than 45 years of volunteer service, she has chaired capital campaigns, executive searches and organized many special events on behalf of various community endeavors. In recognition of her effective service and leadership, she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by her alma mater, Concordia University in Chicago, in 2016.

Positions held by Judy Duda

  • Member of the Board of Regents at Concordia University, Nebraska
  • Chair of the Dean’s Executive Council: Colleges of Arts & Humanities at the University of Central Florida
  • Vice-President of the Board of Trustees: 90.7 WMFE, Central Florida NPR/PBS affiliate
  • Trustee of the statewide Florida Center, Orlando
  • Vice-President: Lutheran Services Florida
  • President: Lutheran Counseling Services, Central Florida
  • Executive Committee: Albin Polasek Foundation
  • President: Carroll Mc Kenney Foundation
  • Trustee, United Arts of Central Florida

Despite all of her accomplishments, she says the highest priority in her life is family, which includes her husband, Col. Howard (Bud) Weber, her two sons, two daughters and their beloved spouses, nine “perfect” grandchildren and two extraordinary great-grandchildren.

Duda will be presented at the ceremony with an honorary UCF doctorate of humane letters because of her support of university programs through the years. View the ceremony livestream on May 4 at 9 a.m. here.