I remember my first interview for The Augur Bit very clearly. It was the fall of my freshman year, and I’d been assigned to write an article on the newly formed Hopper Athletic Leadership Team, or HALT. I’d been told that Athletic Director Kathy Hudson spearheaded the formation of the group, so I decided to stop by her office first. Still finding my way around the school, I initially walked down to the bottom floor, where most of the physical education and athletic offices reside. Eventually, after some more trial and error, I found my way to Hudson’s office overlooking the gym from L1.
I spent enough time at the Lower School to know that Hudson was powerful, intimidating and not one to waste time. Knocking on her office door remains one of the single most terrifying experiences of my life. The interview itself couldn’t have lasted more than six or seven minutes. I stumbled over my handwritten questions, barely took notes and forgot to press record on my phone. And yet, on my way out, I somehow felt better. Despite my glaring inexperience, Hudson was warm, inviting and detailed and thoughtful in her answers to my admittedly basic questions.
My interview with Hudson three years ago may have resulted in a mediocre article, but I came away from it knowing one thing for certain: she cares about GDS—the school and the well-being of those inside of it—more than just about anything else. As I spoke with similarly tenured faculty members, they frequently confirmed my suspicions.
“Kathy lives and breathes this place,” Athletic Trainer Veronica Ampey said. “She’s one of the first people here in the morning and one of the last to leave.”
Ampey began working at GDS in 1997, during Hudson’s second year as athletic director, and has stayed on with her since as the second full-time member of the athletics department.
“She was very energetic and passionate about what she did,” Ampey said of her first impressions of Hudson.
Science teacher and former principal CA Pilling, who was a part-time lacrosse coach the year Hudson arrived at GDS, added that Hudson was and remains driven, decisive and incredibly organized.
“She put in decades, decades of hours beyond a 40-hour work week,” Pilling said, being sure to emphasize that “the quality of those hours was exceptional.”
Hudson came to GDS during a transformative time for the athletics program: men’s teams still played in the PVAC, there was no crew, swimming, or indoor track, the women’s lacrosse team was only a few years old and there were only three girls on the cross country team. In just a few short years she spearheaded the movement of the men’s teams to the more competitive MAC, as well as the creation of several new varsity teams.
“[Hudson] oversaw the taking-off of the crew team,” Pilling said. “I’m not sure people understood how much work that took. It took an unbelievable amount of effort.”
Hudson downplayed her immediate contributions to the school. “You can’t come in guns ablazing, making all these changes,” she said.
She did, however, have some high praise for GDS’s athletics overall.
“We have the best physical education program in the city for independent schools,” she said. “[Students] are getting Project Adventure, CPR, first aid, the health component–they’re getting all the tools necessary to lead that active, healthy lifestyle.”
Hudson knew she wanted to be a P.E. teacher starting in her own high school years. Although the athletic director position enables her to make important changes as she sees fit, her real passion lies with the students.
“This job is not about me,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world. To be able to work with young adults and colleagues here at GDS—it’s not like work.”
Hudson also described hiring GDS alumni to work in the athletics department as one of her greatest joys, noting that seeing alumni come back with the same passion for education she has always had validates all the hard work.
“I hope that the kids get as much out of it as we do as coaches and teachers,” she said.
Over the course of her career, Hudson has epitomized the role of the unflinching leader.
“[Hudson] brought with her a new structure,” Pilling said. “When she ordered a bus, it was there. Much like the school has more rules now, [Hudson] brought accountability for everything.”
Hudson particularly emphasized the school’s commitment to academics before athletic prowess.
“Academically you have to be able to do the work, and that’s one of the things we have never sacrificed in admissions,” she said. “Athletics is not just about wins and losses. It’s about all of the values that you can take on and use later in life.”
As she prepares to open up to the next chapter in her life, Hudson hopes that she will leave GDS having instilled exactly that message into the school: that what can be gained from athletics far transcends quantifiable success.
“We’ve always done it the right way,” she said. “We’ve always been an athletic program that has followed not only the rules but the spirit of the rules.”
Ask anyone and they’ll confirm that Hudson will leave behind that and much more.
“[Hudson] expects athletes to be good sports on and off the court,” Ampey said. “She teaches them how to win and lose with grace.”
“She will leave a legacy of excellence,” Ampey continued. “More than anyone I’ve ever worked with.”
At the end of the interview, I asked if Ampey had any favorite stories to share about her time working with Hudson. She talked briefly about a day when Hudson had a surgical procedure performed on her knee in the morning and still made it into the office that afternoon.
Then, Ampey paused to think. After a moment, she looked back at me and delivered the definitive statement on Hudson’s career: “She will be the one in there sweeping the gym floor before a game. She’ll be the one locking up after a game. She’ll be the one sorting uniforms, greeting parents, and holding kids accountable. She’ll be the loudest one cheering in the stands. I think a lot of people won’t recognize right now how much her presence will be missed.”
“It’s been a great journey for me,” Hudson said. “It’s very surreal that it’s coming to an end.”
When a single career spans longer than the lives of every student currently at GDS, it’s certain that many of them feel the same way.
Hudson, however, has plans for the future, however modest. “Now I’ll just go off to play golf,” she said.
If she ever gets off the green, we all hope she’ll come back to visit.
By Eli Thayer ’19