Ashley Judd inducted into UK Hall of Distinguished Alumni

Ashley Judd speaks to reporters before the 2020 Hall of Distinguished Alumni ceremony on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Sophia Shoemaker

University of Kentucky alumna, award-winning actress, humanitarian and advocate Ashley Judd was inducted into the university’s 2020 Hall of Distinguished Alumni on Oct. 1, 2021. 

Judd is known not only for her box office successes, including Kiss the Girl and Double Jeopardy, but also as being an advocate. She helped lead the #MeToo movement, co-founded TIME’S UP and now spends part of the year at her research camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was inducted alongside 26 other notable alumni, including former Gov. Steven L. Beshear and former professional basketball player Valerie Still.

“I am very honored because the other inductees are very distinguished. It’s very prestigious to be in their company,”  Judd said. “But most importantly and emphatically, I want to emphasize what an institution of higher learning this is. The light that is in me was sparked by my education at the University of Kentucky.” 

While Judd was in Lexington visiting the university, she spent a night at the Kappa Kappa Gamma house, her alma mater, to which she credits much of her success and spunk. Judd sat down with 200 women at the sorority house, offering advice about their passions and problems.

“We have to disrupt men’s violence against women, and we have to teach women self-esteem and what their bottom-line behaviors are … and teach bodily integrity and sexual autonomy,” Judd said when speaking on the advice that she shared at the Kappa house.

In her press conference, Judd discussed the professors and experiences at UK that shaped her. She recalled dynamic classrooms and teachers who made her feel safe and heard. Judd said she figured out she “did have something to contribute” and felt she could learn and belong in the space provided by UK.

“I learned that I could stand for something without standing against my fellows. I can have dignity and respect while using my voice without it being controversial or conflictual,” Judd said when recalling her political efforts as a student. 

She was a radio host for WRFL where she played music by female artists, after she discovered they were getting little air- time from the campus radio station. Judd also organized a campus- wide walkout with her fellow students to protest the use of a racial slur during a Board of Trustees meeting.

Judd also talked about her home in Appalachia and the pride that came from being Appalachian and a Kentuckian. 

“I think that being Appalachian is something of which to be so proud. We have a very unique culture that is beautiful,” Judd said. “Having travelled the world, I see us as a heritage that is to be uplifted.” 

Judd said that receiving this high honor from the university, a place for which she has such love and respect, was “so special” to her . 

“I just [want to] look back at the young woman that I was, busting my tail studying, and go, ‘You did right, kid,’” Judd said.