ALUMNI PROFILE

Judy Snyder didn't get many thanks when she helped launch Kern County’s first rape hotline.

She’s getting them now.

Judy Snyder

Judy Snyder will receive a Wendy Wayne Ethics Award March 27 for her longtime community service aiding women, children, the elderly and fellow CSUB alumni.

By CHRISTINE BEDELL
Alumni Engagement Specialist
cbedell1@csub.edu

When in 1972 a Bakersfield Police Department spokesman told the local newspaper that sexual assault was not a problem in the city, Judy Snyder was incensed.

Snyder, then a student at Bakersfield College, had been assaulted twice, at 14 and 19. She knew others had been, too. Clearly women were either not being believed or not reporting what had happened to them.

“This is something that has to be corrected,” she thought. “And it has to be corrected now.”

One result was Kern County's first rape hotline, which Snyder and a small group of young women operated out of one of their kitchens. Today their work is carried on by the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, which last year served nearly 2,300 victims of domestic violence and almost 680 victims of sexual assault.

For all Snyder did to help establish the locally groundbreaking service – and her subsequent community work aiding women, children, the elderly and fellow CSUB alumni – she will be recognized March 27 with a Wendy Wayne Ethics Award.

“Judy is the Wendy Wayne kind,” said Sheryl Chalupa, a fellow CSUB alumna who has served on nonprofit boards with Snyder and co-nominated her for the award. “She’s that quiet, strong, ethical leader who doesn’t give herself credit, and I’m glad she’s going to get that recognition.”

STEPPING IN FOR MOM

Snyder, 66, has been taking on causes at home and in her community since age 16 when personal tragedy upended her life plans.

She’d intended to go off to a four-year university and become a social worker or teacher after graduating from Bakersfield High School. But just before Christmas her junior year, Snyder’s mother suffered a cerebral aneurysm right in front of her and died a couple weeks later.

Her dad, a claims adjuster, was a good provider but suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder dating back to his World War II service and wasn’t equipped to take care of Snyder and her younger brother and sister, 11-year-old twins, on his own. (Snyder’s older sister was married and out of the house by then.) So Snyder stayed in Bakersfield.

“I felt obliged to stay,” she recalled. “I needed to be close to the kids.”

Snyder in high school

Snyder graduated from Bakersfield High School in 1970. She’d intended to go off to college but stayed home to help look after her younger siblings following the sudden death of their mother.

Snyder enrolled in Bakersfield College. She was shy and reserved but an independent thinker who, along with three other classmates, started the campus’ first feminist organization, Sisterhood. It produced a newsletter, organized speakers and debated issues addressing the sexism and lack of opportunity they saw first-hand.

“It was not uncommon in science and in math or business classes for the instructors to speak directly to the males and talk about their futures, and not really discuss that with the women,” Snyder said. “Because of course we’d all just become nurses, teachers or mothers.”

Victims of sexual assault were similarly dismissed, Snyder said. In court, an alleged victim’s past could be brought up, but not the accused’s. People would ask, “Why was she wearing that?”

Snyder’s circle of friends concerned about such injustices grew to include instructors at Bakersfield College and CSUB. They decided to form a local chapter of the National Organization for Women and establish a hotline sexual assault victims could call for support, and a NOW member and stay-at-home mom named Edna Wilson offered the use of her kitchen phone a few hours a day. A small group of women including Snyder monitored it.

They promoted the hotline by distributing flyers and doing media interviews. They funded it by selling baked goods and purses they crafted from denim jeans.

It felt like a natural thing to do, coming on the heels of the Civil Rights and Feminist movements, said Gloria Dumler, another founding member of the hotline and one of Snyder’s closest friends.

“Things were happening, things needed to be addressed,” she said. “We were caught up in the excitement of the time.”

Snyder with Friends

Edna Wilson, Gloria Dumler and Snyder, three of the founders of Kern County’s first rape hotline, pose at Dumler’s wedding in 2011.

The Kern County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices were supportive, but the BPD questioned the women’s motives. Some in the community, including on local talk radio, called Snyder and her friends radical and hysterical.

Time and state laws would later move the hotline out of Wilson’s kitchen.

The state started requiring county hospitals that received its funds to provide sexual assault and domestic violence services. The then-CEO of Kern Medical Center turned a linen closet into a tiny office for the women and gave them a pager that beeped as calls came in or when a victim turned up at the hospital.

The hotline became a 24/7 operation. It was later expanded to San  Joaquin Community Hospital (now Adventist Health Bakersfield) and Mercy Hospital.

Snyder was volunteer coordinator and executive director for the Rape Hotline of Kern County from September 1974 to January 1982, the first six years with no pay. She and friend Stephanie Thiessen developed and coordinated protocols for local emergency rooms; co-wrote grants for state funding; trained and supervised volunteers and staff; and represented the hotline in the media and at speaking engagements.

“I learned that my passion stems from stepping up for people who don’t have an advocate,” Snyder said.

In the late 1970s, Snyder and Thiessen had given advice and contacts to two local social workers who wanted to establish services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Those social workers went on to establish the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, and over time its services replaced the hotline Snyder had helped establish.

Snyder was recently at the Alliance’s offices and thanked its current staffers for carrying on the work she and her friends started all those years ago.

“‘I told them, ‘Bless you for everything you have done,’” Snyder said. “’We were tired.’”

HER PAYING JOBS

While running the hotline, Snyder was also growing a career and raising a family.

She had earned a medical assisting certificate from Bakersfield College, and from 1981 to 1991 worked as a certified medical assistant for a local neonatologist. It was a great training ground for the rest of her career in health care; she performed a wide variety of administrative and clinical duties.

In the late 1980s Snyder knew she needed to go back to school if she wanted to move up into management, and in 1992 earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration from CSUB. She walked the stage six weeks before turning 40, proud of accomplishing something she’d always intended to.

“I was that 16 year-old-who had goals,” Snyder said. “She never left me.”

Next came work as a medical office manager for a local cardiologist.

Snyder grew concerned for patient care when she saw doctor’s offices hiring unqualified people to be medical assistants and then training them in-house. So as a member of the Golden Empire Chapter of Medical Assistants and California Society of Medical Assistants, she lobbied state legislators to define what medical assistants could do.

A couple times a year, she’d also fly across the country to help write questions for the national medical assistants exam.

When in the mid-1990s she “hit a wall” and didn’t want to do office work anymore, Snyder became a sales rep manager for Bakersfield Envelope and Printing Co. Health care would eventually call her back into service full-time, though.

CARING FOR THE ELDERLY

Snyder became interested in geriatric care after experiencing the heartache of caring for a father and mother-in-law in decline. From  January 1998 to late 2003 she worked for Continuum Care Management, assessing and recommending services for dementia patients and their families.

For many years after that, Snyder continued the work as an independent contractor. During that period she earned her second CSUB degree, a master’s in health care administration.

In 2014, Snyder took over day-to-day operations at Interim HealthCare in Bakersfield, which provides assisted care, placement and staffing services to elderly and medically fragile clients. Owner/Director Darlyn Baker recruited Snyder, whom she described as a “chameleon” who helps “whenever, however and wherever” she’s needed.

Judy at  Interim HealthCare in Bakersfield

Snyder is operations manager at Interim HealthCare in Bakersfield.

“The impact she has touches both our clients receiving service as well as our staff,” Baker said. “Her calming nature is soothing when families face emotional crossroads when dealing with aging relatives. Our staff, comfortably seated in the rocking chair in her office, know she is a shoulder to cry on or to discuss resolutions to situations her 40-plus years of experience provide.”

In January 2018, Snyder joined the Kern County Commission on Aging, which advises the Board of Supervisors on issues affecting the elderly.

She’s hoping to advocate for seniors who can’t afford housing. She receives calls from three to five people a week saying the retirement communities and low-income senior housing that does exist is out of their financial reach.

“Our service workers, our waitresses, our hotel maids, the people who worked and broke their backs, our farmworkers, do not have any resources to age with any quality and that weighs on me,” Snyder said.

She’s also CSUB’s alumni volunteer on the CSU Alumni Council, which serves as the voice of the 23 campus alumni associations and the CSU’s 3.7 million alumni. It’s a continuation of her longtime service to the CSUB Alumni Association, which she served as a board member from 2009 to 2016, including one term as president.

Snyder with fellow past presidents of the CSUB Alumni Association

Snyder, second from the left in the front row, gives a `Runners Up with fellow past presidents of the CSUB Alumni Association.

On the alumni board, Snyder was a stabilizing force during a time of several administrative transitions at the university. She also helped build the foundation on which the board sits today, working hand-in-hand with former President David Loomis to launch a five-year strategic plan, revise bylaws and scholarship guidelines, and create a new process for board recruitment.

“Her perspective is very holistic, and she sometimes sees things that others don’t,” said CSUB Alumni Engagement Director Sarah Hendrick. “She is more interested in the human being than in a title or pomp and circumstance."

As an alumni volunteer, she helped lobby for John Nilon’s appointment as alumni trustee on the California State University Board of Trustees. Nilon is the first CSUB alumnus appointed to represent all CSU graduates on the system’s governing board.

Chalupa had recruited Snyder for the CSUB Alumni Association board after serving with her on the Girl Scouts Joshua Tree Council.

“She was always the voice at the table that was bringing things back to the mission, to the girls themselves,” Chalupa said. “She was that consistent, quiet voice always asking the question, ‘How will this benefit the girls?’”

At the same time Snyder was working and serving her community, she and her husband, Michael, were raising two boys: David, a retired corrections officer who is also a certified welder and truck driver, and Bryan, a respiratory therapist and CSUB graduate. David and his wife, Rita, have three daughters, Megan, Kylie, and Tara.

 Judy Snyder's marriage

Snyder and her husband, Michael, were married in 1973.

Judy and Michael had been classmates at BC and then met again through friends. One day she saw him walking into the BC library and pulled on his pony tail. They’ve been together for more than 45 years.

THE ETHICS AWARD

The committee that chooses Wendy Wayne Ethics Awards recipients received a record 32 nominations this year, said Michael Burroughs, the panel’s chairman and the director of the Kegley Institute of Ethics. Snyder’s nomination stood out because she not only did good acts but built organizations that helped large groups of people, Burroughs said.

“The rape hotline and the Alliance work is a good example of things that wouldn’t have existed without her and it’s addressing a really important issue in our community, and a really important issue in every community,” he said.

The awards come with a scholarship for each youth winner and a contribution to a charity selected by each adult winner. Snyder has asked that her $2,500 prize go to North of the River Meals on Wheels.

Snyder said that of all her community work, she’s most proud of the rape hotline.

“What I’m so proud of is that the Alliance is now a community expectation,” Snyder said. “That, at some point, would have happened. But I know that its genesis happened because we had already broken ground. That means a lot to me.”