About Judy Rauner, PhD

Judy Rauner

Judy Rauner, PhD dedicated her life to family and community service. In 1980, while raising four children, she wrote and self–published “Helping People Volunteer” a handbook for nonprofit organizations. In 1983, she co–authored “Gaining Momentum for Board Action,” a primer for nonprofit boards of directors. She also worked for the United Way and developed “Young Volunteers in ACTION” for the San Diego Unified School District. Throughout her life and retirement, Judy Rauner was a community service leader, national speaker and facilitator, grant writer and non–profit board member for many organizations in San Diego.

Judy Rauner founded the Center for Community Service–Learning (now known as the Mulvaney Center) at the University of San Diego in 1986 and served as its director until her retirement in 2002. This groundbreaking center changed the culture of learning at USD through its community service–learning programs. Programs at the center engaged students to volunteer for specific community needs by matching the skills and interests of the students with the needs of partner community organizations.

In 1995, Rauner began an innovative course–based service–learning program at USD. Today there are over eighty courses from departments throughout the university that incorporate a relevant service learning component into their classroom studies. Students reflect on their service work in the community as a part of their curricula, and many have credited the program for creating personally transformational experiences while providing valuable services to their community.

While developing and directing the Service–Learning program, Judy Rauner obtained a doctorate in Educational Leadership at USD. Her dissertation, “The Impact of Community Service Learning on Student Development, as Perceived by Student Leaders,” was in support of her work at the Center for Community Service–Learning.

Linda Vista meeting

Rauner created the Linda Vista Collaborative with USD's community, generating many grants that benefited the university’s neighbors. Her participation in research on partnerships, reflection and student leadership led to a number of publications, including an article on how to structure a community service-learning center at a university. For years she has been an acclaimed and beloved friend of both the Linda Vista Community and USD.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta visited San Diego in 1988 and spoke at USD during the first years of the Center for Community Service–Learning. Judy presented Mother Theresa with a “Gift of Service,” on behalf of the university and dedicated the first 125,000 hours of USD community service to her. Twenty years later, in October of 2008, USD presented Judy Rauner with a new “Gift of Service” at the annual Dr. Judy Rauner Lecture. This award referenced the early years of service–learning at USD by including a photograph of Judy with Mother Theresa. This Gift of Service commemorated over two million hours of community service generated by the program founded by Judy Rauner.

Rauner was widely recognized for her work. In 2001 California Campus Compact honored her with the Richard E. Cone Award. In 2002, she received the Arthur E. Hughes Career Achievement Award from the USD School of Leadership and Education Sciences. In 2002, she received the Sister Sally Furay RSCJ Service Award.

Judy Rauner’s leadership abilities and enthusiasm about volunteering started at a very young age. She grew up with limited resources in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and on a small family farm. During the “Great Flood” of the Missouri River in 1952, she volunteered with the Red Cross in what she recalled as a transformative experience that helped lead her into a life of service.

In her youth Judy excelled in extra curricular activities, including theater, sports, and student leadership, interests that would remain with her throughout her life. She maintained an academic curiosity especially on topics of spirituality, American history, art and genealogy. As a young woman she researched and explored historical sites near her home, and she deeply investigated her spiritual life. Judy was also an athlete: she figure skated, played ice hockey, and worked as a lifeguard. Judy remained an athletic walker and swimmer throughout her life. She had a circle of close friends who accompanied her for decades on energetic walks through her Kensington neighborhood in San Diego.

Judy was the first in her family to attend college, working her way through college with the help of scholarships and graduated from the University of Iowa in 1959 with a degree in English and Speech. She met her future husband, Thomas Rauner, while giving a tour to a group of medical students when she worked at the psychiatric ward of Saint Joseph”s Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. They were married in 1963 and moved to San Diego where Dr. Thomas Rauner began his practice and they raised their four children.

Judy brought her Midwestern hospitality with her to California. She was famous for taking people into her home, “adopting” friends of friends and providing housing and especially food for many throughout her life. Judy and her family sponsored a family of Vietnamese refugees who arrived at their parish at the end of the Vietnam war. Judy’s caring, maternal drive was with her since her teenage years on her family’s farm when she nurtured a broken mare back to health and took care of a pet raccoon. She cared for and loved both humans and animals. While coordinating USD volunteers at the Viejas Reservation in the late 1980s, a young girl from the reservation called Judy “Everybody’s Mother.” Many of her former USD students and colleagues speak lovingly of the profound impact of both Judy’s support and mentoring.

Above all things, Judy was an extraordinary mother and grandmother. She was a deeply loving presence in the lives of all of her children and grandchildren. Judy gave herself completely to both career and family. She was a constant support and loving champion for each member of her family.