Beverly Hudnut is currently a Fellow with the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Democracy Project team.
She is Founder + CEO of On Your Behalf—a startup based on personal experience as chief caregiver for her husband and former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut, who passed away in December 2016. Her professional experiences include government (municipal and federal), corporate, public-private, and nonprofit. Beverly, a member of the class of Sweet ’16, served on LGW’s Program Committee for the 2017-2018 class year. She has an undergraduate degree in Interpersonal Communications and a J.D. degree from American University’s Washington College of Law. Beverly has also participated in a long list of volunteer positions on boards, commissions, and committees—in Indianapolis, Chicago, and the Washington, D.C. area.
Can you give us some background or insight into your personal leadership path – including your sources of inspiration and most important lessons learned?
When I was 12, I remember a “special” message my Mom shared with me: “If you want to change the system, you have to play by the rules. If you want a job and they say you must wear a hairnet, you wear the hairnet—or you don’t get the job.” That was back in the 60’s when career choices for women were still limited, thus the hairnet as a vehicle for the message. I thought it was kind of corny at the time, but it was effective in that it made me consider the value of a more cooperative and less combative approach to changing the world. I'd have to hashtag that period as #HardToRaise!
In the summer of 1976, I attended a raucous free speech rally in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. The speeches were mesmerizing. The free-spirited intellectual debate about the complexity of First Amendment issues was very exciting, and hearing F. Lee Baily and others speak at that rally made me think that lawyers could make a difference in the world. #LawSchoolAGoal
When I married my husband, Bill Hudnut (then mayor of Indianapolis), I stepped up as First Lady to lend my name to AIDS-related fundraisers in Indianapolis because I believed it was important to call attention to the issue when so many folks were being discriminated against out of fear. I also thought it was important to speak my mind as a pro-choice Republican because I believe that when a political party takes a stand on such personal divisive issues, it closes the door to conversation and excludes voters who hold a different view. #StandUpForBeliefs
Across my professional career, I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with several visionary leaders who hired me to do a job and then turned me loose to go make things happen. It helps to be brave (and a little bit stubborn) because sometimes you have to just jump into an unfamiliar situation and figure it out without a lot of help from others. It’s always been important to me to feel as though I “make a difference” with my efforts. Otherwise, what’s the point? #LostTimeIsNeverFoundAgain
Lessons learned along the way:
• Show respect for diversity of opinion.
• Do your best and leave the rest.
• Own your mistakes.
• Participate in the political process.
• Get out of your own way.
How did you first become involved with Leadership Greater Washington and the Signature Program?
Thirty years ago, I was a member of Class XII of the Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Series (SKL, now called Leadership Indianapolis). Similar to LGW, our class of 25 spent a year being exposed to the variety of issues that a community deals with. Fast forward to December 2014. I read a news report in the Washington Post that Doug Duncan (’15) had been hired as president of LGW. I didn’t know that a regional leadership organization existed in this area until reading that article. I was at a point in my personal and professional life where I understood that things were going to change in dramatic fashion. My husband had a terminal illness, our son was a junior in college, and I knew that there would come a time in the not too distant future when I would have to make decisions about how I wanted to invest my time solo. And so, I wanted to learn more about the D.C. region to inform my choices going forward. The timing was perfect.
What do you love most about your LGW Class? Class of 2016: Sweet Sixteen
I LOVE my LGW classmates—and appreciate every opportunity to stay in touch. We enjoyed our program year together. In fact, 22 of us signed up to be lifetime members of LGW at the end of our class year. That says something about how much we value the LGW experience.
Can you describe an extraordinary LGW Moment from your experience - a connection you made, something you pursued because of LGW, or a distinctive memory?
Innovation Day was my favorite program day of the year. I loved the energy that all the speakers exuded, and the whole start-up environment was exciting. I began thinking seriously about creating my own business based on what I heard that day—and returned to 1776 in Crystal City the following January to do just that.
I would be remiss though if I didn’t add: lip-syncing Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” with my Green MindTrust classmates at the closing retreat which sure did push me outside my comfort zone and qualifies as an extraordinary LGW moment. To “perform” along with my MindTrust (Mark Bergel, Kristina Bouweiri, Lamar Greene, Shannon Hawkins, Rebecca Lindner, Neil Moore, Mike Tryon, and Donna Wilson) is a distinctive memory. However, unlike the inspiration from Innovation Day, I have not felt the need to pursue the lip sync experience again!
How do you envision the future of the region? What about LGW’s role in that future?
This region has so much potential to shine. I remember traveling to northern Virginia with my husband in the spring of 1992 to participate in a weekend conversation about the future of the D.C. region. That’s where I first met John Tydings, one of the Founders of LGW, and Paris Glendenning. It was a who’s-who gathering of the region’s corporate and political leadership.
One of the great things about Indianapolis is the ability of people in that community to work together, setting aside political and geographical identities, to achieve a goal. It’s my hope that Greater Washington will get to that place of collaborative leadership.
How do your efforts and leadership impact the future of the Greater Washington region?
We all have a responsibility as citizens of this great country to do what we can to help others. There’s an old saying, “bloom where you’re planted.”
During my time here in the Washington region, I’ve been a wife, parent, stay-at-home mom, law student, law clerk, full-time employee, part-time employee, consultant, volunteer, fundraiser, chief caregiver, and manager of all-things-chaos—often many of those things all at once. I’ve chaired committees, served on boards, volunteered at church and school—whatever fit into my life at that moment. I have a very clear outlook on only investing my time and energy in institutions where I believe sincerely that my efforts can personally make a difference.
Tell us more about your experience as a participant in the Expanding the Table for Racial Equity Series.
“Sometimes journeys can be uncomfortable. Not trying to call anyone out. Trying to call people in. Stay at the table.” Those words were shared with a diverse group of 80 community leaders from the DMV who are participating in a six-month series of conversations about “Putting Racism on the Table.” Facilitator Inca Mohamed set the table at the first session by quoting James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” It’s just as well that I was too young to participate in the protests that roiled the 1960’s in America. Growing up in Cincinnati, I watched race riots on television. I remember traveling by train down South to visit family and seeing signs for separate water fountains and seating in public places.
At the first session of “Putting Racism on the Table,” we were asked about the first time we had a teacher of a different race. For some of us in the room, it was never, or not until graduate school. With few exceptions, white students had white teachers, and non-white students had non-white teachers. It was a jarring realization as we went around the room and reported our experiences.
During law school, I was a Marshall-Brennan Fellow. I taught constitutional literacy at a D.C. vocational high school, five days a week with up to 30 students (grades 9-12) in and out of the classroom each day. At the end of the semester, I was invited to a luncheon for the Friends of M.M. Washington school. If I recall correctly, I was the only white person in the room. The second semester, I was at Anacostia High School one day a week. Those teaching experiences and the one-year Criminal Justice Clinic (serving one semester as a prosecutor and one semester as a defense lawyer)—two of the best experiences in my life—opened my eyes to how different things are depending upon what racial group you are born into.
It’s easy to think you’re not a racist. It’s been an eye-opening experience to realize that the words “white privilege” can make you feel uncomfortable but when you hear the words “societal privilege”—different words to describe the same thing—you begin to have a better understanding of where we are with race relations in America and how choosing different words can open the door to an honest conversation.
This collaboration between LGW and the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers follows a fruitful partnership that focused on affordable housing in the DMV. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to have a seat at the table.
How has LGW played a role in your professional life?
LGW opened the door for me to an incredible professional network in the region. More significantly, the information that I gained—along with the enduring friendships that developed—gave me the confidence, contacts, and encouragement to start my own business. I learn something new and exciting every time I attend an LGW-sponsored event such as Lessons in Leadership, the Thought Leadership Series, a Member Dinner or Salon—and even Paint Night!
What are some keys to staying innovative in your field or some tips for success?
It’s important to keep an open mind as your field—and the community around you—continues to change. I’m a big believer in continuing education—whether it’s related to current or prospective work or something entirely different for your own personal growth. Over the years I’ve done everything from: going to law school (and sitting for the bar at age 45); taking a speed reading class; studying Greek and Chinese; auditing a Congressional Investigations class at my law school; doing pro bono training through the District of Columbia Bar; and taking a beginning glassblowing class.
Please tell us something most people might not know about you.
I sang a song with Michael Jackson and Elton John. Really! Bill and I were in the holding room for dignitaries prior to Ryan White’s memorial service in Indianapolis. (Ryan gained international recognition as the first teen HIV patient who was denied access to school after becoming sick.) Also in the room: Michael Jackson, Elton John, Phil Donahue, and the Indiana governor and his wife. Then-First Lady Barbara Bush had her own room for security reasons, so she missed out on the impromptu singing experience. I was sitting next to Michael Jackson on a small sofa. Phil Donahue sat down at the piano and started playing the song “Morning has Broken” and our little group all sang along. It was special.