When Judi Lakin was a child, she was told that girls grew into mothers and wives – not executives with a passion for community service.
But Lakin ignored the standard, went to college and became a driving force in the Colorado Springs’ volunteer and professional community.
“I particularly have a passion for programs, like the Girl Scouts, that create leaders out of young girls,” she said. “So few programs that provide girls with nontraditional activities are out there. They are really close to my heart.”
Lakin grew up in Holland, and she said careers and college were never discussed. But when she turned 18, her parents sent her to the United States to attend school.
“I think they just didn’t know what else to do with me,” she said. “That way, they knew I’d be safe, and they knew what I’d be doing. I got lucky. And it was a wonderful transition in life.”
When discussing her career path, Lakin uses words like “serendipity,” “luck,” and “chance.” But people who work with her use words like “dedication,” “enthusiasm,” “outstanding.”
“If one interprets a ‘woman of influence’ as one who inspires others, one who accepts and fulfills difficult leadership roles, one who continually makes a difference in the organization she participates in, I cannot think of another individual who more closely fits this description,” said Jane Hammoud, CEO of Pikes Peak Partnership and the person who nominated Lakin for Women of Influence.
Going to college opened doors for Lakin, and she believes that every young girl should have higher education opportunities.
“I fervently believe in the value of college,” she said. “It provides a wonderful transition in life. It’s especially important for girls: you know all those sayings; ‘Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backward and in high heels.’ ‘You have to be twice as good to get half the credit.’ Women need the benefit of a college degree.”
Today, Lakin is still telling others about the benefits of higher education. She is co-director of external relations at Colorado College, a job she shares with a colleague – an arrangement she believes is beneficial for everyone.
“It really is a great idea,” she said. “It’s a very progressive thing. We share the responsibilities of a single job title, and it allows so much flexibility for volunteer leadership roles.”
Lakin needs that flexibility. She is involved in several volunteer groups that focus on assisting the less fortunate in Colorado Springs. As president of the Junior League, she heads an organization that has created many permanent programs in the city and county.
“They’re about action,” she said. “I like that – they actually do something about the problems. CASA was a Junior League program; they were the original Pink Ladies at Memorial Hospital. They founded Leadership Pikes Peak and TESSA. They find gaps in service and they fill them.”
Lakin learned about volunteer service while working as a marketing director at the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region. She said she was impressed by the volunteers who coached teams and helped children.
“I was involved in professional organizations,” she said. “But at the end of the day, there was no benefit to the community. I wanted to join something that made a difference.”
And Lakin has made a difference. She is involved with TESSA, the Girl Scout Wagon Wheel Council Board and is past president of the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber.
“In each of her volunteer roles Judi looks for and nurtures new leadership among the women with whom she works,” Hammoud said. “Judi looks beyond the name and the titles and finds women who have passion, skills and desire, but may otherwise be overlooked.”
As a strong advocate for women and girls, Lakin encourages volunteer work. The environment provides a safe place to test skills – and learn new ones.
“I’d say volunteer work is just an important element,” she said. “You learn networking skills, how to run a project, you learn management skills. It’s a place to try to pull something off in a supportive environment. Those skills translate into the working world so well.”
Lakin’s ties to the Colorado Springs community are strong, and she said that there is no better place to live for someone who likes “outdoorsy” activities as much as she does.
“I love to hike, and there are so many places to go. I love the trail and parks here,” she said. “I’ve recently taken up gardening, and am trying to coax things to grow. Sometimes I win, sometimes the ground wins.”
An art major in college, Lakin hadn’t painted in several years but recently rediscovered painting as a hobby. While she finds it interesting, she has no regrets about her career path.
“I majored in art in college, but when I got my undergraduate degree I found no one was interested. ‘Can you type?’ they kept asking me,” she said. “So I went right back and got a master’s degree. I was going to major in money – finance – but I took marketing classes along the way. It was just by chance; and I found what I wanted to do. I thought, ‘I’ll never be rich, but I’ll be satisfied.’ I love my job at Colorado College. It’s so extraordinary to work around such smart people.”