June 2008 • Vol. 87: No. 3 : Alumni Profiles

Pioneering communications

by Kali Justus (ABJ '08)

by Kali Justus (ABJ '08)
Betty Hudson has been effecting change since her days at UGA when she pushed for the elimination of a dress code that forbade females from wearing shorts. Special photo.

Though Betty Hudson’s resumé includes top positions at NBC, the Reader’s Digest Association, iVillage and the National Geographic Society, she often sounds like she’s just returned from a nice vacation.

Hudson (ABJ ’71) has visited Peru’s Machu Picchu three times on business for National Geographic and has gazed upon the Southern Cross in the Botswana sky. But she doesn’t take the perks of her job for granted.

“I enjoy being part of a team,” Hudson says. “And part of the pleasure is having work not be a four-letter word.”

As executive vice president of communications at National Geographic, Hudson manages the public image of one of the world’s largest scientific and educational non-profit organizations. She oversees media and public relations, brand development, employee communications and related activities.

It’s no ordinary job. Hudson has to keep up with all the organization’s projects—from research and exploration to photography and merchandise—around the world and corral them into a unified media package.

For example, she is partially responsible for the Society’s eco-friendly reputation. By helping coordinate “green” news content and scrutinizing the Society’s internal operations for environmental efficiency, Hudson makes sure the organization’s efforts are cohesive and stay ahead of the curve.

“We were green before green was cool,” Hudson says.

She began tackling big community issues while at UGA. As a member of the student government association, Hudson served on a committee that changed the dress code policy for women, who until the early ’70s couldn’t wear shorts on campus. The committee, for better or worse, eliminated dorm room checks for cleanliness. Involvement in campus organizations helped her understand the diversity of people and opinions in the world, she says.

“I had a fabulous ride at Georgia,” Hudson says. “It’s who I am and where I come from.”

Hudson has stayed active on campus ever since, serving as a member and chair of the Peabody Board and as a member of the Grady College Board of Advisors and Alumni Association Board of Directors. She is the recipient of two distinguished alumni awards from Grady College and an Alumni Merit Award from the UGA Alumni Association. She also delivered the keynote address at the Grady College spring convocation in 2005.

She now lives in McLean, Va., with husband and National Geographic Traveler columnist Boyd Matson and their two children, but there’s nothing like Georgia football to lead her back home. “Life is not complete unless I make it to Athens once a year,” Hudson says. “I know way too much about that football team.”