Early Years and Education
Judd Leighton was born on November 26, 1910 in South Bend, Indiana, and spent his formative years in the community with his parents, two brothers and a sister. Upon graduating from South Bend High School in 1930, he enrolled at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he earned a liberal arts degree. A call to service next led Judd to serve in the United States Navy, later returning to Evanston after his tour of duty ended to enroll in the Northwestern University Law School, where he received his juris doctor in 1947. He held memberships in the Indiana, Illinois, Chicago, and American Bar Associations.
Judd’s early career found him working as a law clerk in Washington, D.C., but he soon returned to his South Bend roots where he pursued careers in business and banking. He achieved great success in both, serving as chairman of First Interstate Bank of Northern Indiana, and later, Benicia Industries in California. Widely recognized as an astute businessman and shrewd investor, Judd’s counsel was also highly-valued as a corporate director by a number of national corporations, including Gulf & Western Industries, Inc., Paramount Communications, Inc., and the Associates Corporation of North America.
Community Leader and Philanthropist
Well-known for his business acumen, Judd was an influential and involved community leader and philanthropist. He lent his time and talents to the boards of a long list of area organizations, and his considerable financial resources to support grand initiatives designed to improve the quality of life for area residents.
Judd was a founding member of the board of directors of the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, Inc., and a trustee for Project Future. He served as a director and trustee emeritus for Memorial Health System, Inc. and Memorial Hospital of South Bend. He was on the Advisory Council of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the Visiting Committee of Northwestern University School of Law. He also served on the board of directors of Morris Entertainment, was a director emeritus of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra Association, Inc., belonged to the National Gallery of Art Collectors Committee and was a life member of the Northern Indiana Historical Society.
In 1961, Judd married Mary Morris Oare, a longtime friend and a well-known community leader and philanthropist in her own right. Over the next four decades, their benevolence had a significant and lasting impact on the local community, funding scores of important initiatives focused on education, healthcare, and the arts.
The Judd Leighton Foundation
In 2000, Judd established The Judd Leighton Foundation to ensure that educational, healthcare, and economic development initiatives determined to be important to the community he supported throughout his life would be funded in perpetuity. Our St. Joseph County community continues to benefit from that decision today.