Pacific icon Judy Chambers ’58, ’60 was a trailblazer for student life

Former Vice President for Student Life Judy Chambers ’58, ’60, a Pacific icon, beloved mentor and a trailblazer in the field of student life, died July 11 at Stanford Hospital. She was 87.

Chambers was the first woman at Pacific to lead the Division for Student Life, the first of many pioneering roles she held throughout her career. She was well-known throughout the Pacific community as an advocate who cared deeply for her students. And she did it all with her ever-present humor.

“Judy was a fixture and a beacon of light for our university—through good times and bad—across seven decades,” said President Christopher Callahan. “She was the grande dame of Pacific.”


A celebration of life honoring Judy Chambers was held on the Stockton Campus on July 29, 2023.

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Reflections of an Iconic Pacifican


“Judy was a fixture and a beacon of light for our university—through good times and bad—across seven decades. She was the grande dame of Pacific. Jean and I had the privilege of spending time with Judy last Tuesday at her home. She was vital and vibrant, funny and irreverent and, most of all, optimistic. In short, quintessential Judy Chambers.”

—President Christopher Callahan

“Her service to students is really what stands out to me. Her heart was absolutely with the students.”

—Mary-Elizabeth Eberhardt ’76, regent chair

“Judy was a one-of-a-kind Pacifican and this is a huge loss for the university. She cared deeply for students and had such amazing longevity and a deep affection for Pacific. She did it all with such grace, poise and caring.”

—Norm Allen ’88, ’94, former regent chair

“My thoughts go back to when I first met Judy. She was a national leader in the profession of student life. She cared so much for the students and really for all people associated with the university. Pacific’s birthday was Monday, and in its 172 years there have been few people with the stature of Judy. She was a true Pacifican.”

—Donald DeRosa, president emeritus

“For Pacificans, Judy was our stateswoman for over half a century. She was also a dear, dear friend to so many of us at Pacific and in Stockton. In my research and writing of "Pacific on the Rise: The Story of California's First University," the longevity of what I called "the Judy Chambers era" stands out. I could not identify another woman leader of Pacific who matched her enduring influence and positive good will for so long. She certainly shaped Pacific as truly a student-centered university. At the same time, she was endearing to so many of us as a loyal friend. As a public figure for Pacific and Stockton, she inspired dozens of “best friends” to pursue leadership and service. Oh Judy, how we will miss you!”

—Phil Gilbertson, provost emeritus

“It is such a devastating loss of a truly wonderful person. She was a great Pacifican and loved Stockton very much. Judy had such a great, positive attitude and had the sharpest wit. She was an amazing public speaker who brought joy to everyone.”

—Kathy Janssen, former regent chair

“Judy knew Pacific's history better than any of us. As a student, Judy helped organize Tully Knoles' 80th birthday party and then proceeded to work for each Pacific president until she retired during my presidency. She helped shape our students' experience—including establishing the structure for student government in 1960 and abolishing dress codes and transitioning to coed dorms in the 70s. Most importantly, over her five decades at Pacific, Judy deeply touched the lives of our students with her compassion, support, wisdom and lifelong friendship.”

—Pam Eibeck, president emerita

“It has been an honor and a privilege to have had the opportunity to interact with Judy for more than 45 years. She is truly a remarkable individual. Always positive and always constructive, Judy had the ability to bring a smile to my face no matter what my mood. Pacific students on the Stockton Campus were so very, very fortunate that Judy was appointed the vice president for student life. She had an incredibly positive influence on the lives of so many, many Pacific students, staff and faculty. She was always ready to listen and help no matter what the problem might be."

—Gene Pearson, professor emeritus

“Judy was one of the very first people I met when we first visited Pacific when Christopher was announced as our new president. I was amazed, and more than a bit in awe. Warm, generous, gracious, funny, open and completely authentic. She quickly became one of my very best friends. I treasured our dinners (and wine!) together. And she taught me what Pacific meant to her – and to so many. I miss her terribly.”

—First Lady Jean Callahan

“Judy Chambers personified University of the Pacific and was unwavering in her dedication. A champion for students and a generous member of the community, she touched the lives of so many who will be forever enriched by having known her. I will cherish forever so many vivid memories of her endless wit and humor.”

—Dianne Philibosian, former regent chair

“For nearly 43 years I've appreciated her mentorship, her humor and wit, and have admired her leadership and her unique ability to bring diverse people together. She was instrumental in my career path and was always gracious in her advice and counsel over these many years. I am lucky to call her friend. Farewell Judy—you've touched my, and many others', hearts and souls.”

—Greg Boardman, regent

"She was a wonderful friend and the absolute best traveling companion I could ever imagine! I will always treasure the memories of our trips, especially the last ones: the cruise from London to Barcelona and the visit to her friends Greg and Michael in Santa Fe. Judy was also the most positive and optimistic person I have ever known; she always saw the bright side of every situation and person! And she also had a great sense of humor."

—Kathy Hart, former president of Delta College

"As my best friend and working colleague at Pacific lo these past 55 years, I will be missing her terribly!”

Jess Marks, former AVP, student life and finance

“Judy Chambers helped put Pacific on the national map as one of the most unique, inspiring, and respected student life programs in academic history. Her efforts and leadership made the dream of making a student life division a central focus of a successful University a reality at Pacific. Judy’s charm, respect for others, unwavering work ethic, commitment to excellence, and her truly remarkable speaking ability made her a gemstone amongst Pacific’s many treasures.“

—Phillip Oppenheimer, dean emeritus

Impossible to capture in a few words but one recent memory stands out. Days before our May 2023 Commencement: In her favorite corner booth at Bud’s, over a lunch she could not eat, Judy vibrating with anticipation; what greater pleasure than presenting the Order of the Pacific to Norm Allen.

I look now at the iconic photo showing a joyous affection in Judy’s eyes reflected back in Norm’s expression. The image says everything about her relationship with generations of students, how she felt about us and how we continue to feel about her. Overcome by the magnitude of loss, I think of the ever-present twinkle in Judy’s eyes and am reminded of how she dealt with loss, cherishing memories while keeping a focus on the next adventure.

—Susan Pillow Giraldez, associate professor

"I first knew Judy through our student affairs national association, NASPA, in which she was literally an icon with service as national president and awards for leadership and achievement. She had long recruited me to come to Pacific, and when I finally got there, it was inspiring to slip into those big shoes she had left. She was serving part-time in Advancement at that time and it was easy for us to get away for lunch or coffee when I needed advice or just reflection. What I loved best about Judy Chambers: for sure, her wit. She was hilarious and irreverent in repartee and public speaking and never failed to get me laughing. I was so pleased that we could name the Student Life Suite in the DeRosa Center in recognition of the many contributions of this beloved legend."

—Elizabeth Griego, former vice president for student life


Honor Judy with a Gift

Judy Chambers played a significant role in the 1969 founding of Pacific's Community Involvement Program (CIP). In 2017, she established the Dr. Judith M. Chambers Endowed Scholarship for CIP Leadership, to support program participants with unmet financial need; these are first-generation, low-income students from Stockton who demonstrate leadership potential. A gift to the Chambers Scholarship sustains Judy's lifelong commitment to welcoming and empowering diverse student leaders at Pacific.  

In lieu of flowers, Judy's family requests donations to the Chambers Scholarship. Questions about giving in Judy's honor may be directed to Scott Biedermann, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, at 209-946-2166 or

Honoring a Remarkable Life

A Woman of Distinction Icon

Chambers received special recognition in 2021 at Pacific's annual Women of Distinction awards, receiving the "Woman of Distinction Icon" award. Watch the video produced for this honor, as well as other videos of her appearances at Pacific in recent years.



Judy Chambers earns a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in speech from College of the Pacific.


Receives a Master of Arts degree in speech from Pacific.


Returns to Pacific as assistant to President Robert Burns.


Named dean of students at Pacific.


Becomes Pacific’s inaugural vice president of student life, serving in the role for 25 years.


President Ronald Reagan appoints Chambers to serve on the board of directors for the Student Loan Marketing Association, better known as Sallie Mae.


Receives the inaugural Athena Award from the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce.


Honored with the Pillar of the Profession Award from NAPSA for her dedication to student affairs and service to the organization.


Awarded the Order of Pacific, the university’s highest honor.

"Dr. Burns said to me one time ... 'Every good thing that has ever happened in your whole life is a result of University of the Pacific.' And that's a real nice way to say it because that's about the truth."

- Judy Chambers