Artist Judith Snyderman Supports Geriatrics Nursing Research at Duke

Judith Snyderman, RN’64, Honorary Alumna’19
Judith Snyderman in her Durham studio.

When artist Judith Snyderman, RN’64, Honorary Alumna’19, was in high school in Brooklyn, New York, her grandmother had a major stroke. One side of her body was disabled, and she was moved to a nursing home. Snyderman recalls vividly how caregivers transferred her grandmother from the bed to a wheelchair. “I remember her helplessness, and I wished I could help her,” she says.

Snyderman decided to become a nurse and help others. After graduating from high school, she worked for a year as a stenographer and typist in a shipping company in Lower Manhattan to earn the money to pay for nursing school. She attended the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn and completed a registered nurse certificate.

Her boyfriend at the time, Ralph Snyderman, MD, had just graduated from the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, and headed to Duke for internship and residency, and Judith Snyderman followed him to Durham. During their marriage, he became chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of Duke University Health System as well as dean of the Duke University School of Medicine.

Throughout her career, Snyderman wore many hats; a nurse in the cardiac care unit at Duke University Hospital, an in vitro fertilization (IVF) program coordinator at UNC Hospitals, an educational director in a nursing home and a real-estate firm owner in Chapel Hill. Through it all, here core passion emerged: improving the life of others as they age. “Geriatrics nursing is where my heart is,” says Judith Snyderman.

When Ralph Snyderman’s parents grew older and ill, she decided to dedicate herself to being their caregiver. In 1985, she helped them move from Brooklyn, New York, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to be closer to them. Two years later, when the couple moved to Hillsborough, California, for Ralph Snyderman’s job at Genentech, her in-laws moved in with them.

In October 2019, Judith Snyderman made a $300,000 gift to the Challenge for investment: Accelerating Research Nursing, a matching gifts challenge that aims to raise $2 million for nursing research at Duke by 2022. Her gift established the Judith Krebs Snyderman Research Fund, which will benefit research on gerontology at the Duke University School of Nursing.

“Nursing research is important to the understanding of how we treat patients, especially the elderly patients, and in finding ways to help them in their pursuit of healthy aging,” she says. “It can give families and caregivers the tools they need to help their loved ones, and I am happy to help develop an area where the population is growing.”

While taking care of her in-laws, Snyderman discovered her love of abstract painting and started painting in the basement of her California home. “Something internal had opened, and I started to do something that I have not done before,” she says.

Snyderman applied to the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated in 1994 with a bachelor of fine arts in painting. Today, she is an abstract expressionist artist and works in her downtown Durham studio and her home studio in Chapel Hill. Snyderman’s paintings have been displayed in juried art shows and art centers in California and North Carolina. Two of her paintings are exhibited in the hallway of Duke South.

She has been a loyal supporter of the School of Nursing for many years. In 2005, the Snydermans and Judith’s sister and brother created the Herman and Rose Krebs Scholarship Fund in honor of their parents. The fund benefits generations of nursing students from underserved areas. She is also a board member of the Duke Medical Faculty Wives and volunteers at the Nearly New Shoppe, a secondhand store that puts its profits towards scholarships for medical and nursing students at Duke. For more than 50 years, the store has contributed millions of dollars in scholarship awards.

Last year, the School of Nursing awarded Snyderman the Honorary Alumna Award for her contributions to the School and the nursing community at large. She is an emerita member of the school’s Nursing Alumni Council.

Snyderman enjoys spending time with her son Ted Snyderman, AB’94, daughter in-law Amanda, and her two granddaughters, Ariella, 9, and Mikayla, 7, who live in Durham. She continues to grow and develop as an artist. Nearly every Wednesday you can find her working with a group of local artists in Durham and learning new painting techniques. “I have an interest in portraiture now, and I have a lot to learn,” she says.

By Aliza Inbari

Challenge for investment:
Accelerating Research Nursing

Recognizing that nursing research is a key driver in delivering quality, effective health care, Marion E. Broome, dean of Duke University School of Nursing, and A. Eugene Washington, Duke University’s chancellor for health affairs, have established a new challenge that aims to raise $2 million for nursing research at Duke by 2022.

Through the Challenge for Investment: Accelerating Nursing Research, Broome and Washington hope to accelerate translational nursing research within the School of Nursing. They have set aside $1 million to match donor contributions. The challenge encourages donors to support start-up, pilot and bridge funding that will ultimately attract additional sustained research support, doubling the value and impact of philanthropic contributions for research in the School of Nursing.