On Monday, March 22, Sonya D. Dudgeon ’90 died at 52 after living with cancer for many years. At the time of her death, she resided in Newport Beach, Calif. Dudgeon was a Kenyon employee for over 14 years and a longtime member of the community.
“[Dudgeon was] not only an alum, but contributed a lot in admissions, impacted many students that she recruited to Kenyon and [was] a very beloved member of the broader community in Gambier and Knox County — so it’s a really tough loss for the community,” President Sean Decatur said.
Dudgeon was a native of Gambier, where her family has lived for nine generations. She attended Wiggin Street Elementary School and Mount Vernon Middle and High School before enrolling at Kenyon. She and her older sister, who also attended Kenyon, were the first in their family to attend college.
As a student in the 1980s, Dudgeon was actively involved in the Kenyon community. She worked at the Collegian and became editor-in-chief of the newspaper in her senior year. She was also part of the Student Alumni Association and participated in the off-campus study program her junior year.
After graduating from Kenyon with a degree in political science, Dudgeon left Knox County and moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked in human resources throughout the 1990s. After 9/11, Dudgeon and her husband at the time moved back to Gambier to raise their children in a more peaceful environment.
In 2005, Dudgeon took a job at Kenyon as director of campus events for the Office of Alumni and Parent Programs, where she oversaw events like Reunion Weekend. Three years later, she joined the Office of Admissions, eventually becoming the associate dean and director of international admissions for the College.
While a senior member of the admissions staff, Dudgeon worked hard to bring more international students to the College, overseeing recruitment across multiple continents. Her work extended from there as she served on the International Student Advisory Committee and oversaw a 110% increase in international applicants for fall 2014. She was also responsible for hiring, training and managing the Admissions Fellows program, which involved supervising over 30 student employees.
“Because she represented Kenyon so well, new students from all around the globe came to Kenyon and called it home too,” said Jennifer McMahon, lead instructor and director of introductory labs in biology and a close friend of Dudgeon for many years. “Not only did she welcome new international students, but she remained keenly interested in their progress throughout their college career, forming deep friendships with many students which lasted long after their graduation.”
Dudgeon moved away from Gambier in 2019 to take a California-based job as associate dean of admissions at Union College, where she continued her focus on recruiting international students.
Those who knew Dudgeon best described her as quick-witted with a wonderful sense of humor. “Her wickedly good sense of humor carried all of us through the good times and the tough times,” said Beverly Morse, a longtime friend, colleague and neighbor of Dudgeon.
Her friends remarked on her resilience, genuine friendliness and startling ability to transform moments of hardship into opportunities for joy.
“Even as she fought cancer and all the terrible things that accompanied it, she bravely laughed, and invited her friends to laugh along with her,” McMahon said. “She somehow managed to convert our grave concerns for her health into merry visits; I still don’t know how she did that.”
Dudgeon is survived by her parents, Shirley D. Dudgeon and G. Daniel Dudgeon; her daughter, Eleanor C. Broeren; her son, Zachary D. Broeren; her sister, Stephanie L. Dudgeon ’85; her former husband, P. Robert Broeren ’91 and her partner, Sean A. Ward ’90.