Alumnus Justin Rudder still remembers his graduation day from Faulkner University. It was a day in which he felt celebrated by his peers and by his professors. Now, as a Digital Asset Archivist at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, he uses his educational training to preserve our state’s history.
“Faulkner University was exactly what I needed as I transitioned from high school to college life,” Rudder said. “It truly felt like a sanctuary and all of my professors nurtured my passions in their classes. Probably my best memory was Graduation Day. Unfortunately, many universities detract from their students’ special day with professors failing to show up and graduates feeling like a face in the crowd instead of walking with Pomp and Circumstance. This was not the case at Faulkner where all of my professors were there to celebrate my achievements. In fact, Drs. Ed and Dixie Hicks gave me a portfolio for job assignments that I still use today.”
He was recently honored at Faulkner’s annual Marketplace Faith Friday Forums as the Distinguished Alumnus for the College of Arts and Sciences’ Social and Behavioral Sciences department.
Rudder graduated from Faulkner in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in history. He later earned his Master of Arts in History with Emphasis in Archival Management from Auburn University in 2014. Rudder also worked as a graduate intern with the Faulkner University Archive at the Gus Nichols Library, developing a Collections Policy, Deed of Gift, and preparing The Stumblingstone newspaper collection for digitization in Alabama Mosaic – https://digital.archives.alabama.gov/digital/collection/faulkneruni/.
He now serves as a Digital Asset Archivist at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, where he digitizes historical records ranging from Alabama Supreme Court cases, to negatives of images used in newspapers including the Birmingham News, Huntsville Times, and Mobile Press-Register. He also assists archival repositories including the Faulkner University Archive in digitizing and sharing their records through Alabama Mosaic. Outside of the archives, Rudder founded and runs a business called the Digital Grassroots heritage project where he assists clients in preserving and digitizing items, as well as producing videos and websites on historic communities and personalities.
Rudder has written for Alabama Heritage, the Alabama Review, and the Encyclopedia of Alabama, and is completing a manuscript entitled Black Towns of Alabama: Southern Alabama.
Rudder is a board member of the Alabama Historical Association and is a Road Scholar for the Alabama Humanities Foundation. He earned the 2021 Writer-In-Service Residency Award from the Lillian E. Smith Center in Clayton, Georgia, and a 2022 Joyce Cauthen Fellowship from the Alabama Folklife Association for his current manuscript entitled Black Towns of Alabama: Southern Alabama. He has written for Alabama Heritage, the Alabama Review, and the Encyclopedia of Alabama on slavery and civil rights in Alabama, black historiography, and geography and place-naming in black community life.
“Faulkner helped me to gain a solid foundation regarding the history and principles that make our country a Christian nation,” Rudder said. “I also learned not to simply memorize events, places, and people, but to connect these data points through storytelling. You tend to spark people’s interest in history if you not only give them the facts but tell the stories that have rocked our society and shaped it for the better.”