From an early age onward, Judy Feder learned how to stick up for herself.
The third of four girls raised by an English immigrant salesman and a bookkeeper mother, Feder says she was told by her father to “stand up for what I believe in, speak out and always look people straight in the eye.”
Those are qualities that has helped her in her storied career, whether it’s acting as the dean at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute from 1999 to 2008 or running for a Congressional seat in Virginia’s 10th District in 2006 and 2008.
“As a public policy advocate and analyst, I always was engaged in making public policy better, but it was tough to have a voice in the congressional district where I lived,” she says of her attempts. “It felt like it was time for a change. My younger son, who had become active in politics, said, ‘Just get out there and work for it.’”
Although Feder lost, she rebounded, becoming the senior fellow at the Center for American Progress until 2011. She is continuing her work as a professor at Georgetown and as an Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute.
“I love being a spokesperson for causes and champion for what I believe in, and nurturing the next generation,” she says.
After knowing her for more than three decades, Barbara Manard, vice president of long-term care health strategies at LeadingAge, says Feder’s work has been innovative. Manard noted a Minnesota Case Mix Project in the 1980s that set the standard for payment in particular.
“My first impression of Judy is the one that’s the same today. She’s not only brilliant but can express things with clarity,” Manard says. “She’s gracious and has a great sense of humor. She’s generous with her time.”
After growing up in Florida, academics took Feder to Boston, where she went to Brandeis University and met her husband, Stanley. She completed her master’s and doctorate degrees at Harvard and reared two sons, Sam and
Lester. Feder and her husband now live in McLean, VA.
“I was fortunate in that I started my family while in graduate school and was not rushing. It gave me an opportunity to get grounded,” she says. Her husband, formerly employed at the Central Intelligence Agency, now runs a sausage company called Simply Sausage.
“My husband and I love traveling. We’re planning a second trip to China,” she says. “We went around the world when we got married.”
At 65, Feder shows no signs of slowing down her advocacy. But she has made spending time with her three grandchildren and sons, all of whom live nearby, a top priority.
“At the top of the list is spending time with grandkids,” she says. But, as a self-described multi-tasker, she adds, “I’m up to my eyeballs in concern about good public policy in general, especially in health. We have a miracle with the passage of CLASS and the Affordable Care Act, which are essential in order to get people protected. We had an enormous setback on the halt on its implementation.”
There will always be challenges in public policy, she acknowledges, but that also means “there’s always something to make better.”
Finishes B.A. degree at Brandeis University
Completes Ph.D. at Harvard University
Begins as co-director, Center for Health Policy Studies, Georgetown University School of Medicine
Serves as staff director on the Congressional Pepper Commission
Becomes the dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute
Makes first run for Congress in Virginia’s 10th district
Becomes a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress