In the Spring of 1968, USL freshman trampolinist Judi Ford was annoyed to find out that she would have to forego her Summer job in Lafayette in order to compete in the Miss Illinois pageant. To her surprise (and even dismay) she won the pageant, and then on September 7th of that year, she was crowned Miss America. caught up with her recently, and discovered that she not only remembers UL fondly, but that she is also one very funny lady.

What do you remember of Lafayette?

I remember Don's Seafood House where I had crawfish etoufée for the first time. I loved it.

I had never had grits before. I had never had beignets before and the first time I tried them I thought, 'Whoa, I'm liking these.'

I didn't get off the campus a whole lot. One of my friends lived around campus, and if you were going to spend the night somewhere, you had to get written permission from the hostess.  It was like jumping through a million hoops.

What do you remember of UL?

I remember the campus being very pretty. And I remember Cypress Lake.

I remember that I couldn't understand one of my roommates [laughs].

I can remember asking, "What's 'chère'?" and they said, "You know."

And I said, "No."

Then they asked me, "Would you stop calling us 'you guys'? We're not guys."

It took me a while to figure out the Cajun spelling of things. I called one guy 'Heebert'. One of my friends asked me who my professor was, I said a guy named 'Melonkan'. She said "Melançon?"

I said, "Oh."

I just loved crawfish. I still do. I loved it down there.

I was the only woman on the trampoline team, and I was also the first woman to letter in a varsity sport at the University. At the letterman's banquet that year they had everybody stand up. When I stood up, the AD recognized me as the prettiest letter-winner. I was really flattered.

Then I realized, 'Hey, the rest of them are all guys!'

What was the biggest surprise at UL?

How friendly everybody was. I lived in Agnes Edwards, and there were like six of us in the suite.  We all got along really well. You never know how that will work out, particularly with a Yankee going down there.

In high school, I had been down to Lafayette for trampoline meets. My coach Jeff Hennessy and his wife took me under their wing to make sure I was taken care of. So there weren't really a lot of surprises.

What was the biggest challenge?

Not to gain the freshman 15.

The freshman 15?

Kids go to college, they gain 15 pounds.

Also, when you're in an athletic season and you're traveling to all these meets, it's a little bit of a challenge to keep up with the school work.

You grew up in Belvidere, Illinois, went to college in Cajun country, served as Miss America, attended the University of Illinois, and now you live in Geneseo, Illinois. Talk about those transitions.

After my freshman year at USL, I was actually going to stay in Lafayette for the Summer. I had a job lined up.  By that time, I was saying "ya'll" all the time.

Then my mom reminded me I was in the Miss Illinois pageant, so I had to come home for that. I won it, and there were only 6 weeks from Miss Illinois to Miss America. The Miss Illinois title also came with a sizeable scholarship to a state school, and a lot of obligations around the state. That was going to make it hard to go back to USL.

Then I thought, 'Oh, man.' I left my typewriter down there, and a bunch of stuff that I thought I would come back to.