Judith “Judy” Skutch-Whitson made her transition from earth body life early Tuesday morning, October 19. I had received a text message from her daughter Tamara “Tam” Morgan informing me, and I quickly posted the news of Judy’s transition on many A Course in Miracles discussion groups. I have heard that in the first hours from passing the soul is confronted with many important decisions and I thought it best to give Judy all the love and support she could get from the greater ACIM community for this journey. She loved ACIM, and many in the community loved her, so this was love’s work to do.
Judy was born Judith Rothstein on April 12, 1931 in Brooklyn, New York and it is said she had a “conservative” Jewish upbringing. She graduated from John Dewey Progressive High School in Brooklyn. She attended college and received a Bachelor of Arts from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. She also attended the Colombia University School of Journalism and was a member of the faculty of New York University.
In 1972 through an association with astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell she became involved in the Institute of Noetic Sciences which was a new organization at that time. She would eventually serve on their board of directors for over 20 years. The achievements of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in the field of parapsychology and consciousness research are extensive and noteworthy.
Judy was also a founding board member for the Fetzer Institute an organization dedicated to building a loving foundation for the world with its work centered around the sacredness of reality and the centrality of Spirit in all things. Judy also served on this board for over 20 years. Both the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the Fetzer Institute continue to do positive important work in the metaphysical fields today.
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While functioning in the midst of this rich milieu of consciousness, metaphysics, and spirituality, Judy met the two scribes of A Course in Miracles in 1975, Helen Schucman and William “Bill” Thetford. Judy, in the prime of her life both professionally and physically, took the ball they handed to her – the newly edited A Course in Miracles – and ran with it in a way no one but her could have done. With her natural vitality, bubbly personality, vast contacts and clout in the fields of spirituality and consciousness it wasn’t long before ACIM was embraced, published, and distributed. Judy essentially took on the publishing of the Course herself, with the help of her second husband, Robert Skutch, and their small fledgling organization, the Foundation for Parasensory Investigation. This organization soon became the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) and in 1976 ACIM was in the world in book form and gaining acceptance and popularity.
Judy became the very public face of A Course in Miracles in the late ‘70s. She personally introduced it to thousands of people in events around the country. She told a compelling story of how ACIM had been scribed by Helen with connection and support from Bill, how miraculously it came to Helen word for word just as it was printed, and how the whole copying, distributing, and then publishing of it was one miracle after another. She told how she at first had to “xerox” copy after copy to give to people who were interested and how there was no way she could keep up with the demand for early copies. She talked about how the money to professionally publish was miraculously received. The story seemed almost too good to be true.
In 1987 the FIP produced and distributed a video movie named The Story of A Course in Miracles which featured Judy Skutch-Whitson prominently with her enthusiastically telling the miraculous story again to an even wider and now global audience. There is no way of knowing how many thousands of people feel like they know Judy because of that video and her luminous enthusiasm which shines through in every frame. Who would not want to buy this book after seeing that powerful video? I am certain that countless people, perhaps hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million are studying ACIM right now because of the effective promotion by Judy Skutch-Whitson both in person and through the video.
Every movement has its challenges of growth and this is certainly true with A Course in Miracles. By the mid 1990s the popularity and penetration of ACIM was established and perhaps it was even greater than most people’s wildest imaginations. Along with this kind of popularity, money and control get added to the mix, and the results are frequently tumultuous. In 1992 Marianne Williamson produced a New York Times bestselling book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Oprah Winfrey gave the book a huge Oprah style launch, and sales skyrocketed. Suddenly, big money was involved. For whatever reasons, the first editions of Marianne’s book, while quoting frequently from ACIM, did not properly reference the quotations. Ms. Williamson certainly didn’t claim the inspiration for the foundational ideas in her book were her own, it is right in the book's subtitle where they come from. It’s unclear why the references weren’t delineated clearly in those first editions. Later editions corrected this, and the book is now adequately referenced.
This set in motion a series of events. The copyright policy and permission to quote from A Course in Miracles got severely tightened and downright confusing in the mid-90s. Ken Wapnick was a member of the FIP Board of Directors and a noted author and teacher of ACIM himself. It is believed that much of the tightening of the copyright was his idea and energy. Eventually it seemed like no permission to quote ACIM in books was going to be granted to anyone except Ken Wapnick himself, and no one could directly say they were teaching “A Course in Miracles” or “ACIM” since the four word title and the acronym had been turned into a legal service mark controlled by the FIP and Ken Wapnick's own organization the Foundation for A Course in Miracles. Ken Wapnick had unrestricted use of the service marks in his teaching. It sometimes appeared that others had none. Lawsuits pursued.
Some of these lawsuits challenged the copyright itself held by the Foundation for Inner Peace. This is when the almost “too good to be true” story told by Judy Skutch-Whitson for years became a liability for the FIP. If Judy had indeed “xeroxed” copy after copy to give away freely and these copies had no copyright on them, then the book could not be copyrighted. The FIP began to back away from the story told by Judy Skutch-Whitson for years. So much so, that at the federal copyright trial in New York City (1996-2003) Judy took the witness stand and said that the story she had told for years wasn’t actually true. She had been speaking “hyperbole,” and had been “storytelling.” She told a story that people liked hearing – which of course was good for book sales too. The testimony was startling for many to read. The Community Miracles Center published a lightly edited version of this testimony in the June 2003 edition of Miracles Monthly (Vol.17 No.4: “The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth”). The federal court all but ignored Judy’s new story and testimony in its decision. It is actually this author’s (Rev. Tony’s) opinion that the testimony most likely worked strongly against the FIP and its case.
The end result was that the FIP lost the primary USA copyright on the main body of A Course in Miracles in 2003. This led the way to the publishing of several earlier edits of ACIM that had now surfaced during the copyright trials. Apparently the good story about no words being changed from what Helen had originally heard to what was eventually published in 1976 was also – not true.
It is a lasting testament to Judy’s spirit and pluck that the FIP and Judy herself shrugged off the loss and carried on the work they were doing publishing and translating their version of A Course in Miracles into multiple languages. As of last count the FIP ACIM has been translated into 26 languages. However, there are now multiple other editions of ACIM published by different publishers and the penetration of these other editions continues to rise. Most notable is the Original Edition published by Course In Miracles Society and more recently the Complete and Annotated Edition published by the Circle of Atonement.The FIP edition continues to sell and be distributed well, and probably is still the book the greatest percentage of students read. It is accurately referred to as the edition the scribes Helen and Bill “authorized” to be printed, still being published by the publisher Helen and Bill authorized to print it.
In later years Judy retreated from public life, but still met frequently with A Course in Miracles notables, authors, and translators. Many luncheons were held informally in her home in Tiburon, California and everyone always talks about Judy’s friendliness, exuberance, and dedication to making ACIM available by whatever the means she and the FIP had at their disposal. Judy never retired, although she did turn the Presidency of the FIP over to her daughter, Tam, and long time family friend, associate, and ACIM author, Dr. Robert “Bob” Rosenthal in 2016.
Judy was married three times. She had two children by her first husband, Howard Cohen (transitioned 2020), previously mentioned daughter Tam and son Jonathan Cohen. Her second husband, Robert Skutch, still runs the day to day business operations for the FIP. Her third husband, Bill “Whit” Whitson (transitioned 2018), also worked extensively for the FIP, especially as the one in charge of the numerous translation projects. The FIP has always been a “family” cottage industry.
The overall output of Judy Skutch-Whitson is impressive and her dedication to A Course in Miracles was obvious and enduring. It is tempting to call this the end of an era but this author (Rev. Tony) doesn’t think of it that way. The ACIM movement has been in continual evolution since ACIM was first published in book form in 1976. Judy had already let go of being the President of the FIP in 2016. What we are seeing now is just more of ACIM’s continual evolution.
The new leadership of the FIP has been more open and willing to join with a greater community than its predecessors. The fractioning into different groups and camps during the copyright trial is not as prevalent now, as it was two decades ago. No one is suing anyone at the moment. At the A Course in Miracles conference the Community Miracles Center put on in 2019 in Boston, MA three major publishers of ACIM were present and equally represented: Foundation for Inner Peace, Course in Miracles Society, and Circle of Atonement.
I’ll end with a personal anecdote. I met with Judy maybe 3 or 4 times – my meetings were those previously mentioned luncheons. Many others: Whit, Dr. Bob, Tam, were also at these luncheons. At one of the last ones, after I had not seen Judy in person for about 20 years, she insisted I sit next to her and she held my hand much of the time during the lunch. I felt a genuine affection, or perhaps more like she was following her Holy Spirit’s guidance and His energy was flowing through her into me. It was a sweet moment.
It is important to remember that our A Course in Miracles community may be vast and diverse, but it is still one community. At this time let’s remember and acknowledge the work of this ACIM pioneer and early mover and shaker. Judy Skutch-Whitson, you will be thought of fondly and with a smile for many years to come. “Good Job!” ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (11.03.2021). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the October 2021 (Vol. 35 No. 8) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.