Irene K. Rudnick was born December 27, 1929, in Columbia, SC to parents Jean Getter Krugman and Jack Krugman. She graduated as valedictorian of her class at Columbia High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree cum laude from the University of South Carolina, where she was active in theatrical productions, president of Alpha Kappa Gamma women’s leadership society, president of Hypation Literary Society, YWCA Cabinet, Hillel International, president of Pi Kappa Delta, manager of the debate team, winner of the Hemphill Award for Oratory, member of Alpha Psi Omega and secretary of the International Relations Club.
She then attended the USC School of Law, where she was one of two women in her graduating class. While in law school, she was a member of the Honor Council, chairwoman of the program committee of the Law Federation, and a member of the editorial staff of the South Carolina Law Quarterly.
After graduating law school, Irene opened her law practice and soon moved to Aiken. She helped organize fundraising receptions, letter writing campaigns and other efforts to increase awareness for the creation of USC Aiken. In 1961, she began teaching at USC Aiken and after 50 years, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education. She taught legal classes at USC Aiken for 57 years until December 2018. In 1983, her son Morris began practicing law with her.
Irene was a trailblazer for women when entering politics was difficult for them. She began her political career as Superintendent of Education for Aiken County and was the first Jewish women representative in the South Carolina Legislature. Elected to Aiken’s District 81 in 1972, she served her constituents for many years, making herself “available, accountable, and responsive” to their needs. As an elected public official, she always considered herself a servant of the people. Irene’s office was in her husband’s furniture store where a large sign read, “Welcome, Walk Right In – Office Irene Rudnick, Member of the House of Representatives, District 81.” Devoted and determined, Irene fought for many issues including educational and legal reform, lower utility rates, the environment and highway safety.
She was a steadfast advocate for what is right and just and received numerous awards and accolades for her professional and philanthropic efforts. Some of them included being named the Citizen of the Year for Aiken County, the South Carolina Woman of Achievement Legislative Award and the Aiken County Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year. Irene received the Friend of Education Award, an award from the National Order of Women Legislators, and she was a finalist for the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award. She was a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, the Order of the Eastern Star, and Alpha Delta Kappa, an International Honorary Organization for Women Educators.
Passionate about her religion, she served as President of Adas Yeshurun Synagogue for decades and served as president of the Hadassah Sisterhood. She taught Sunday school starting as a teenager and continuing until late in life.
Irenic means tending to promote peace or reconciliation, which aptly describes Irene. She fully embraced life and is remembered for her infinite capacity to love, to share, to support and to show unlimited acceptance and compassion.
Irene K. Rudnick died on February 2, 2019. She was predeceased by her husband of 43 years, Harold Alan Rudnick. She is survived by her children, Morris Rudnick (Veleta) and Helen Rapoport (Mark); six grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.