Born in the northern Adirondack mountains of New York State, the second daughter of George J. Culver, MD, and Emma Cranfield Culver, Judy resided in Brookline, MA, for nearly fifty years. She attended public schools, graduating valedictorian of her Au Sable Forks, NY, class. At Vassar College, she pursued her principal interest in languages, focusing on Hispanic, French and Russian studies. Graduating early (in 1944, a full year ahead of schedule), she left for Washington, DC, to work as a civilian cryptographer translating Russian in the Japanese section of the US Signal Corps until World War II ended.
Her mastery of the English language made her an exceptionally astute editor. Upon hiring her in 1946, the publisher Porter Edward Sargent found the "paragon" he sought in a manuscript editor. Later, when she herself wrote the 1954 and 1955 introductions to The Handbook of Private Schools, after the death of Mr. Sargent, her aptitude for his training was reflected in the comment by one of the distinguished New York book reviews that one would never have known that the old man had gone.
Following her marriage in 1953 to F. Porter Sargent, son of the elder Sargent, she edited and coauthored two books with him on education. The Special Education series, created in 1955, provided new insights on the care and treatment of special-needs children. Included in this series are seven texts by authorities in the field and the widely consulted Directory for Exceptional Children.
After the death of F. Porter Sargent in 1975, imbued in the Sargent tradition, she oversaw publication of The Handbook of Private Schools through twenty-four editions, The Directory for Exceptional Children through six, the Guide to Summer Camps and Summer Schools through eight and Schools Abroad of Interest to Americans through seven.
An outdoor enthusiast, she was a keen horticulturist, horsewoman, skier and woodswoman, and she gained her solo pilot's license in 1945. Judy wrote poetry, played piano, sang madrigals and delighted in string quartets and art song. As a founding member of Boston's Chorus Pro Musica, she performed at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, premiering numerous works under the baton of leading conductors and composers. In the early 1970s, she assisted in opening the first Tibetan Buddhist center in Boston and was a member of the Shambhala meditation center.
Well-known as a committed activist and proponent of civil resistance, she was an early advocate of world nuclear disarmament. Her organizational abilities served numerous organizations, including Turn Toward Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and the Committee for Non-violent Action. She continued the Extending Horizons branch of Porter Sargent Publishers, dedicated to the fields of social science and contemporary affairs. Twenty-seven titles have been published, many by noted educators, some by lesser-known authors who were given the initial opportunity to disseminate viewpoints rarely offered to the reading public.
In 1964, asked by her college about her principal involvements, she wrote of her "wonderful husband, children and home, and being fully involved in social action in hopes of helping create a better world for all of us, individually, nationally and internationally without respect to race, creed, color or political affiliation.
"Most difficult is to balance time between the intensive outgoing endeavors and to yet give ample attention to the young human beings developing beside us—our three children.
"The future? A world in which man's nuclear knowledge is banned in war and even perhaps a world disarmed under the benevolent watchfulness of truly United Nations—so that your children and mine may live fulfilled lives, free of the fear of annihilation, devoted to creating at whatever level the reality of mankind's dream of freedom and plenty for all."