• What does a brighter future mean to you?

    Connect with James Madison University and learn more about how our people and programs are making positive change in the world

    Subscribe to Madison; share your thoughts about the future on the Be the Change blog; or perhaps you'd like to nominate a world changer to be featured on this site.

    Consider this your invitation to
    Be the Change.


Join us to Be the Change


Recognizing future special education teachers

D. Perry and Sharon C. Brown scholarship helps students to help others
Katie Kellogg ('07)

As a Madison student, Sharon Brown ('81) spent much of her time helping others. While earning her degree in special education, Brown was actively involved with events to help people with special needs, like the Special Olympics. Almost 20 years later, Brown is still helping others — this time by generously donating a scholarship to students studying in JMU's special education program. Brown and her husband, Perry, donated a $66,000 endowment to the university, which has now grown to a value of almost $78,000.

The D. Perry and Sharon C. Brown Scholarship

The D. Perry and Sharon C. Brown Scholarship has been awarded to eight students since it was established in 2001. Scholarships have ranged from $900 to $1,150.

"We need to encourage and promote people going into this field," Brown says.

In order to qualify for the scholarship, students must be in the special education program, be in good academic standing, show a degree of service in working with children with special needs, and exhibit a high level of professionalism in their work. The scholarship is not need-based, and the special education department decides the scholarship's recipients.

A JMU legacy

Sharon ('81) and Perry Brown have endowed a scholarship to help JMU students and future teachers help children with special education needs.

Sharon (’81) and Perry Brown have endowed a scholarship to help JMU students and future teachers help children with special education needs.

Although she never ended up working as a special education teacher and now works for a mortgage company, after graduating from JMU Brown did work at an adult recreation program in Fairfax for adults with special needs. Her legacy at JMU continues through two of her three daughters, currently attending the university. Kim, a junior, is majoring in occupational therapy with a minor in special education and Chelsea is a freshman. Brown's youngest daughter, Kelly, is a freshman at Robinson High School.

"We are so grateful for individuals like the Browns who provide this type of service for our students. … Our students need and deserve it." -- Maggie Kyger, head of JMU's exceptional education program

According to Maggie Kyger, head of JMU's exceptional education program, students who are majoring in special education, like all participants in the education program, must complete a five-year program in which they earn their master's degree. The program can become costly, creating a need for scholarships like the Brown's generous donation.

More than money

For Jessica LeNoir, who was awarded the scholarship in 2006, the scholarship has eased the financial burden of out-of-state graduate tuition. "I am grateful to have received the scholarship,” she says. “With the time I spend in student-teaching, it is really difficult to have a job. This has helped me get through the year without having to worry about working full time."

However, according to Kyger, even more important than the monetary support is the recognition that the scholarship gives to students in the special education program.

"We are so grateful for individuals like the Browns who provide this type of service for our students. It is so nice to see our students get that recognition,” she says. “Our students need and deserve it."