Largest-Ever Gift Boosts Madison Century Campaign

From: Public Affairs

March 14, 2008

While James Madison University was busy celebrating the 100th anniversary of its beginnings and a century of achievement, an inner core of leaders and celebrants cheered a founding of another kind.

At the Centennial Luncheon earlier today, President Linwood H. Rose led a salute to the ongoing successes of JMU's first comprehensive capital campaign — including the announcement of the largest-ever gift to JMU — and thus the birth of a new culture of philanthropy at Madison.

"We've come a long way in a relatively short time," said Joanne Carr, senior vice president of university advancement, to open the luncheon. "We launched the Madison Century campaign in this room two years ago, and the progress made so far is beyond our expectations," she announced. "In four days we’ll begin the last 100-days countdown in the Madison Century capital campaign."

Carr noted that the very first private gift to JMU was a $10 prize in 1918 for the best student essay from early Madison faculty members Raymond and Agness Stribling Dingledine ('15). The vice president recognized their grandson, Tom, and his wife, Karyn, for continuing the family legacy with a gift of $2.5 million, the largest-ever for scholarships at JMU.

The president put the achievement of JMU's fundraising campaign, which wraps up June 30, into historical perspective and thanked donors for their support.

"Here we are today, considered to be one of the top universities in a commonwealth envied nationally for the quality of its institutions of higher education – some of them hundreds of years old," Rose told assembled donors and friends. "Measured against many of the other institutions to which we are favorably compared academically, our overall fundraising program is just getting started. But the Madison Century campaign is demonstrating that great potential exists for us to develop the university’s private fundraising into a world-class program."

Board of Visitors member and lead campaign volunteer Steve Leeolou ('78) announced that JMU had subscribed all four of the marquee naming opportunities available during the Madison Century campaign. "That's right," Leeolou said, "mission accomplished." Leeolou and his wife, Dee Dee ('78), had helped launch the public phase of the campaign two years ago with their second $1 million gift to JMU.

The naming opportunities Leeolou alluded to include two that were announced today at the luncheon, one of which is the largest-ever gift to JMU. The two others were designated early in the campaign.

"This afternoon I have the great privilege to inform you that a gift – the largest in JMU history – from Bruce and Lois Forbes will name the Center [for the Performing Arts]," Leeolou said. He said the Forbeses' $5 million gift fulfills "the naming opportunity at the top of the Madison Century campaign."

Lois Cardarella Forbes and her husband, Bruce Forbes, are longtime supporters of James Madison University. Lois, a 1964 alumna, serves on the Board of Visitors. She and Bruce gave the university the James Madison statue on the plaza in front of Varner House. The longtime athletics donors also gave a new, heroic-sized statue of the Father of the Constitution, which was dedicated following the luncheon on the east side of campus.

Leeolou also announced that 1956 alumna Shirley Hanson Roberts and her husband, Dick, who had earlier made a $1 million gift to name the premier concert hall, have increased their commitment to $2.5 million. The entire music facility within the Performing Arts Center will now be named the Shirley Hanson Roberts Center for Music Performance.

The other two naming opportunities were designated earlier in the campaign.

In 2003, Ed and Susan Estes gave the university $2.5 million, the largest-ever gift at that time, to name the theater and dance facilities of the Performing Arts Center. The center was named in memory of Estes' late wife and class of 1945 alumna, Dorothy Thomasson Estes.

The new Center for the Performing Arts is the largest construction project ever undertaken all at once by the university. The structure will be bigger than the ISAT building and Costco combined. Five state-of-the-art performance spaces will be included and transform the arts at JMU and in the central Shenandoah Valley.

Rounding out the four top naming opportunities of the capital campaign is a $2 million gift made in 2003 by Frances Plecker and her late husband, Robert, to name the The Plecker Athletic Performance Center. The facility has already made an enormous contribution to the academic and athletic lives of student athletes. "This facility also has helped elevate Madison's ability to recruit the best student athletes, and is on a level with many of top Division 1A programs in the country," Leeolou said.

During the luncheon, the president thanked all campaign supporters and recognized members of the campaign's Million Dollar Society. They are


  • The late Alvin and Nancy Chappelear Baird ('39)
  • The Bridgeforth family, including J. Scott ('86) and Laura Bridgeforth and William E. ('83) and Lisa N. Bridgeforth
  • Thomas and Karyn Dingledine
  • The late Myra Fensterwald Doherty ('49)
  • Joseph F. ('76) and Pamela Craun Damico ('77)
  • C. Edwin and Susan E. Estes
  • Bruce and Lois Cardarella Forbes ('64)
  • Steve ('78) and Dee Dee Collins Leeolou ('78)
  • Bill V. and Elizabeth Neff
  • Frances Plecker and her late husband, Robert
  • Dick and Shirley Hanson Roberts ('56)
  • Inez Graybeal Roop ('35) and her late husband, Ralph G.
  • The late Zane Showker
  • Judy Shreckhise Strickler ('60)
  • Elizabeth Swallow
  • Jeffrey E. ('90) and Robin Tickle

"Thank you all for your part in this campaign," Rose said. "Our major gift announcements today on our 100th birthday in a campaign named for the centennial indicates to me that we are on track and that great potential exists."

The Madison Century campaign is not over yet, he added. "Beginning March 19, … we will start the 100-day countdown to the close of the campaign," he said. There is still time to make a gift in this historic and transformational campaign before it ends on June 30 this year.

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