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 Montpelier Magazine

Greetings from the President

WITHIN A FEW YEARS, James Madison University students will be able to learn and perform in a splendid new facility for our theater and dance programs. The Dorothy Thomasson Estes Center for Theatre and Dance will provide the top-notch physical surroundings long deserved by our outstanding performance faculty and students. The theater and dance facility will be flanked by a new music recital hall, creating at JMU one of the finest arts complexes in the region.

Virginia voters provided $29.8 million for the theater and dance building in last fall's bond referendum, but an additional $5 million in private funds is necessary for construction.

Charles "Ed" Estes of Richmond stepped forward and generously donated $2.5 million to JMU - the largest gift in the university's history - for the center. The building will bear the name of his late wife, Dorothy Thomasson Estes, and permanently honor the memory of a dear friend and a devoted alumna of the university's class of 1945.

In this issue of Montpelier, you will read more about Mr. Estes, his daughter, Martha Grover ('83), and her husband, John "Chubby" Grover ('81). Martha is a former member of the JMU Board of Visitors. Her family has made other significant gifts to JMU, including the fountain in Newman Lake, the bluestone fireplace in the Leeolou Alumni Center and an endowed scholarship. I am confident that the generosity of Mr. Estes and his family will encourage others to support JMU with private gifts.

Private funding is more important than ever - indeed, critical - for the university to maintain the quality of education and the facilities our students and faculty deserve. In the past, JMU functioned well on state funds and tuition alone, with private support used to provide for an extra edge of excellence - not for essentials. This is no longer the case. Recent years have seen the continuing erosion of state support and the consequential rises in tuition. Tuition increases incurred in the fall and the spring were essential to JMU's basic operation.

The prospects for increased state assistance grow dimmer and dimmer. Today there are many more demands on the public treasury than there were 20 or even 10 years ago. The competition for limited dollars is intense. Elementary and secondary education, public health, mental hospitals, welfare, parks and recreation, retirement funds and many more are all vigorously seeking a slice of the public pie, as is higher education.

In little more than a decade, we have seen a dramatic change in the percentage of the state's General Fund that is allocated to higher education. In 1988-89, 18 percent of the General Fund went to higher education. By 2003-04, that percentage had dropped by a third to 12 percent. Thus, public funds are sliced thinner and thinner. And we cannot continue to make up for shortfalls through tuition increases.

I will continue to do all within my power to drive home to the Virginia General Assembly that funding for public higher education must be enhanced, and I would urge those of you who live in Virginia to make a similar case to your elected officials. Top-quality higher education is vital to the continued success of the commonwealth and the nation. Public higher education must remain available at a reasonable cost. Additional public funding and substantial private support are both vital to keeping tuition as low as possible and quality as high as possible.

Private fund raising is now one of our highest priorities, but the university's success in this area ranks far behind those colleges and universities that have been working closely with their alumni and friends for decades. Our endowment at JMU is around $23 million - which places JMU at No. 550 among 654 colleges and universities.

A diploma from James Madison University today carries a substantial value. It means a great deal to employers; it carries prestige; it signals to all that its holder has received a top-quality, well-rounded education. It is important to current students and alumni alike that the value of the JMU diploma remains high. Please help in any way you can to assure that the education offered on our campus does not deteriorate.

Linwood H. Rose, President