Measuring the Madison Experience
One phrase has become part of the JMU lexicon for nearly every alumnus, whether he or she graduated in the 1930s, '50s, '70s or '90s. Nearly every graduate you encounter, at one point in time, will mention the "Madison experience."
Johnnie Thompson Terry ('54) of Richmond, Va., ex-plains it well. "Madison provided the medium where students were challenged to grow mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually." Terry, who coordinates an Episcopal campus ministry for Virginia Commonwealth University, adds "My volunteer spirit
was engendered by the close associations of students and organizations and campus ministries during my days at Madison. And, I continue to be grateful for that. I hope that our financial gifts and services to JMU will ensure that other students can have the same Madison experience."
The common "Madison experience" has prompted newly appointed director of annual giving Michael Richey to rename the university's Annual Fund -- the Madison Fund. Richey, who first came to JMU in 1997 to head annual giving for JMU athletics, says, "The more JMU alumni I meet, the more I come to understand how special the Madison experience really is. But, our reasons behind the name change are twofold. We also want to help in President Linwood Rose's mission to align the university with our eponym, President James Madison."
An appropriate and providential move -- as President Madison was one of the country's most well known proponents of a higher education experience. In his inaugural address, Madison even called for a state seminary of learning, and, in a letter to William T. Berry in 1822, Madison wrote, "Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw light over the public mind, which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty. ... What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable than that of liberty and learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual and surest support?"
Richey eagerly concurs. "No one says better what we are trying to accomplish through the Madison Fund better than James Madison himself. ... We must lean on each other and not just state funds to ensure that the Madison experience remains a tradition."
But, how does the Madison Fund work? The Madison Fund comprises gifts from alumni, parents and friends of the university and includes unrestricted and restricted dollars, which supplement annual state appropriations and money earned through tuition and fees. Nearly 40 percent of the Madison Fund goes toward student scholarships and financial aid, with the remaining monies earmarked for academic programs, administrative support, faculty salaries, classroom technology upgrades, library resources and special projects.
Each year, more than 14,000 alumni, parents and friends support JMU's Madison Fund, and in 1998-99, a record 16,996 people made a contribution. The 2000 Na-tional Madison Fund Campaign is co-chaired by Steve and Dee Dee Collins Leeolou ('78) and the goal has been set at $1.55 million.
"When someone asks you where you went to college and you answer, 'James Madison,' a complimentary acknowledgment almost always follows," says Steve Leeolou. "Many alumni like us are now at the stage in their lives and careers where, for the first time, they can seriously consider giving back something meaningful to JMU. Many alumni are also at the point where their own children, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren are making the decision to attend JMU and live the same Madison experience."
For the fifth consecutive year, U.S. News & World
Report cited JMU as the South's most efficiently operated regional university,
but state-appropriated funds are decreasing as the cost of educating
students steadily increases. Richey adds, "While public funding
will continue to be sufficient to meet JMU's basic requirements, guaranteeing
our traditional margin of excellence requires additional private support.
... Dr. Rose has stated that his vision for JMU is
comprehensive undergraduate institution in the country. And, JMU has the potential to accomplish this goal; however, it cannot happen with tuition and state funding alone. To compete for the nation's top students, we must offer more annual scholarships and financial aid. To maintain the excellent Madison experience, we must raise operating dollars to support and retain quality faculty and the newest technology. The extras and amenities that made the Madison experience what it is are only affordable and possible now through private giving."
Emily Lewis Lee ('43) of Columbia, S.C,. agrees. From 1980 to 1983, Lee served on the university's Board of Visitors as its first out-of-state member. At least four times a year, she made a seven-hour drive to campus for board meetings and special events.
"Madison means more to me than just the class of
1943," says Lee, who holds mini-reunions with some of her classmates
each year. "We are very close as a class, but we share the same
Madison experience with all alumni. We received a good education here,
and contributing to the Madison Fund is one way
For more information on the Madison Fund, call (800) 296-6162 or visit the website.