Spring 1997

Class Acts
A Campus Mosaic of Gifts

Class of '41
James Madison portrait

James Madison University - where, since 1908, students have studied, discovered themselves, started trends, carried on traditions, romped, romanced and earned their diplomas - is, today, what 86 successive classes of students have made it.

Each class, by virtue of its activities and values, has left its mark on JMU and its constantly evolving identity and reputation. Whether through a ground-breaking research project or the formation of a new choral group, these classes have shaped, defined and redefined JMU.

Each has contributed a piece of the overall JMU mosaic. Many classes, before and after graduation, have made another kind of mark on campus.

Stroll through campus. Peek into conference rooms, auditoriums and reception areas. Sit under the trees that line the Quad. There the reminders of classes that have come and gone are visible. There is the physical evidence of a long tradition of class giving at JMU.

Some gifts, with their telltale plaques, are obvious reminders of past classes. These physical gifts have become so much a part of the landscape and decor that their origins often pass unnoticed. Today, students on the Quad lounge on the benches on either side of Kissing Rock, complements of the classes of 1962 and 1987, and their path to the front door of Wilson Hall is illuminated by two lamp posts given by the class of 1931.

Behind the Quad, between Keezell and Wilson halls, a reminder of another class shouts for attention each spring when it flowers - a rose garden dedicated to the memory of JMU's second president, Samuel P. Duke, given by the class of 1958.

When JMU was known as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women and the fledgling institution looked like a cross between a construction site and a hay field, class gifts were at the very core of campus improvements. Classes donated trees and shrubs and planted them during the school's annual Arbor Day.

Class of '58
Samuel Page Duke rose garden

More concrete, according to Raymond C. Dingledine Jr.'s Madison College, The First Fifty Years, is Alumnae Hall, completed in 1922 and funded in part by classes of students and alumnae.

Classes of students in the late 1920s also contributed funds to buy a 37-acre farm near the village of Port Republic to establish a college camp for weekend outings. Today, students know it as the University Farm.

Class of '16 and '17

Some classes of students and alumni have exhibited a penchant for the aesthetic - from the elegant wall sculpture above Alumnae Hall's fireplace from the class of 1923 to several friezes that once adorned a room on the Quad from the summer school of 1916 and the classes of 1916 and 1917.

Through the benevolence of students and alumni classes, several portraits honor key figures in JMU history, including James Madison, JMU presidents and people for whom campus buildings have been named. Two, of George B. Keezell and Woodrow Wilson, given by the classes of 1932 and 1933, frame the stage in Wilson Hall auditorium. Others adorn the Carrier Library conference room, including one of Tyler Miller, given by the class of 1959, and a photographic portrait of Ronald E. Carrier, given by the class of 1981. The portrait of James Madison that hangs above the fireplace was given by the class of 1941.

These class gifts have served valuable purposes and reflected the priorities of their times. In the early years, they gave impetus to the physical building of campus, and later, as campus took shape, they commemorated the university leadership that made it possible. Then they turned to providing campus extras - those garnishes, flourishes and adornments that have beautified JMU and added to the comfort it offers.

Lately, however, as the physical campus has taken shape well beyond the dreams of those early classes, gift priorities have shifted away from physical gifts to those that are less tangible, but, strangely enough, more enduring. Class gifts today are more people-oriented and provide funding for scholarships and for academic resources, services and programs.

The tradition of class support for scholarships stretches back to the Normal's first graduating class, the class of 1911, which started the Alumnae Fund, a scholarship program that relied on class donations throughout its history. In the late 1950s, the Duke Memorial Scholarship Fund was established, and until the late 1960s, each senior class contributed to it. The scholarship continues today with funding from the Student Government Association.

The class commitment to scholarships continues with the Senior Class Challenge and numerous alumni class scholarship funds, including class reunion gifts. These classes take to heart that funding scholarships helps enhance JMU's academic quality, its faculty, students and programs - in the words of President Carrier, its "margin of excellence."

"It's more than the individual scholarship recipients who benefit," says Lisa Horsch ('91), assistant director of annual giving - class giving and direct mail.

"Everyone is affected by scholarships," she says. "Scholarships allow JMU to compete for top students, who help create an enthusiasm for learning that's contagious," Horsch explains. "They help raise the level of education for everyone."

And that in turn raises JMU's academic reputation and its overall prestige, creating a ripple effect that extends far beyond campus and the current student body. "Alumni, like me, are really benefitting from the JMU name, even years after graduation," Horsch says. "That same reputation draws more and more top high school students to apply to JMU. While those benefits come in a roundabout way and are somewhat intangible, they are very real."

JMU's development staff now actively encourages gifts for scholarships and, more generally, for academic priorities. These gifts help recruit top faculty members and students, develop academic programs and obtain the resources professors and students can put to work.

Through the Senior Class Challenge, the class of 1997, for instance, has recognized JMU's need for up-to-date equipment and technology. Of the $56,225 the class has raised through pledges, $45,000 will go to purchase multimedia equipment, software, scanners and laser printers. The remainder will fund the Class of 1997 Scholarship.

Class of '13
maple tree

The Senior Class Challenge program, started in 1989, puts an element of competition into its contributions. Each year, the senior class challenges the next year's seniors to raise a certain amount, which is raised by student campaign workers who solicit pledges from their classmates.

The class of 1994 is wrapping up its three-year campaign pledge collection of $42,522, in support of a merit scholarship and an international studies scholarship.

The class of 1995, in addition to funding an amphitheater garden at the arboretum, will also support a scholarship of merit with its gift of more than $48,000, while the class of 1996 will split its $52,629 gift between aesthetics and practicality. Part of that campaign's gift will fund the Class of 1996 University Center Art Collection, with the rest going to the Alumni Career Network.

In addition to competitive class challenges, many classes keep their school spirit charged through gifts that commemorate important reunions. Such is the case with the class of 1935, which raised $14,753 to mark its 60th reunion in 1995. In 1996, the class was able to award its first scholarship to a student in the School of Education.

Just two years ago, the class of 1954 began its scholarship effort and has crossed over the endowment mark at $12,694. Likewise, the class of 1952 marked its 45th reunion this spring by raising funds toward an endowed scholarship that will support an incoming freshman.

Many other classes have set ambitious goals. The class of 1943, for instance, is working toward raising $55,000 for its endowed scholarship in time for its 55th reunion next spring. And with $45,815 already raised, the class of 1958 has made great progress to fund an endowed Class of 1958 Eminent Scholars professorship.

Other younger classes also have ambitious goals as well. To mark its 10th reunion, the class of 1987 plans to add $10,000 to its funding for a special class scholarship.

Landscaping and scholarships, art and academic excellence - they're all part of the mosaic of class giving and, more importantly, of a constantly evolving James Madison University. From the earliest days of the Normal through the present, class spirit has made its mark on JMU. The tradition shows no signs of abating, as the class of 1997 throws down the Senior Class Challenge gauntlet to the class of 1998.

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