Being the Change

A scholarship with teeth

by Jan Gillis ('07)

Zach Daniels

Madison Forever gives senior Zachary Daniels a chance to realize his dream
By Martha Graham

So when Zachary enrolled at JMU, the biological anthropology major dreamed of becoming an oral surgeon. Biological anthropology is JMU's only anthropology major leading to a Bachelor of Science degree; all others are Bachelor of Arts.Zachary Daniels loves teeth. "The only thing that is for sure through evolution is that our brains get bigger, and our teeth are changing," says the senior from Charlottesville.

"It's biologically based. You have to know genes, phenotypes, bones. I've spent days studying bone fossils, taking morphologies on skeletons. It's not just studying of man and culture and how we got here. It's how our bodies work. Why some people are more prone to disease."

He credits Carole Nash, assistant professor of anthropology and director of the Shenandoah National Park Environmental Archaeology Program, with sparking his interest in the field.

"We did field work. We went to Landes cemetery down (Interstate) 81, and we surveyed the whole thing. They wanted to know how many people were in the cemetery because it was so old, and it was such an odd location for one. We did ground penetrating radar. I got into all the gadgets and the methods and practices. Really enjoyed it."

Zach's coursework was the perfect foundation for his dream. But when the economy tanked in 2008-09, his plan was jeopardized.

"I've always been pretty lucky," Zach says. "Growing up, I benefitted from my parents doing well. Right after my first year of college, everything was starting to go wrong. The economy. Job changes.... Homeowners to not homeowners anymore."

Josh pitched in. "I was working in Charlottesville....I started working on the router table - it's a sign company - so I cut out signs, 3-D carvings, everything," he says.

"It really hit home. I've always said, 'I'll work myself. I'll get it done' ... but it wasn't going to be a possibility anymore. We needed help. There were no other options."

When Zach's brother enrolled at JMU, the situation became critical. Zach worked nights. "My grades were good, but the emotional toll it took, working a night job and then going to class and having homework and readings and tests in between, it was hard."

"My parents weren't sure how they were going to pay for our tuition my senior year. After all this, I wasn't going to be able to finish. It was a very stressful summer, trying to work out what we were going to do."

Seeking help wasn't easy—but necessary. Zach applied for and received a Madison Forever scholarship.

Madison Forever made the difference.

The scholarship "made it possible for us to not lose the opportunity to have my son graduate from JMU," Liz Daniels says. "I am truly humbled by the generosity of those individuals who have made this possible."

Madison Forever also has provided even more incentive for Zachary to succeed. "To have that sort of funding, I know I can't let anybody down. I've gotta continue doing well.....That is what I love about JMU. It's always been like that. If you have a problem, just go talk to someone, and they can work it out with you."

With graduation less than a year away, Zachary can again dream about teeth.

"I am so thankful to whoever donated the money so I can finish my education," he says. "Now I can set up that interview with the dental school."

Want to help other students stay at JMU?

Give to Madison Forever today

Published: Monday, October 1, 2012

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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