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Class of 1984 completes $1 million campaign

Class of 1984 present a $1 million check on the field of the Bridgeforth Stadium

Class of 1984 present President Alger with a check for $1 Million during Homecoming.
By James Irwin ('06), Assistant Director, Alumni Relations,

Mike Edwards ('84, '89M) wasn't sure what to expect when he and a small group of classmates hopped on a conference call in the spring of 2009. The Class of 1984 was six months away from celebrating its 25th reunion on Homecoming weekend, and Edwards and some friends were phoning in to chat about fundraising with Kelly Snow, at the time JMU's assistant director for annual giving.

"We wanted to know if there was a standard 25th reunion gift or a campaign for the class," Edwards said. "[Kelly] said there had not been, and that's when we started talking about forming a committee."

By the time their reunion rolled around that October, the Class of 1984 "Lead the Change" committee had been formed, with Edwards and Holly Bachand Finchem ('84) in place as co-chairs. The reunion at Homecoming served not only as an event to reconnect and celebrate, but also as the launching pad for what would be a significant fundraising campaign.

Three years later, that campaign concluded with the presentation of a $1 million gift to JMU.

"When we first started we didn't know what goals we wanted to set or achieve," Edwards admitted. "Honestly, a million dollars seemed out of reach at the time."

But as the campaign gathered traction in 2010 and 2011, the unattainable began to be a real possibility — thanks in large part to a 24% participation rate among a group of people who knew that small and large donations alike would fuel the success of the project.

"Your 25th anniversary is a landmark," Finchem said. "And at the time we all looked around the table and a lot of us had kids in school and were trying to pay tuition. It's not an easy time in your life to think about large gifts, and that's where the participation number comes in."

The class entered the campaign open to suggestions, working first with Snow (now the director of annual giving) and later with associate director Heather Howarth ('08M). Through their efforts to raise money for JMU, they also discovered the pressing need for alumni giving at the university.

"The reality is," Edwards said, "when you look at private and public universities across the nation, there really needs to be a culture of giving back for the university to excel."

The understanding of JMU's needs lit a spark for the Class of 1984. It didn't become clear until early in the fall of 2012 that the $1 million goal was realistic. Once that was apparent, achieving it became top priority.

"Anytime you are the first, and you really succeed, it's very exciting," Edwards said. "We didn't enter this with the goal of setting a precedent. We just wanted to help."

They accomplished both. The Classes of 1988 and 1989 recently kicked off multi-year fundraising efforts, following the model established by 1984. The Class of 2000 has come forward to establish a class-giving effort. And Finchem hopes the campaign also builds awareness among JMU alumni that they also can make a difference through individual gifts.

Give now"JMU provides so many opportunities," she said. "And you can give to any area at any level. We hope [our graduates] think about why JMU is important to them, [that they] support the school and provide students with an opportunity to make the most of their time and education."