"Why Madison?" Virginia Beach
President's Journal — Aug. 29
Home of Dick and Shirley Roberts ('56)
The Robertses hosted a beautiful Madison family gathering
Tonight has been a real treat. We are here in the beautiful home of Dick and Shirley Roberts, who is a 1956 graduate of Madison, in the Tidewater area of Virginia. This setting provided a wonderful family feeling for the President's Council members who came from the whole region to share their thoughts and ideas about why Madison matters to them.
'Keep our undergraduate focus' came through loud and clear
One of the messages that came through loud and clear again tonight is that we should not forget about our focus on the undergraduate because that focus is one of our core strengths as an institution. One of the comments that really hit home for me was the observation that at Madison we want our students to succeed - that JMU is not an environment where people feel like they're competing against one another. Our students are not told, "look to your right, look to your left, one of you is going to be gone after a semester."
It's exciting to hear that success is for all students
Instead we heard alumni and parents say tonight that Madison is a place where we say to everyone, "We want everybody to succeed." That emphasis on success is better for the university, it's better for all of us as a community. JMU is an environment in which we want everybody to have those opportunities to succeed and in which we support one another. That's really exciting to hear, and it's one of those things that truly distinguishes us from a lot of other universities.
Parents stay connected after their students graduate
It was interesting to hear again tonight that we have parents who stay connected long after their students have graduated from Madison. That really says something—that they have seen the difference JMU can make in the lives of their children. Plus they understand that Madison is a family—a large and inclusive family—and you join the family not just when your son or daughter is a student, but for the rest of your lives. We've been hearing from people who understand that and exemplify that. This phenomenon—having parents who are so enthusiastic and involved—also sets us apart as an institution.
Alumni recognize achieving dreams takes their support
It was nice to hear from the alumni perspective that they understand that Madison is now at a point where alumni need to step up to the plate in terms of support. Even though we are a public university, we heard tonight that they understand funding is not going to be just state support and and tuition. We're talking about our hopes and dreams and aspirations for the future and how we're going to achieve all of those goals. It's got to be a collective team effort.
When you join the family, you share with the next generation
Alumni noted tonight that they need to be very much a part of supporting the university with their time, their money and their talent. It was great to hear from people that they recognize that and that they see it as a sense of responsibility. Part of what the JMU community as a whole needs to do is cultivate that sense of responsibility—to embrace the message that when you join the family, you become part of the community, and you also have a responsibility to share with the generations that will come after you.
Extending JMU's personal touch beyond campus is important
Alumni also reminded us about the value of the personal touch. People said they want to get to know one another - the leadership of the university, the professors and other people who work at the university. They want to connect with one another as they did tonight, which is one of the fun things to see—people who either already knew each other or met each other for the first time connecting at an event like this. That personal touch is something JMU is known for. It's obviously part of the experience, as we hear from students, that made such a difference in their lives. We need to carry that personal touch beyond campus and take it around the country where we have alumni and supporters. That's what we're all about.
I'm looking forward to Northern Virginia and San Francisco
I'm really looking forward to our next listening tour events. We have a big alumni base in Northern Virginia, where we'll have a reception and where we also have a big game against West Virginia at FedEx Field at about the same time. And then we go out to California, where we have a critical mass of people in the San Francisco-Bay Area. That will be just one of our stops outside of Virginia. There will be more to come in other locations across the country.