“I can’t pay anyone back, but I can pay it forward.”
- Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas honored with 2019 Leslie Gilliam Spirit of Philanthropy Award

On May 11, 2019, Kathy Mueller Thomas (’78) received this prestigious award, presented by her daughter, Julie Thomas, with President Jon Alger and First Lady Mary Ann Alger, at the Women for Madison Summit. She and her husband, Mike Thomas (’76, ’77M), have been key philanthropic partners with the university and in 2016 established Dukes Pay It Forward at JMU. This important scholarship initiative was inspired in large part by Kathy’s experiences in college, when the support of others was crucial to her completing her degree. “I can’t pay anyone back,” Kathy has said, “but I can pay it forward.” 

About the award 

Recipients of the Leslie Gilliam Spirit of Philanthropy Award are people who commit to significant and ongoing philanthropy directed to JMU through financial, in-kind and/or volunteer support. Support from the award recipient will have had a measurable impact at JMU, and have served as an inspiration to others.

About Leslie Gilliam

Leslie Flanary Gilliam (’82) was a member of the JMU Board of Visitors, a founding member of the Women for Madison Advisory Council, and a founder of The Madison Trust. With her husband, Richard, she was a major donor to the university. Leslie died in December 2016. She embodied compassion in action and believed in the power of women working together to effect positive change. She once said, “Rallying around a common cause increases our sense of community and helps us accomplish big goals. That is where we get our heart and where we get to dream about what we can do together.” The inaugural Spirit of Philanthropy Award was presented to Leslie Gilliam posthumously in 2017.

Embodying compassion in action, Leslie believed in the power of women working together toward a common purpose to effect positive change. She once said, “Rallying around a common cause increases our sense of community and helps us accomplish big goals. That is where we get our heart and where we get to dream about what we can do together.” Everything Leslie did, she did with warmth, energy, humor and enthusiasm. She believed deeply in the power of education to change lives. Leslie was intellectually curious and exemplified the joyfulness that we’ve all come to love about the JMU community. 

 

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