Cover Photo Image
It was like coming home
Tina Fox

Has it really been 23 years? How could time have gone by so fast? It seems like just yesterday with diploma in hand, I ventured into a great career, moved a few times, traveled around the world, started a family (albeit a bit later than most), started a company and then just like that, I’m back home, at JMU.

This time I came home, not as a student, but as an alumnus gathering for the first Women for Madison Summit. A two-day event spanning a weekend during “May session”. 

My homebound journey started a year earlier, when through the magic of Facebook and a reconnection by a former Sigma Kappa (SK) sorority sister, Paula Polglase, to another SK, April Armstrong. Meeting up with April again was like no time had passed. April is someone I consider wise. One of those people you think have lived a thousand lives because they just know so much and can bring it together in a way that resonates. In our conversation, April mentioned how her reengagement with JMU brought her joy, opportunity and new formed friendships. She encouraged me to reengage too. When a wise friend gives you that kind of advice, you do it. 

"Women for Madison is well on its way to creating great things in philanthropy, connecting the past with the future and setting the stage for projects that will impact not only JMU, but the world." 

When I reached out to individuals looking for how best to reengage, it was like when I was a freshman and going through freshman orientation, the doors opened and there were smiles to greet me. It felt easy, it felt warm, it felt familiar, it felt like home. Turns out there are more ways to engage than I had thought. Like all universities and colleges, alums are encouraged to donate but it’s not in the way we traditionally think. It’s not just about the money. (Of course, money does help get lots of things done and needed spaces built.) But it’s far more than that. It’s about one’s time, one’s abilities and one’s experiences. It’s about giving back and in doing so, gaining so much more. 

"It’s about one’s time, one’s abilities and one’s experiences. It’s about giving back and in doing so, gaining so much more."

Like when I decided to emcee the Women In Leadership event this past Spring. I know how to run meetings and as a former Communication major, I enjoy public speaking so why not give it a go? I met other alums who I remain connected to and have since seen in local area events. My business network just grew. More importantly, I engaged a new generation of JMU women who will be leading us into the future. Their comments during and after the event left me smiling for those students chose to take a Saturday to grow as leaders and connect with those that have gone before them.

Then there was judging for the College of Business Entrepreneurship Class. Real money was on the line for the team that had the best new business idea. Talk about enlightening. I left inspired by the ingenuity, the big dreams, the determination to overcome obstacles, the exquisite plans that had been carefully thought out. Although the winner took home cash, I took home hope and happiness knowing JMU is pumping out big brains and what I hope to be big businesses that deliver cool products and services.

So of course, when told about the two day first time Women for Madison Summit, I had to go. Why not? April was right, I too had gained joy, opportunity and new formed relationships in my other JMU experiences. And wouldn’t you know it, my wise friend April was the Keynote Speaker for the event. I had to know more, see more, hear more. 

I brought with me two friends; one I had known as a student and another I only met in the last year. For me, I had the chance to deepen my connection with each of them, through this event. Two of us decided to forgo the comforts of a hotel, in town, to share a room at Potomac Hall and get the full on-campus experience. (That will be a story to tell, in and of itself, in years to come.)

The event opened in spectacular form with an “En Blanc” dinner on the Festival Student and Conference Center Lawn. The weather was perfect, the décor beautiful, the women engaging and the food; well, – I was reminded why JMU remains top ranked for campus food services in the U.S. Devine! Every detail from “sunrise yoga” to “What’s next for JMU?” (one of the five breakout sessions attendees could learn more about) was managed to perfection. See the full itinerary here.

With a packed itinerary, what I found most profound, which was highlighted in April’s Keynote, was that after over two decades, the addition of thousands more students on campus and the campus physically doubling in size, the culture should have changed, but it didn’t. The people, the campus, the atmosphere was as inviting as it had been all those years ago. 

I also found my connections deeper this time around because we all came from the same place, maybe at different times, but none the less, we were from the same hometown, of JMU. While we gathered, we laughed (a lot), we learned about ways to contribute, even though we are no longer residents of the campus. We learned how valuable we are from our years of experience and how that may be able to help the students of today and tomorrow. We learned what is on the horizon for our great university and how with each passing year, we grow bigger, better and stronger; winning awards in every category from sports to food services.

There were friends of mine that could not join this year but in hearing what they missed and seeing the posts online, have made a point to schedule this Summit for the future.  Why? Because if connecting through commonality and giving back by simply using your natural talents is of interest, then Women for Madison is where that happens. As the founder of a network of over 1,100 Women in Business in Northern VA, I have found that when women come together to get things done, it’s amazing how things get done in even bigger ways than one person alone can imagine. Women for Madison is well on its way to creating great things in philanthropy, connecting the past with the future and setting the stage for projects that will impact not only JMU, but the world. 

A simple conversation led me back home where my investment of time, talents and yes, money have more than provided me with a healthy return. To learn more about Women for Madison, email womenformadison@jmu.edu. 

I hope to connect with you at the next Women for Madison Summit, if not sooner!

Go Dukes!

Tina Fox '94 

Back to Top