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Much like each and every one of us here, Dr. Mark J. Warner has deep ties to James Madison University and the greater Harrisonburg community. As many of you know, Dr. Warner’s journey began at James Madison in 1975 – well over 40 years ago as an undergraduate student. It is almost common knowledge that Dr. Warner has been an integral part of JMU, and that he simply ‘never left.’ Since his early days as an undergrad, serving as Resident Advisor, Dr. Warner has accumulated quite the resume. Dr. Warner’s administrative assistant, Leslie Beam, described his work experience as follows: “Dr. Warner has worked tirelessly for JMU for nearly 40 years. He started out as Assistant Director of Residence Halls in July 1981, and held 12 more positions (some concurrently) before becoming Vice President of Student Affairs in 1998.”

Leading up to his role as Senior Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Warner served as a professor popular among students and faculty, beginning each of his classes by distinctly writing, “you make a difference!” on the board. Jim McConnel, Dr. Warner’s colleague, noted that “he instilled in his students, confidence, that could be used in future leadership roles.” Outside of the classroom, Dr. Warner is noted for his ‘life’ business card that offers unwavering advice on leadership, which reads as follows:

  • Serve others unselfishly
  • Respect yourself, children, the elderly, mother earth, your neighbors, and your colleagues
  • Love others unconditionally
  • Approach the day with the attitude “I make a difference”
  • Embrace the ‘choice factor’ – the choices in your life are yours and yours alone
  • Laugh
  • Make someone else’s life brighter each day, and to…
  • Listen, listen, listen

I believe that all of us who know Dr. Mark Warner, or even just know of him, can agree that he lives by these words of his advice each day.  He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. Jim McConnel also describes him as, “emulate[ing] what Servant Leadership means, and serves as a role model for how we can incorporate ‘servant leadership’ into our actions and our attitudes on a daily basis.” Another quote I’d like to share with you that sums up his positive presence on our campus, comes from Valerie Schoolcraft: “His caring attitude is clear, as he has invited hundreds of people to have coffee with him and he has listened to ideas, concerns, and dreams. He has responded to incidents and emergencies with calm and respect for all parties concerned. He has dealt with critical issues at the intersection of public and private with respect and wisdom, seeking counsel when needed – always responding from a place of caring and dedication to the good of all involved. He has exemplified what it means to lead with a servant’s heart.”

As Dr. Warner continued to lay down a foundation for ingenuity, leadership, and success here at JMU, he was eventually asked by President Linwood Rose to move from teaching to a role in Student Affairs. Much later, when asked about his decision to take the job, he reflected, stating, “When Dr. Rose… asked me to be the Vice President of Student Affairs… it was a struggle for me because I loved the classroom so much, but at the same time the culture at Madison just wasn’t the close, friendly environment that I had grown up with here. I thought that I could help change JMU’s culture, so I accepted the position.”

Mark J. Warner’s role as Senior Vice President of Student Affairs over the past two decades has shaped and molded the James Madison University Community and culture we experience every single day.  Some of the programs that he has helped to foster and grow into what they are today include: expanding residence halls to East Campus and Grace Street; opening UPARK; expanding UREC to almost double its size; opening Student Success Center; expanding Community-Service Learning and its Alternative Break Program; expanding University Unions and developing centers such as the Dux Center, and the Presidential Leadership Academy; supporting the creation of Disability Awareness Week and a Disabilities Studies Minor; and aiding to expand the Center for Multicultural Student Services and their award-winning DEEP Impact program. These just scratch the surface of the countless changes Dr. Warner has helped bring to our community, endlessly working to lead James Madison into the bright future he envisions for us as a University. I am fortunate to be leading this award ceremony with the help of my wonderful fellow Omicron Delta Kappa members. We are honored to be giving this award to 6 recipients today.  Congratulations Mark J. Warner!  Will you please come forward to accept the 2018 All Together One Award, and receive your pin and your certificate.

Written by: Samantha King

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