What do Isaac Asimov, Vincent Price, John Ciardi and former Virginia governors Charles Robb, John N. Dalton, and A. Linwood Holton Jr. have in common?

They were all members of James Madison University 's Diamond Anniversary Honorary Committee, invited by President Ronald E. Carrier to JMU's 75th birthday commemoration.

Announced in March of 1983, the committee was designed to recognize eminent people who have been involved with JMU over the years.

The committee included some who have been integral to the university's development, such as President Emeritus G. Tyler Miller; Althea Loose Johnston, who was a member of the first faculty; former Board of Visitors Rector Francis Bell Jr.; and former Vice Rector of the Board Martha S. Grafton.

More than 80 people were selected for the committee, drawing from the University's wide community of alumni and former faculty, administrators, speakers, visiting scholars and Board of Visitors members.

Isaac Asimov
Author Isaac Asimov spoke at JMU twice.

Isaac Asimov, an award-winning author of hundreds of science-fiction and non-fiction books, spoke twice at JMU in the late 1970s. Vincent Price, “the master of horror,” was best known as an actor in movies and TV series, but he was also an author of gourmet cookbooks, an artist, and an art collector.

Vincent Price
Film/TV star Vincent Price was a visiting artist at JMU.

Price came to the JMU campus as a visiting artist and his reply to Carrier's invitation to the honorary committee was backed with a painting reproduction from his extensive art collection.

The poet and critic John Ciardi, notable for his translations of Dante, was a visiting scholar and commencement speaker at JMU in 1975.

Many of the committee members were government officials, including then Governor Charles Robb (who was awarded an honorary doctorate at the 75th Anniversary Celebration).

Others included Secretary of the Army and former Congressman John O. “Jack” Marsh, former U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Jr., former Congressman M. Caldwell Butler , Congressman J. Kenneth Robinson and former State Senator George S. Aldhizer II.

Other committee members worked in the national news media, such as Elmer W. Lower, former ABC-TV news executive, and James J. Kilpatrick, a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist and CBS-TV “Sixty Minutes” television commentator.

The honorary committee did not convene, but its members' agreement to be recognized on the committee and their outspoken support of JMU did draw attention to the University's 75th anniversary program, which won a national citation award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

– August Smith

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