Making gray days brighter

JMU in the Community

Editor’s note: Betty Cinquegrana died on April 24, 2017. Her $3.49 million estate gift — the largest JMU had received to date — established an endowed chair for Ethics and Leadership in Business and a Presidential Chair for Teaching Excellence as well as additional funding for College of Education scholarships and entrepreneurship, ethics and leadership scholarships. In January 2019 Dr. Bernd Kaussler received the first award from the Cinquegrana gift

Betty Cinquegrana ('64) says she wants to give today's students the solid start her Madison Experience provided her.

Betty and Paul

While my classmates were reveling in their first taste of (relative) freedom and independence amid the beauty of Madison's bluestone campus, I remember gray winter days and gray buildings.

Quite frankly, my first student days at Madison in the early 1960s were not happy ones. I know that sounds like heresy among Madisonians, known as we are for our welcoming and positive attitudes. To be truthful, I did not even want to come to Madison in the first place. It's just that I couldn't afford to go anywhere else, and Madison was the only college to offer me the financial assistance I needed to attend college.

My mother, a divorced mom raising two children, could only afford to give me $100 toward my college expenses, and she had to borrow that $100. I think the tuition was approximately $600 a year then, but as today's struggling college students know when you don't have it, any amount seems impossible to raise.

As it turns out, Madison was exactly where I belonged.

The experience gave me everything I needed to be successful. And my Madison days were happy ones, after all. I am forever grateful that I was able to attend Madison. I thank my teachers at Louisa County High School who encouraged me to go to college. They helped me find local scholarships my freshman year so I didn't have to work during my first year at Madison.
I attended Madison for four years, graduating in 1964. My tuition, room and board were paid for by scholarships, primarily state teachers scholarships and work-study grants, which had me working in the library or in the dining hall. I would never have been able to attend Madison without the help I received.

So today I give to JMU in appreciation of having been given to by others.

I started out at Madison as a math major. I soon realized some business training would be very helpful in getting summer jobs to make some money for books, clothes and other living expenses. So I changed my major to business education, although math was thought to be a more glamorous major. That business major served me well in my teaching and in my personal life, helping my husband, Paul, in his business career.

Therefore I want to give to Madison, to business students and to future teachers. Paul and I never had children, but I feel good knowing that because of our efforts, Paul and I can help some young people who want to get an education.

Now I have a word for my Madison contemporaries. When Paul and I were preparing our wills and mentioning relatives who would be beneficiaries of some assets, Paul said he wanted the remainder of our estate to go to his high school, DeMatha Catholic High School, and his alma mater, the University of Maryland. I spoke up and said I wanted Madison in the mix. Paul wholeheartedly agreed; he just hadn't thought of it. So a word of wisdom to my fellow Madisonians: Remember JMU when you and your spouse are preparing your wills.

A word of wisdom to my fellow Madisonians: Remember JMU when you and your spouse are preparing your wills.— Betty Coe Cinquegrana (’64)

In the last year or so I have been prevailing through some health issues. As all of you who have attained my level of experience know, it's a time of looking ahead to the lasting impact and legacy we will make with our lives.

I look out over the world today, and I am often troubled by what I see. I wonder where we are headed as a nation and as a society. I am passionate about the need for free and ethical enterprise and an ethical citizenry. That's what will drive a robust economy and a culture of innovation and discovery.

I know a gift to Madison can help address the societal issues I feel passionate about and help make the world a better place. That is why my bequest will fund a chair and a scholarship for ethics and leadership in the College of Business. I am delighted to learn about the universitywide Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action program. To pick up on that insightful 2013 Orientation Week slogan, I knows complicated. That is why my bequest also supports future teachers and funds a presidential chair that will rotate around the university. Life is complicated, and we must prepare our students with the broad knowledge and skills to make wise decisions. When they graduate, the world will be in their hands.

I'm giving to Madison because I know I'm helping JMU create a brighter future. I urge you to do the same.

Betty Cinquegrana’s scholarship helped prepare recipient Bethany Mann (’12, ’13M) for great things. The Phi Beta Kappa member majored in math as an undergrad, earned her master’s in teaching at JMU and now teaches math at Staunton River Middle School in Moneta, Va.

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Published: Friday, April 5, 2013

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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