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Dr. Mark Warner to retire at end of 2017-2018 academic year

by Caitlyn Read

Dr Mark Warner

SUMMARY: Culture and community aren't built by happenstance. There are keepers of the cultural flame, those who safeguard sacred values and embody what it means to be a part of something special. Over the past four decades, Dr. Mark Warner has worked to shape what it means to be a Duke, spearheading efforts to ensure that first and foremost JMU continues to be a relationship-oriented campus, where students take care of each other and understand the profound difference they can make in the world.

Dr. Warner started here as a student, earning both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from JMU. He began his tenure as a resident advisor in White Hall and has held numerous positions in JMU’s division of Administration and Finance, the President’s Office and in the division of Academic Affairs as a health sciences professor.

For the past 20 years, Dr. Warner has guided student affairs at JMU, working to help students develop the skills necessary to accomplish their dreams and realize success in all areas of life. Each and every Duke has, at some point, been involved in Student Affairs programming or services. Orientation, Residence Life, University Recreation, the Health Center, Community Service Learning and Multicultural Student Services are just some of the departments that fall under Dr. Warner’s purview.

As Dr. Warner prepares to retire from his post as Senior Vice President of Student Affairs at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year, we sat with him for a chat. While he may be leaving his administrative position, he still plans to teach “until he dies,” and has been quoted as saying he’ll be “that 80-year-old guy in class and everyone will say ‘when is Warner getting out of here?’”

40 Years is a long time. At a high level, how have you viewed your role and what has the experience been like?

MW: I see my role as helping students understand the profound difference they can make in the world, and understand that they can do it immediately. They don’t need to wait until the end of their careers – it’s making a difference today.

And the thing that’s been so exciting, has been being able to wake up every morning and think, ‘I get to go to Madison today to work and play.’ The interaction with students has always been very, very special to me. I love teaching, that’s why I’ve continued to teach.

I’ve also worked with absolutely wonderful colleagues, it’s just so nice to be able to come to a place where the people you work with are your friends. We support and encourage each other, and it’s a fun place to work. I look at Madison, and it prepared an insecure skinny little kid, and gave me confidence and opportunity. It’s been just a wonderful ride.

You’ve always said JMU students are special, can you expand on that?

MW: One of the things is that they care about each other. I love when I see students on campus giving each other a hug. It’s a relationship-oriented campus, it’s the whole notion of opening doors for each other. Our students want to make a difference and help other people. They want to learn and grow. They bring a sense of energy and such promise. I think about how much they teach all of us every day and that’s pretty cool.

The other nice thing is that I get to see them for their four years here, then I get to see what they do afterwards. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Your office faces the Quad. What are some interesting things you’ve seen from your window?

MW: The whole week of ESPN’s College GameDay was a special Madison moment and a wonderful memory. I loved GameDay, I loved being able to look out my window and see the Quad getting set up.

Another favorite memory was when I looked out my window, and saw two people standing on the kissing rock. I saw Duke Dog walking towards them and I thought, ‘Maybe they’ll get engaged.’ When I looked closer, I realized I knew them both, I had both of them in class. I got to watch the whole proposal, and when the important part was over, I flung open my window, and yelled ‘Congratulations!’ I’m sure President Alger and others have heard me yell out my window at some point.

Any other thoughts as we prepare to start the new academic year?

MW: When I welcome freshman this year, while it will carry a special significance, I’ll talk about the things I’ve always talked about – culture, mutual respect and taking care of each other.

I want my last year in this role to be a wonderful year of creating memories and not acting like it’s my last. My challenge will be to act like I’ve never done this before. I want to be able to relish experiences and create cool memories.

For students, my enduring hope is that from their Madison experience they will find joy and meaning in life, and spread it.

Has Dr. Warner made an impact on your Madison experience? Perhaps he yelled at you from his office window, or maybe you’re still hanging on to a “Life” Business card. If so, we want to hear about it. Email to share. Stories may be used to celebrate Dr. Warner’s many accomplishments.

Published: Thursday, August 24, 2017

Last Updated: Thursday, August 24, 2017

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