JMU set to realize its vision as the national model for the engaged university

It’s time to come together in the Madison spirit of possibility

President Alger speaking

SUMMARY: The launch of the Unleashed campaign will help JMU rise to greater prominence.

By Khalil Garriott (’04)

On Oct. 26, James Madison University announced the public launch of its second-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, including the largest commitment in the university’s history.

With goals of $200 million in total funds raised and 65,000 donors engaged by June 2022, Unleashed: The Campaign for James Madison University will help set the course for the university’s future. After three seven-figure gifts were announced, the campaign stood at $124.5 million, with contributions from nearly 45,000 members of the JMU community.

The campaign announcement by President Jonathan R. Alger marks a pivotal moment in JMU’s history, and comes amid tremendous donor momentum and alumni happenings during Homecoming Week.

“Not all of us here tonight share the same political views,” Alger said at a VIP dinner at Hotel Madison. “Not all of us here tonight are from the same cultural backgrounds or ascribe to the same religion. But we feel connected by the spirit of possibility that is so alive at JMU. Coming together and supporting this place so that this feeling can spread — that’s Unleashed.”

The fundraising campaign includes five campus-wide, nationally relevant goals: Renewing Our Civil Society, with a $15 million target (priorities: community service-learning, Ethical Reasoning in Action, study abroad, the Honors College, the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement); Opening Our Doors, an $80 million target (priorities: academic scholarships, athletic scholarships, Valley Scholars); Advancing Our Understanding, a $65 million target (priorities: entrepreneurship, faculty success, student research); Building Our Success, a $32 million target (priorities: College of Business Learning Complex, makerspaces, Union Bank & Trust Center); and Realizing Our Vision, an $8 million target (priority: the whole university).

The $200 million goal is within reach because of the commitment and generosity of donors who want to shape the ways in which JMU will change after this campaign, said Vice President for University Advancement Nick Langridge (’00, ’07M, ’14Ph.D.). 

“I am in utter awe of the spirit of those in this room," Langridge said at Hotel Madison. “It’s you who have helped elevate JMU to this point.”

Alger pointed out that philanthropy at JMU has doubled in the last three years under Langridge’s leadership. Three months ago, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education recognized JMU’s endowment as among the fastest-growing in higher education.

Joe (’76, ’77M) and Pamela Craun (’77) Damico announced a $1 million donation from the Damico Family Foundation to endow a faculty/chair for Exceptional Education in the College of Education. Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Heather Coltman called it “a wonderful and generous gift.”

“Since Madison started out as a teacher’s college, the Damico gift gets right to our essence,” Coltman said.

Julia Gilliam Sterling, daughter of the late Leslie Gilliam (’82), who was a tireless supporter of her alma mater, announced a $5.2 million commitment — the largest in JMU’s history — naming The Leslie Flanary Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business. JMU recently introduced a minor in entrepreneurship that is open to all students.

Eric (’91) and Lara Parker (’92) Major announced a seven-figure gift from the Major Family Foundation to name the Major Laboratory for Innovation, Collaboration, Creativity and Entrepreneurship in the future College of Business Learning Complex. “It’s important to us that our support go to an endeavor that encourages entrepreneurial thinking in students from all disciplines, not just those studying business,” Lara Major said.

Philanthropy research shows that the largest gift in most university capital campaigns is all the smaller gifts in the aggregate, said Chiquita King (’09, ’11M). Every gift matters. “It’s folks like me giving what we can afford, no matter how much, every year, who together will be the biggest donors to the Unleashed campaign,” King said. “That makes me so proud.”

One of King’s fellow Centennial Scholars, Katrina Shelton, will graduate in May 2019 and has endured more than her share of hardships in life.

After attending 18 different schools before JMU and being homeless at 15, Shelton’s life changed when she earned the Centennial Scholars Scholarship.

Shelton said, “I’m excited about this Unleashed campaign and about the idea that it will encourage more alumni and donors to give to JMU so that more students like me can receive a JMU education that will change their lives, too.”

Alger told Shelton on stage, “As president of James Madison University, I could not be prouder of you, and that you chose JMU to bring your strength of spirit and your resolve. All of us are better because of your determination,” he added.

JMU’s uniqueness in higher education extends beyond its immaculate campus and the positive attitude of those who live, work and study here, said Mike Thomas (’76, ’77M), former rector of the JMU Board of Visitors.

“A facet that might be most important is that JMU is especially effective at attracting top scholars who also are drawn to teach,” Thomas told the crowd. “When you think about your experience at JMU, the component that most often stands out as memorably positive is the professor who took interest in us as students. That doesn’t happen to undergraduates at other top schools.”

Unleashed had a presence during Homecoming Week, including an on-field introduction of the campaign steering committee at halftime of Saturday’s football game and T-shirts handed out to spectators.

Next, the campaign will hit the road at several regional events in the coming months. To be a part of the campaign, visit jmu.edu/unleashed.

Watch the university launch the public phase of its comprehensive campaign.

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Published: Friday, October 26, 2018

Last Updated: Monday, February 15, 2021

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