Campaign Update: Together, our JMU spirit has never been stronger


The following communication was sent to Unleashed: The Campaign for James Madison University donors on April 15, from Maribeth Herod, JMU Class of '82, and Tom Cowperthwaite, JMU Class of '87.

Dear Unleashed Donor,

First, thank you for supporting JMU and Unleashed: The Campaign for James Madison University. Right now, people like you who embody generosity are especially inspiring. We’re also comforted by drawing together as Dukes in spirit when we can’t be together in person.

Tom and I sincerely hope you and your loved ones are healthy during this unprecedented time. We are both fortunate to be able to work from home and are doing our best to be socially distant. Although the uncertainty of the situation can be stressful, it has provided us with an opportunity to spend quality time with family and to create unique memories together.

Speaking as alumni volunteers on the campaign steering committee, we are writing today both to recognize you as one of the nearly 54,000 donors to the campaign and to update you on how JMU is responding to the current crisis.

We’re sure you’ve heard about the unrelenting commitment that faculty members and staff have made to keep JMU’s academic programs going strong. More than 5,400 course sections — affecting more than 21,000 students — transitioned to online learning practically overnight. President Alger has sent out regular updates, including a video on March 27, that eloquently describe the work. Those updates and all of JMU’s COVID-19 communications can be found online. Students and professors are adapting, helping each other navigate new technology and new territory, much like the rest of the nation is doing with new work-from-home arrangements.

Although the students have embraced the challenge of online learning, they miss the campus as much as JMU misses them. Look at the live QuadCam, and you’ll see this familiar area of campus in all its springtime beauty, but without the students who normally would be studying and relaxing in the springtime sun. Also missing in this eerie quiet are all the high school seniors, who usually would be discovering their new college home by visiting campus. Yet here, too, JMU’s innovative spirit has sparkled. CHOICES, the annual April prospective student open house program has gone virtual. You may have seen reports on TV, and even better, you can see it for yourself!

Across the country, people are pulling together to cope with the extremely challenging realities related to this pandemic. So many of our friends and families are facing hardships caused by the economic downturn and increasing unemployment. The university has been adversely impacted as well. From costs associated with online learning and reimbursements for room and board, to the loss of revenue from athletic and performance events, partnered with the potential cuts in state funding, JMU’s budget is facing an unprecedented challenge.

In addition, in the coming months and years, the impact of COVID-19 on students’ families will make private support for scholarships more and more important. No doubt people who never imagined they’d need help will seek assistance for the first time — just when JMU’s resources will likely be stretched more than ever before. But with donors like you, we have confidence that we can get through this. Together.

Almost daily, our news feeds tell the story of JMU and Dukes everywhere stepping up to help those in need during the pandemic. Here are just a few examples:

With everything we’re all experiencing, so many are still focused on helping others. More than 300 Dukes have given in recent weeks to support JMU students’ emergency needs caused by the pandemic. Most notably, John (’82) and Julia Hinshaw made a $10,000 gift to the Madison Forever Scholarship emergency fund. To see friends of JMU stepping up to help so quickly is truly touching. This is so important because the university’s health and prospects for a financially stable future are at risk right now.

To that end, JMU has created a website which allows you to support students impacted by the pandemic. If you are in a position to join us, please do. Any amount makes a difference!

All of these efforts underscore the words of the late Alpha Spitzer ('37), a generous lifelong contributor to the university: “JMU is not just an institution of higher learning, it is a spirit ... it is a way of life.” And you, too, are a part of that spirit, and part of that special JMU way of life. Thank you!

Sending our best wishes to you and your families,


Maribeth Herod (’82)
Tom Cowperthwaite (’87)
Unleashed Campaign Steering Committee

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Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 17, 2020

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