JMU News

Online campaign event celebrates 2020 heroes

JMU set to surpass Unleashed campaign goal well ahead of schedule


SUMMARY: The COVID-19 pandemic could not prevent the JMU faithful from engaging in an online event to celebrate the heroes of 2020 and to look forward to opportunities in 2021.

By Khalil Garriott (’04)

As the university quickly closes in on achieving its $200 million goal for Unleashed: The Campaign for James Madison University—well ahead of the June 2022 target—it held an online campaign event Dec. 16, 2020, to build positive momentum.

With in-person regional events not being possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, JMU moved to an online format to engage its constituents. The theme was “Celebrating Our 2020 Heroes,” and the event featured a virtual tour of the College of Business’ new Hartman Hall. Co-hosted by Hannah Robinson (’18) and Russ Reeder (’94), the event served as a way to raise the spirits of the JMU faithful—and some funds for JMU students.

“What a year, and what a semester it’s been at JMU,” Robinson said. “There’s so much to be proud of at JMU.”

Several remarkable people connected to JMU have kept others going strong in 2020 despite its myriad challenges and uncertainties. Those heroes were highlighted and celebrated during the Unleashed event. JMU President Jonathan R. Alger led a virtual toast in honor of some JMU heroes: the JMU Duke Battalion’s 10-miler team; Lance and Cindy Kearns; the JMU faculty and the Instructional Technology team from JMU Libraries; the University Health Center staff; the JMU housekeeping and dining staffs; the JMU student body; and all Unleashed donors.

“JMU is a resilient community with a can-do attitude,” Alger said. “Even when we can’t be together physically, we’ve realized the need to recognize and maintain our interconnectedness—and to find ways to lift one another up.”

Scholarship recipients spoke about the direct impact that donors make on their lives. During a time when student scholarships are sorely needed, hearing students’ first-person accounts struck a chord with the Zoom attendees.

December 2020 graduate Isabella Bukovich said, “I’m an entirely self-funded student, so without my scholarships, I wouldn’t have been able to attend JMU in the first place. Without these scholarships, I wouldn’t have been able to obtain any of these experiences.”

Sophomore Amy Cortés, a member of the inaugural Valley Scholars class, said, “I want to be an occupational therapist … and I also have a medical Spanish minor.” Cortés was a student in the leadership seminar that Alger co-taught in the Honors College during the Fall 2020 semester.

“I am so proud of her,” Alger said.

More than 150 Dukes—many of whom made gifts to JMU when they registered and during the event—reconnected, recharged and reengaged with each other. In true JMU fashion, it was a fun, social and energizing event for all participants, who had the chance to win door prizes and to vote for the theme of the next online campaign event. At the core of the evening was celebrating why people love JMU and why they invest to unleash JMU’s promise. 

With Unleashed set to meet its $200 million goal early, Alger said that scholarship funding—particularly for recruiting students with financial need—will be the campaign's focus through its conclusion in June 2022. 

"For the donors to the Unleashed campaign, you (the three scholarship students featured at the event) show us what a great investment we have made in JMU," Reeder said. 

If you were unable to tune in live, you can watch a replay of the event on JMU’s Facebook page.

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Published: Thursday, December 17, 2020

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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