The Wardens are so passionate about future JMU students they’re starting a scholarship movement

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Kathy (’92) and Eric (’93) Warden said they will match new scholarship gifts up to $1.25 million pledged this calendar year to help JMU recruit and retain 100 aspiring Dukes.

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The realities of JMU’s scholarship deficit hit home for Kathy Warden (’92), who has risen from first-generation college graduate to chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman, a Fortune 100 aerospace and defense technology company.

“In the School of Business at JMU, I learned not only what I needed to perform in my career, but also how to work with others, the concept of working as a team, understanding the value one should have in the way they go about engaging in their work,” said Warden, who serves on JMU’s Board of Visitors. “It was a broad educational experience that prepared me for my career post-graduation.”

A board meeting discussion made Kathy aware that many promising and deserving students were missing out on JMU’s superior education only because they can’t afford to attend.

“I couldn't help but think about people not having the opportunity to come to JMU purely because of financial reasons—and how much the education at JMU had meant to me,” she said.

Kathy came home from that meeting with an idea: that she and her husband, Eric (’93), could start a scholarship movement to support students who need financial assistance in order to make their Madison dream a reality.

The Wardens decided to make a leadership investment of $1.25 million to help do just that.

Together, they have announced they will match, dollar for dollar, new gifts of any amount designated for immediate, renewable, need-based scholarships pledged during this calendar year. Their investment doubles new gifts up to $1.25 million to inspire donors and will help JMU recruit and retain more than 100 aspiring Dukes.

“We decided this was something we wanted to do together, to give back,” Kathy said. “As a first-generation college graduate, I understand the impact a JMU education can have on a student’s future. This Madison Experience must continue and expand to welcome students from all walks of life.”

As JMU continues to grow in stature, securing this goal for scholarships will help bridge the opportunity gap and open JMU’s doors for more students and also improve JMU’s competitiveness in student recruitment.

“Kathy and I really embrace this opportunity to give back to the university,” said Eric, retired senior managing director for Accenture. “We've been very fortunate with opportunities we've had in our careers, and I think a lot of it is based on the … educational experiences we had as students at JMU.”

“The Warden’s gift is in perfect alignment with our energies on the financial aid front," said Nick Langridge, vice president of university advancement. "When combined with our private philanthropy match, Federal Pell grants and/or state aid, their match has the power to make the Madison Experience accessible for more than 100 future Dukes who could not have afforded to attend otherwise. This is a smart investment with a team approach.”

From chance meeting to power couple

While Kathy and Eric’s professional journeys have taken them to the top of the corporate ladder, their shared story started on JMU’s campus.

The two met when one of Eric’s high school friends organized a get-together with other freshmen.

Kathy joined the group with two suitemates who happened to go to the same high school as Eric, so she attended the party with them. The chance meeting between two ambitious students—who also happened to share the same birthday and a keen interest in business and leadership—ended up creating the power duo of today.

The Wardens remember getting to know each other during those early years by going to the movies on campus and to local restaurants, including The Boston Beanery, which was located on East Market Street for more than two decades, and Tully’s, a local favorite in the ’90s.

“There's also a lot of good memories of just spending time together out on the Quad, especially in the springtime, when the weather's starting to get nice again,” Eric remembered.

They would spend the rest of their undergraduate years together, both pursuing business degrees in computer information systems. When Kathy graduated, she took a position at General Electric, while Eric started his 25-year career at Accenture, formerly Andersen Consulting.

Eric recently left his final position at Accenture as president of ASM Research, an Accenture Federal Services subsidiary, to support Kathy in her top-level role at Northrop Grumman and spend more time with their family.

Preparing students for a lifetime

As global employers, the Wardens have come to recognize the value that a JMU education provides—not only for its students, but also for the companies who hire them.

“I always found that the JMU students who came aboard at Accenture were ready to contribute and make an impact right away,” Eric said. So when Kathy first presented the idea of starting this scholarship movement, he was excited by the opportunity to give back to the university that first set them on their journey to professional success, while creating opportunities for future Dukes.

Kathy experienced the same during her career. “As an employer, I have seen firsthand how important it is for us to have students who are well rounded and balanced, both in their degree field of study, and also demonstrating soft skills, team work and creative thinking,” Kathy said. “So I really appreciate that about JMU students and want to be part of helping to create the workforce of the future, not only for my company, Northrop Grumman, but other companies that seek to have such well-rounded employees.”

The Wardens note that’s just the beginning, as JMU’s education is known for preparing students for a lifetime of success and well-being.

“The more you can do to help a young person who doesn’t have everything they need—from a financial standpoint, family support, or other resources—if you can help plug some of those gaps … it just increases the likelihood that they're going to be on a better path for the rest of their life,” Eric added.

He said he hopes JMU alumni and parents will join in the Warden Match to close some of those gaps for aspiring Dukes.

The match, Eric said, “is a very simple but impactful and powerful way to give back to the university while also making an investment in a young person.”

Kathy said she hopes this scholarship movement helps JMU open doors to deserving students to an even more diverse student population.

“I think that it's really important that as demographics shift, we are supporting families of all types to see college as an aspiration for their students, and to really help them thrive, just as I did, as a first-generation college student,” Kathy said.

C-suite exec John Hinshaw paying it forward

John Hinshaw (’92) knows firsthand how important scholarships can be. The son of two school teachers, John knew his parents couldn’t afford to pay for his tuition.

“When I started back in the Fall of 1988, I was really excited to come to James Madison,” he remembered. “But ... I was paying my own way through.”

Hinshaw, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in computer information systems, has gone on to a successful career at Verizon Wireless, Boeing and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. He is now the group chief operating officer and group managing director at HSBC in London, England.

Hinshaw juggled multiple jobs while at JMU, including a student position at Carrier Library. But it was a Pell Grant—a federal grant still given today to undergraduate students with great financial need—that helped make his Madison Experience possible.

“It very much hit home with me,” Hinshaw said of the opportunity to provide scholarships to Pell-eligible students. “It reminded me of my own challenges: ‘How would I get through school? How would I pay for school?

Today Pell grants are not enough. In fact, JMU loses one-third of Pell-eligible students because they can’t afford to come here without scholarships, according to Donna Harper, vice president for access and enrollment. “And JMU does not have the scholarships that other schools have,” she said. “Bottom line: Our national reputation as an academic institution has outpaced our resources, and it will take philanthropic funds to change that.”

That’s why Hinshaw has pledged $125,000 toward the Warden Match by starting a Dukes Pay It Forward Scholarship. He joins Blackstone Global Head of Portfolio Operations Jennifer Morgan (’93), who first told Hinshaw of the opportunity and has started her own DPIF Scholarship with a $125,000 investment.

“I think we were given a lot by the education here and can really help the next generation as well,” Hinshaw said. “And so I think as we compete for students on a national basis, the ability to give them a scholarship makes a huge difference.”

Both realize their investments carry double the impact during the Warden Match, and they want to inspire others to make scholarship gifts, of any amount, to reach $1.25 million and ultimately help secure more than $2.5 million for scholarships.

“So I would ask all of our alums to really think about the benefit you got here. I bet you got more benefit, actually, than you expected to,” Hinshaw added. “And I think now's an opportunity to give back to help the next generation.”

“I struggled to get through school 33 years ago; others are coming now. And I'm fortunate to be able to help them out,” Hinshaw said. “And then in turn, as they graduate, get a great job, they'll help out the next generation. I love that pay-it-forward aspect [to these scholarships],” he added.

“And I'm really happy to join the Wardens in this scholarship challenge.”

The Warden Match, which runs through Dec. 31, directly supports President Jonathan Alger’s aggressive focus on improving access to a JMU education. “For a university of JMU’s stature and academic reputation, scholarships are critical, especially now,” Alger said. “We must be able to compete nationally to recruit top students from all walks of life, and scholarships are the key to opening our doors.”

- By Sarah Featherstone ('14)

For more information about the Warden scholarships match visit the website

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Published: Friday, October 1, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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