Carrying on his legacy

Proud alumni siblings keep father’s spirit alive

The Fallon family

SUMMARY: Through The Fallon Challenge, a partnership between the Fallon family and the College of Business, teams of student entrepreneurs win scholarships for their values-based business ideas.

By Khalil Garriott (’04)

If the late Rodney James Fallon could see everything his family is doing, there is no doubt he would be teeming with pride.

An innovator with an entrepreneurial spirit, Fallon created several profitable businesses using his passion for launching new ideas. According to his family, he loved everything about JMU; it’s his family’s favorite university. When visiting his children on campus, his cherished activities were walking on the Quad, dining at what was then called Top Dog and perusing the collection at the Mineral Museum. His three children are all JMU alumni and College of Business products.

“Our dad was a teacher, coach, mentor and entrepreneur — but, above all, he was our best friend and hero,” Meredythe Fallon (’12) said.

The Fallon Challenge
The Fallon family has an ongoing partnership with CoB that awards scholarships to teams of student entrepreneurs for the best values-based business ideas. It’s a passion project that all the siblings — Meredythe, Austin Fallon (’15) and Abigail Fallon (’16) — and their mother, Edythe Fallon, greatly enjoy.

“This scholarship encourages students to realize that those big ideas to change the world are realistic with the right plan and the right people,” Austin Fallon said.

An annual event that gets bigger and better every year, The Fallon Challenge will host its seventh iteration this fall in Hartman Hall. In partnership with the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship, the competitive but friendly contest is open to all majors and class years. 

“It’s a beautiful sight to see students dream big. We look for outside-of-the-box thinkers. We want to stretch students’ mindsets,” Abigail Fallon said.

Recent winners have included students who made their marks on Madison, with names like lacrosse star Halle Duenkel (’20) and Ivan Jackson (’21), former executive editor of The Breeze, having secured the $1,000 scholarship.

“The Fallon Challenge helped me to get out of my comfort zone and push myself to new levels,” said Katie Rigione (’22), a Marketing major and Fallon Challenge finalist. “This challenge reminded me to see the world through the lens of opportunities rather than problems. It taught me to not take no as the immediate answer; instead, continue to work hard and strive for a better solution.”

Donations to the Rodney J. Fallon Scholarship Fund are always needed and appreciated. Through the scholarship and The Fallon Challenge, his spirit and legacy have lived on since his death from cancer in 2011 at age 59. His family said he brought out the best in others, particularly those who sought friendship or guidance.

The late Rodney James Fallon believed in the entrepreneurial spirit of JMU students. This inspired his family to partner with the CoB to award scholarships.

“I know that my dad would be very proud of the hard work and fun that students are putting into their presentations,” said Meredythe Fallon, an Honors graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management. “With each event we hold, he’s there with us and having fun watching students stretch out of their comfort zones. We are so blessed to honor him by awarding a deserving JMU student with the Rodney J. Fallon Scholarship each year.”

In November 2021, more than 300 students, faculty members, JMU alumni, Washington, D.C.-based business leaders, local Harrisonburg entrepreneurs and Rockingham County high school students attended.

“I am sure Rod is beaming from heaven and rooting everyone on to be their very best,” Edythe Fallon said. “I am extremely impressed with all students who have pitched their ideas. They come prepared, engaged and conduct themselves in a very professional manner. I am not surprised at all that they attend JMU.”

A family affair
It’s not a stretch to say that the Fallons directly help JMU students find post-graduation success. Their shared passion lies in creating opportunities for students to bring their ideas to life. For the Fallon family, seeing talented students impress the panel of judges is the best part.

“Those lightbulb moments are definitely special to see happen in the youthful mind,” Austin Fallon said. “I love to see a young person with a dream raise up the courage to express themselves and their passions.”

All of the Fallons are involved with event preparation, planning and execution. It’s an event they anticipate each year.

“It’s the memorial for my father, reunion with JMU professors and students, and the sensation of returning home that I look forward to every year,” Austin Fallon said.

For Abigail Fallon, it’s a beautiful sight to see students dream big. “The Fallon Challenge originally started as an idea that our family had to honor our father in a fun, competitive and creative way at our family’s favorite university! An idea that evolved into a success story: entrepreneurship at its finest!”

Her sister agreed. “This event encourages students to have confidence in themselves and gives them the opportunity to get real-time feedback from judges in their entrepreneurial journeys,” Meredythe Fallon said.

After earning her master’s degree in Education from Shenandoah University in 2016, Meredythe Fallon went on to work for accounting powerhouses Deloitte and KPMG. She’s also been an award-winning teacher with Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools. Her desire for setting students up for success comes from her heart — and her father’s influence. She does it with a high-energy, positive personality all her own; her engaging, personal touch comes through every step of the way.

“Our dad loved us so much and … gave us confidence to be a light in this world,” Meredythe Fallon said. “We’ve implemented and instilled the values our dad taught us: faith, family, love, the truth, hard work, creativity and fun. We love to honor our dad through setting the stage for students in their formative years … to share their gifts with the world.”

It’s no wonder Rigione called the Fallons some of the best people she’s ever met.

“Each one of them is so charismatic, joyful and giving of themselves to others,” Rigione said. “From the stories I have heard about their dad and from meeting their mom, it makes sense why this family is so wonderful. Their father might not be here anymore, but he is definitely shining within them.”


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Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2024

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