Trailblazing alumna gives JMU largest cash gift

JMU News

HARRISONBURG, Va. — The estate of a 1949 JMU graduate is giving nearly $6 million to JMU, the largest cash gift in the university’s history.

The gift from the estate of Frances Weir (’49) will enable the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships to award approximately $240,000 annually in scholarship funds in perpetuity. Her endowment will support students who demonstrate financial need and who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher with scholarships that are renewable for three years.

President Jonathan R. Alger said Weir, “broke new ground throughout her career, and she has done so again with her gift to JMU. Scholarships are a top priority for the university, and Col. Weir’s gift will open doors to the Madison Experience for many promising and deserving students whose lives will be the better for it.”

Weir graduated from JMU in the class of 1949, when it was still Madison College. She studied business education and was part of many campus organizations.

After her time at JMU, Weir joined the Army as part of the Women’s Army Corps and made history with her service. She was the first woman to lead an all-male unit and the Pentagram newspaper wrote that she paved the way for women military commanders of the future. Weir was commissioned Colonel in 1971.

During her career she served in Europe, Saigon, Vietnam, at the Pentagon and on many other U.S. posts. In addition to achieving the rank of Colonel, she received many medals and stars, such as a bronze star for meritorious achievement in ground operations against hostile forces — Vietnam 1969 and two Legion of Merit awards.

Weir was a native of Winchester, Virginia, and a graduate of Handley High School. She passed away in September 2023.


Contact: Mary-Hope Vass,

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Published: Thursday, March 28, 2024

Last Updated: Thursday, April 4, 2024

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