Advancing Madison 2016

University Advancement

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The momentum continues!

The momentum from last fiscal year’s banner year of giving continues! At $14,650,647 total giving to date (30 percent ahead of the same time last year), more donors than ever (18,519 so far) are responding to the vision for JMU laid out in the Madison Plan to become the national model for the engaged university. Because of your commitment to prepare educated and enlightened citizens, our donors are finding deep and meaningful opportunities to support the work of James Madison University. University Advancement appreciates the many partnerships across campus that have helped to bring those funding opportunities to light, make connections with our donors and to celebrate engagement and philanthropy together. Please take a moment to read more on these topics:

Thank you for Giving Day success


Thank you for making our first-ever Giving Day a success to be proud of across campus. From midnight March 15 to midnight March 16, the entire Madison Community came together to show financial support for the university.

Promotions, on- and off-campus events, t-shirts, special gift challenges and rewards, videos starring Alfred and Roger (our 18th-century pitchmen), and social media created a highly visible and productive 24 hours. Because Giving Day 2016 was our first, we set a conservative goal of achieving 568 gifts (our JMU phone prefix) based on the experience of first-year efforts at other universities. We blew past that goal by 11 a.m. and raised our goal twice more during the day. The online dashboard showed gifts continuing to come in as the clock ticked down. All told, alumni, students, faculty and staff, parents and friends made 2,840 gifts totaling almost $339,000. You can see more specific information about giving and participation totals to specific areas of the university online. Giving Day was an unqualified success, and I thank everyone across campus for partnering and participating. Based on your input, we intend to enhance Giving Day for next year.

$2.5 million for engineering


Alumnus Jeff Tickle (’90) has given a dramatic vote of confidence to our pioneering interdisciplinary and design-based engineering program with a generous gift of $2.5 million. President Alger announced the gift March 18 at the annual Stewardship Luncheon. Jeff’s gift to our signature engineering program is unrestricted in nature and shows the belief this Bristol, Tenn., businessman has in our vision to produce a different kind of engineer. “I look forward to watching over the next few years as Jeff’s gift helps our engineers become the innovative thinkers, makers and problem-solvers of tomorrow,” the president said. In a video interview played during the event, Jeff said, “We need students who embrace engineering, science and technology. That’s where the future of America is.” He hopes his gift will help move JMU’s engineering program to the top of many lists. Several years ago, Jeff also established a research scholarship program in the College of Science and Mathematics that so far has made an impact on 90 students and will go on to do the same for many more.

Stewardship Luncheon hits home

Jeff’s gift was one highlight of our James Madison Week Stewardship Luncheon, our annual gathering to celebrate the important role our donors play in the success of James Madison University. We welcomed more than 450 guests, including donors, faculty members and scholarship recipients. I urge to you to watch the video of this program. Donor George Payne has described the impact of this event much better than I could. Here are his words from his March 18 Facebook post. It’s worth the read:

“As we have for the past 6-7 years, Shelley Hoovler Payne and I attended the JMU Annual Stewardship Luncheon. We missed last year but only because Shelley had just gone through her reconstruction surgery. It's a real treat that we very much enjoy. 

Every year we hear from those students whose lives were impacted by the gifts they received from donors. The stories have always been powerful and would always cause tears. I ran into a fellow class of 79 classmate who I met in the fall of 1975, Joe Showker. We both agreed that this was the best luncheon ever. Not for the food, but rather for the programming.

They opened with a video interview of Raiquan Thomas (Class of 2018). A kid that grew up in Portsmouth who always loved to sing and later discovered his operatic talent. In his words, "I would not be here without the Mildred Van Dyck Scholarship." I watched this and tried not to tear up as I listened to this young man's story and his incredible voice. When the video was done, I thought to myself; wow, they should have brought him in live after the video.

The school was a step ahead and from offstage walked this young man, who launched into "This Nearly Was Mine" from South Pacific. The huge crowd went nuts when he finished. 

Story 2: "Without JMU, I would have never found this life path" opened Caitlin McAvoy, a dancer in the performing arts program. She took her enthusiasm for dance to Romania where she taught young girls who had been physically and sexually abused how to dance. These young girls had grown up hating their bodies that brought the abuse. But Caitlin helped them overcome that. Adorned in brand new tutus, ballerina suits and glitter, the young victims found hope again through dance. And they danced, and they danced, and they danced.

A quick detour on the way home to get hugs from both sons.
“Funny thing. You walk out at the end feeling like you got back way way more from these young people than you ever gave.”

Alumni Awards Banquet brings together academics and alumni

In yet another partnership, the Alumni Association and our academic community came together on March 18 for the Alumni Awards Banquet. The Alumni Association hosted this grand night to celebrate the achievements of our alumni and faculty and to strengthen the connection among alumni, faculty and students.

The JMU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Faculty Members this year were Bill Buck (Theatre and Dance), Conley McMullen (Biology) and Dave Wendelken (SMAD).

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta (’93) received the Ronald E. Carrier Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, and Jarl (’84) and Beth Bliss (’84) received the Inez Graybeal Roop (’35) Distinguished Service Award.

acosta still

The awards process for the Carrier Award was new this year, with each academic college choosing an alumnus to honor for achievement and to receive a college award. The Alumni Association Board selected Acosta from this pool of seven college recipients. Deans helped present the awards and visited with their alumni award recipients during dinner and in some cases planned activities in their colleges throughout the day.

College Award Recipients

  • Arts and Letters—Jim Acosta (’93), senior White House Correspondent, CNN
  • Business—Enrico Gaglioti (’94), CEO, Chiron Investment Management
  • Education—Dr. Stephen Geyer (’96), assistant superintendent of instruction, Goochland County Schools
  • Health and Behavioral Studies—Dr. Andrea Woodson ('94), professor of kinesiology, North Carolina Central University
  • Integrated Science and Engineering—Elayne Starkey (’84), chief security officer, State of Delaware Department of Technology and Information
  • Science and Mathematics—Dr. Timothy Persons (’93), chief scientist, U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Visual and Performing Arts—Brian Balmages (’98), composer, conductor, producer, performer

CoB Learning Complex progresses


Private fundraising support for the College of Business Learning Complex has been growing. Because we are in the advance gift phase of our campaign, we have not been sharing this information widely. However, this is yet another story of a successful partnership. Leadership giving from a core group of donors has equipped JMU to go to Richmond with a show of good faith to successfully seek an appropriation for this $80 million complex. Alumni Enrico Gaglioti (’94), Jarl (’84) and Beth (’84) Bliss, Kim (’80) and Craig Bram have led the way with their gifts totaling $2.5 million and—along with the CoB Board of Advisors—by advocating others to step forward with their investment. Efforts to secure leadership gifts will continue for this future business facility, which will help our students fully optimize their education in what is already a nationally recognized program.

Major Gifts highlights

Giving has been steady this year to many programs and causes at JMU. I’ve included just a few highlights here to show the diversity of interests our donors have for JMU.

  • Board of Visitors Rector Mike Thomas (’77) and Women for Madison EAC member Kathy Thomas (’78) have made a $2.1 million combined current major gift and estate gift. Their gift will benefit the Thomas Faculty Support Endowment in the College of Business and endow a new scholarship endeavor called Dukes Pay It Forward. The Thomases want this scholarship program to inspire scholarship support from one generation to the next. While everyone is welcome to contribute, Dukes Pay It Forward is a call to action for past alumni scholarship recipients to contribute to need-based scholarships in the near term, and ultimately inspire the recipients of Dukes Pay It Forward scholarship awards to give in the future.


  • The JMU and Harrisonburg community supporters of the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum and Botanical Garden are enjoying some welcome updates because of a $500,000 gift from the Aimee and Frank Batten Jr. Foundation. Look forward to a complete restoration of the Arboretum pond, a longtime priority of the arboretum, as well as the next overlay of design and construction at Sycamore Flat, and continued additions to the Children’s Garden. Longer-term priorities include a master plan design and implementation of an irrigation system. I urge you to visit the arboretum and enjoy this last green space in eastern Harrisonburg.

  • JMU Parents John and Robin Reifsnider have been regular participants in our successful Madison Trust events, in which JMU faculty members pitch innovative ideas to a panel of donor investors. The Reifsniders have been so impressed with the ingenuity of our faculty and staff that, in addition to investing in individual faculty projects, they have created the first Madison Trust Endowment of $100,000 to help sustain the concept of Madison Trust. They were part of the launch of Madison Trust, and love the "dynamic approach to funding innovation in higher education" and how it makes giving more interactive and entrepreneurial. 

  • I’m mentioning the $300,000 gift from former Dukes tight end and current Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats (’12) and his wife, Shonda, because it shows the well-rounded graduates we produce at JMU. The Moatses’ gift is for the Convocation Center and for a studio arts scholarship. As Arthur said, “If this gift can help young people—regardless of whether they’re student-athletes—have a better experience, I’m all for it.”

Planned Giving highlights

A growing number of our donors are choosing to make a planned or estate gift to JMU. These kinds of gifts enable donors—who might not currently be able to make the sizeable gift they would desire—to make a significant long-term impact. The purposes of these gifts stretch across the university and reflect the convergence of our donors’ passions and JMU’s opportunities and needs—yet another successful partnership! Below are just a few highlights of this increasingly popular way to give to JMU.

  • Recently, JMU received a commitment for the largest gift in JMU history. This anonymous planned gift is designated for scholarships and program support and shows that people believe in the work of James Madison University and are willing to support it!

  • Leadership support for the College of Business has come from longtime JMU friend and former CoB Dean Bob Reid. It’s clear he is a true believer in JMU! His estate gift of $650,000 will support scholarships and faculty. He hopes his gift will help inspire other faculty, faculty emeriti and alumni to make their own estate commitments.

  • Mary Trimmer Robinson (’76, ’79M) of our College of Education Executive Advancement Council, has created a planned gift to establish the Mary Trimmer Robinson ('76, '79M) Touch a Mind Scholarship Endowment in the College of Education. Her words show how strongly she believes in the power of education and the need for donors to create student scholarships:


“JMU had a profound effect on my life. I appreciate everything the university gave to me, so I want to give back. I’m very proud to be able to help a student have the Madison Experience. Not every student who wants to attend JMU can afford to attend JMU. We talk about giving scholarships. Students earn scholarships. I think that’s an important distinction. To be able say to a student, ‘You’ve done a good job, you’ve earned this extra help to attend this university’ is terrific.”

  • Retired School of Art, Design and Art History staff member Tina Updike (’73) and local businessman Phil Updike (’73) have established planned gifts that will continue their life’s work by investing in SADAH and the College of Business. Planned gifts are popular among our faculty and staff, who have devoted their careers to educating students in their disciplines and want to further enhance their legacy.

  • In a note to development officer Karen Wheatley (’80), chemistry graduate Barbara Pamplin Shell (’49) sums up the feelings of many planned gift donors, not only about their giving but also about the relationships that grow as they partner with JMU to plan their gifts:

    • “… You and I have had quite a few conversations over the past five or six years, especially in regard to a scholarship for a deserving chemistry student. Your understanding of my circumstances and your patience have always been appreciated. I wish my planned contribution could be more … Often I have pondered this subject. Having been a student without ample financial resources, I shall always be grateful to Tri Sigma for lending me funds for my senior year. My friends all have evidence of my pride in and love of JMU. … I am grateful for you working out plans with JMU for my gift. … Your friendship is treasured.”

Grants, Workshops, Madison Trust and other partnerships

Madison Trust

madison trust

With the success of the initial Madison Trust grant program, the 2015-16 academic year presented two additional opportunities for faculty and staff to put forth innovative ideas in hopes of receiving private fundraising dollars. The Fall 2015 Madison Trust event hosted 10 presentations supported by principal investors, donors and JMU administrators. The next iteration of Madison Trust will take place on Thursday, May 19, 2016.

We’re already looking forward to Madison Trust during Fall 2016. Keep an eye out for communication regarding 2016-2017 program updates and deadlines. Contact Advancement Relations with any questions.

Advancement Engagement Grants

We’re winding down another successful year with Advancement Engagement Grants. After kicking off the program during the fall semester, we received 14 proposals seeking $21,500 to support alumni engagement. We awarded support to 12 projects that are nearing completion. Each project aims to expand the reach and diversity of the advancement and engagement opportunities for our alumni. Please direct any questions to Advancement Relations.

Advancement Workshops

This year provided another opportunity to invite campus partners to engage in Advancement Workshops. Each topic presents a chance to collaborate on topics like Corporate and Foundation Relations, event planning, communications strategy and understanding alumni data. Our last workshop of the academic year will be in April highlighting mentoring and networking opportunities for alumni. We’ll welcome guest speakers from WRTC and SCOM who will share how they implement these types of opportunities for their students and alumni. In May, we’re excited to participate in several roundtables at the CFI Symposium on May 11th. See the full schedule. Please direct any questions to Advancement Relations.

Valley Scholars - golf and opportunity

Valley Scholars year-end celebration

A second successful academic year for the Valley Scholars program will culminate with a poster and presentation session at 10 .m. on Friday, April 29 in Festival Ballroom. A total of 70 students will participate, with eighth-graders completing poster boards and ninth-graders creating presentations. Supporters are welcome to attend and meet directly with students. Students will be awarded certificates of achievement, and Valley Scholars staff, mentors and family members will be in attendance. 

Golf for Valley Scholars


The Second Annual Valley Scholars Golf Classic will be held Friday, June 17, at Packsaddle Ridge Golf Club. All proceeds from the event will fund JMU’s Valley Scholars program. Sponsorship opportunities are available at levels from $100 to $2,000. Register online at or support the event as a sponsor by contacting Whitney Sajko at or 540-568-7274. 

Last year, with support from our community, we raised more than $19,000 for our valley children from our first Valley Scholars Golf Classic.

Valley Scholars is an investment in economic, workforce and cultural development in the Shenandoah Valley. Each year, 35 students from across the Valley who have potential but need support become Valley Scholars. They receive academic enrichment and mentorship from eighth grade through high school graduation, and then full scholarships to JMU if they qualify for admission.

More ways you can support Valley Scholars:

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Upcoming Events

The Big Event

In the spirit of our university's commitment to citizenship, JMU students, faculty, donors, alumni and friends gather together every spring for a day of community service, in partnership with JMU community relations, Greater Madison and the Student Government Association. This year, while the Big Event will be highly visible on campus on April 9, 2016, alumni chapters in 21 locations around the country will also be rolling up their sleeves to better their communities‑all on one day.

Bluestone Reunions


On April 26, the Alumni Association welcomes back the Classes of 1961, 1956, 1951, 1946, 1941 for their Spring Reunions. Returning alumni will participate in campus tours, dinners and time for friendship. The highlight will be Bluestone Inductions for alumni celebrating their 50th reunion. Swimmer and Zane Showker Entrepreneurial Award winner Amanda Presgraves (’16) will be a presenter at one of the events.

MAC Conference

A winner of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education's prestigious Award of Excellence, the Madison Alumni Conference will be coming up on June 3-5 MAC is an annual, weekend-long program designed to recognize alumni volunteer achievement and build a network of JMU graduates who are informed, involved and invested in shaping the future of James Madison University. 

Spoiler Alert! April Fool's Day prank results

Social media effort shows where our audience lives

As many of you already know, we had fun with an April Fool’s Day prank that caught the attention of the Washington Post. But half a million impressions and more than 32,000 video views resulting from our endeavor show the value of being where our audience is—social media. If you missed the story of retiring Wilson Hall Bell Ringer Coop Payne, it’s worth taking a look.

april fools

Social Media

  • Impressions: 511,865
  • Likes, clicks, and shares: 26,602


  • Views: 32,643 (not including views generated by media coverage)

Madison Update Email (to alumni)

  • Total Clicks: 835 (more than double the previous week's click rate)
  • Story Comprised 65% of clicks in the email

Again, on behalf of all your colleagues and partners in University Advancement, thank you. We will look for additional opportunities to continue our work together in the coming months as we drive home our giving for this fiscal year

Nick Langridge
Vice President of University Advancement

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Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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