Continuing the impact

Giving back to JMU — and getting back to campus — with Madison Trust


by Judy Kirkland


SUMMARY: Representing the JMU Alumni Association at the 2022 Madison Trust, Wei Huang expected to have fun. What he didn’t expect was to be so inspired by these projects that he'd chip in his own money, too.

International student Wei Huang (’05) loved his time at JMU as a Computer Information Systems major. He loved it so much that he added a second major — Business Management — to extend his visa to five years instead of just four.


After graduating with both majors, Huang spent 10 years working for corporate tech giants like Capital One. But more and more he found himself thinking about a JMU class he’d taken on entrepreneurship and finally began using the goal setting, budgeting and management principles learned all those years ago to strike out on his own as an entrepreneur. Today, he is a successful real estate investor and asset manager who manages his own portfolio of properties.

Making the Madison Experience last

He is also an avid supporter of JMU giving initiatives, especially those that focus on extending the impact of the Madison Experience beyond graduation. In 2020, his active involvement in giving back led to Huang joining JMU’s Alumni Association Board of Directors. Two years later, he and fellow board member Bill Luth (’85) were asked to represent the Alumni Association in the Madison Trust event.

“We jumped at the chance,” Huang recalls. “We’d heard a lot of buzz about Madison Trust. We were excited to hear presentations from JMU faculty, staff and students seeking funding for innovation projects. The Alumni Association gave us a budget of $5,000 to contribute funding to promising projects with a direct impact on the school and its graduates.” 

“We expected it to be fun,” Huang explains. “What we didn’t expect is that we’d get so passionate about these projects that we’d end up using not only the association’s budget but chipping in out of our own pockets to fund a couple extra projects.”

Entrepreneurship in action

For Luth, the “Shark Tank” moment occurred with a project focused on unmet needs for veterans attending JMU. As Tim Miller presented his proposal, Huang remembered the make-the-difference excitement he’d experienced in that pivotal class years ago. He describes how “Tim Miller’s presentation was entrepreneurship in action — clear goals, a real budget and step-by-step accounting of how he’d allot the funding to reach those goals. The moment his presentation was over, Bill and I knew we wanted to be part of this.”

After splitting the association’s donation budget between several programs, including a networking initiative providing ongoing value to JMU grads, Huang and Luth personally chipped in funding for several programs, including the veterans’ project.

“Madison Trust gives me the chance to see a tangible impact from the funding I contribute. I see where it’s supposed to go, and then at the end of the project I see something real – this is what I helped make possible.”

Having a direct hand in innovation is an entrepreneur’s dream. It’s also a Duke’s dream, giving back in ways that enable the Madison Experience to continue to exert a meaningful impact years after graduation.

“I was an international student,” says Huang. “This campus became my home. I met my future wife here. I studied for my career here. Socially, culturally, educationally JMU gave me what I needed. What I took away with me is still giving me what I need all these years later.”

For Huang, participating in the Madison Trust annual event is of course about giving back. But it’s about getting back, too. “I get real pleasure from creating tangible value. I see this same focus in Madison Trust presentations.  I give money to help fund a project, but I also get the satisfaction of seeing projects I care deeply about become real. I see tangible proof I am continuing to have an impact.”

YOU ARE INVITED to attend the 2023 Madison Trust — to join the panel of philanthropic investors as we consider this year’s top 10 new projects proposed by JMU faculty, staff and students.


Friday, March 10, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m on campus or online

Since 2014, this annual funding event has launched nearly 100 innovations and is expected to surpass $1 million in total support this spring. Seats are limited, so sign up now to be a part of this major milestone.

Madison Trust is an initiative of University Advancement managed by the office of Corporate & Foundation Relations in collaboration with colleagues across the JMU campus. 

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Published: Thursday, January 26, 2023

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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