Professors you love

Doug Skelley

Photo of Professor Emeritus Doug Skelley, political science department

Giving Back: Dr. Skelley led by example

By Catherine Crooks Hill ('89)

I first met Doug Skelley in the spring semester of my junior year at JMU. It had taken me five semesters to realize that business school was not for me. I was new to the political science department; my father was dying of cancer; and I needed some help. Enter Dr. Skelley.

He helped me identify my goals and craft a plan for my academic success and professional career. He helped me navigate the red tape of switching majors late in the game. He helped me locate and apply for summer internships. He did these things without me ever asking. I imagine he knew I needed help even if I did not know it at the time. That was more than 25 years ago. I am forever grateful for his genuine interest in my well-being and success. He was a sterling example of how to give to others.

"He knew I needed help even if I did not know it at the time."

I was recently appointed as Secretary-Treasurer of the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners. This agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia ascertains the qualifications of applicants for admission to the Bar of Virginia and licenses those applicants who meet the requirements established by the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia General Assembly, and the Rules and Regulations issued by the board. This new role is a big change for me, as I spent the better part of the past 20 years as a trial attorney in the Virginia Attorney General's Office. In making the decision to accept the appointment and in transitioning to this new phase in my career, I reached out to my friends and mentors for support and guidance. It reminded me, once again, of the importance of giving back.

Photo of Professor Emeritus Doug Skelley, political science department, at 2010 All Together One ceremony
Dr. Skelley talking to students at the 2010 All Together One ceremony. Skelley received an All Together One award for embodying the spirit of JMU.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Dr. Skelley last fall when the JMU Political Science Alumni Board hosted a reception in his honor. As always, he wanted to know what all of his former students were doing. He was thrilled to learn that I had married another one of his former students, Corey Hill ('94). In true Dr. Skelley fashion, he was more interested in asking about us than talking about himself. The alumni who gathered for the event enjoyed telling him about our careers and the paths that led us to where we are now. There were lawyers, lobbyists and legislative aides. There were alumni working in non-profit management, government affairs and federal transportation project development and delivery. There were FBI analysts and alumni working with national security intelligence systems. It was an impressive group, to say the least, with an important common denominator: our time at JMU with Dr. Skelley.

Dr. Skelley was so much more than a professor to all of us. He was a mentor; someone who gave his time and attention to help us find our way. We continue to be grateful to him for all of his wisdom and advice and for helping us keep a sense of humor. And we honor him by doing the same for others.

Dr. Skelley has said that JMU students are "joiners" — they join organizations, they enjoy going to school at JMU, and they enjoy contributing to university life. For most of us, this did not end when we graduated. We have moved on with our lives and our careers, but we still give back. In the world beyond JMU, the work we do is important. But I believe that it is the relationships we make along the way that matter most.

About the professor
Professor Emeritus Doug Skelley retired from JMU in spring 2010. He is the long-time director of the MPA and PPA programs, and has mentored many students in his illustrious career. Skelley received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 1980. He teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels in public administration, including an introductory survey of public administration and advanced courses in public management which emphasize organization theory, organizational behavior, and contemporary management issues in the public sector.

About the author
Catherine Crooks Hill ('89) is chair of the JMU Political Science Alumni Board, whose members give back to JMU, devoting their time and talents to the departmental community through career workshops, fundraising initiatives and social events..

The JMU Political Science Alumni Board proudly supports the department's Endowment Honoring Retired Professors. The endowment honors all long-serving members of the political science department: Devin Bent, Paul Cline, Marion Doss, Tony Eksterowicz, Kay Knickrehm, Dick Nelson, Robin Teske, and, of course, Doug Skelley. Learn more about the endowment or make a donation online.

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Published: Saturday, June 2, 2012

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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