What JMU Women Know About Changing the World

Women For Madison

SUMMARY: What do the women of the Amethyst Circle know about changing the world? That it starts by sharing the Madison experience with new students who will shape the future. And that starts with women coming together to lead a scholarship program that makes the Madison experience itself even more transformational.

For JMU students, “the Madison experience” is transformative. The dual focus on academic excellence and character—compassion, perseverance, giving back—shapes students for the rest of their lives. It’s no wonder so many alumni stay actively engaged with JMU.

With such a robust giving culture already in place, why is Women for Madison’s Amethyst Circle scholarship program generating such excitement?

Wilma Bowers ‘83 is the Chair of Women for Madison’s Executive Advisory Council. Also an Amethyst Circle Founder, Bowers offers this answer: “Because the Amethyst Circle is focused on a goal that’s even bigger than giving JMU scholarships. We’re focused on giving scholarship students the same Madison experience we had —and the same sense of responsibility to change the world for the better.”

Women-led philanthropy changes the “giving model”

Founded just a year ago, the Amethyst Circle is well on its way to funding its first $1,000,000 in need-based scholarships. Such a fast pace has been possible because this women-led philanthropy group emphasizes pooling members’ financial gifts. Working together, 200 Madison women each donate $5,000 over two years. At the end of each two-year giving cycle, the Amethyst Circle can use this million-dollar “pool” to fund 25 freshman scholarships. Each will be worth $5,000 a year, not just for the freshman year but for each of the four years.


“Being able to award $5,000 a year is so important,” Bowers explains. “JMU is often the top choice for the top students we’d like to recruit. When they don’t commit because another school offers more financial assistance, it’s heartbreaking to learn that the difference was just $1,000. Worth $20,000 over four years, the Amethyst Circle scholarships give JMU an edge in recruiting these promising freshmen.” 

Taking nothing for granted

When a scholarship removes barriers to a JMU education, students take nothing for granted. They’ve seen a sibling, friend or roommate struggle to pay for an education. They appreciate the difference their own scholarship will make. So from the very first day on campus, scholarship recipients seek opportunities to learn, engage with others and serve. No matter what they study, they work hard. It’s not unusual to see them graduate with double—even triple—majors.

One of the unique opportunities for Amethyst Circle scholarship recipients is the level of engagement they can have with the women funding this one-of-a-kind giving program. Amethyst Circle members make inspiring role models: women who don’t take it for granted that they are in a position to give back. They do so by sharing not only financial resources but also their career and life experiences.

An even richer Madison experience for everyone

Bringing prominent JMU women together in the Amethyst Circle adds to the richness of the Madison experience for scholarship recipients and members themselves. Bowers adds, “The coming together to give financially and personally is such a uniting giving model.” That unity is all the sweeter since members don’t share a major or a career path. They live across the country and around the world. They attended JMU decades apart. In fact, members’ graduation dates range from 1949 to 2018. Yet despite such different backgrounds, Amethyst Circle members are working together to remove the barriers to education for students who will contribute so much to the future.

“Our common ground is simple,” Bowers says. “We’re women who love JMU and believe that by sharing the JMU experience with others we can truly change the world.”

Learn more about JMU's Amethyst Circle

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Published: Monday, February 21, 2022

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 3, 2022

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