The Staff Emeriti Association’s third year as an approved organization was a success!  SEA is sponsored by James Madison University Human Resources, with Director Diane Yerian providing funding and staffing support.  In January, two new members were added to the SEA Steering Committee for a total of nine members (Christina Updike, Jane Beach, Norma Burkholder, Mary Ann Chatelain, Nancy Dove, Mike Lam, Gail May, Mary Lynne Smith and Milla Sue Wisecarver).  The Steering Committee met regularly (5 times) throughout 2017 with Lisa Hajdasz, Assistant to the Director of HR, to work on the goals for the year, and plan events for the membership.  We greatly appreciate our HR connection and especially the support given by Lisa Hajdasz.  Kathy Sarver, Director of Planned Giving, serves as our liaison to that Office.  She regularly attends our committee meetings and events and we are grateful for her advice and support.

Purpose: The Staff Emeriti Association is a multifaceted organization open to all retired full-time classified employees who have earned Emerita/us status and approved by the JMU President. The organization provides an opportunity for Staff Emeriti to continue to be engaged with colleagues and to maintain ties to the University. SEA is a professional and social organization that encourages the engagement of Staff Emeriti through a wide variety of activities. 

Goals: The Steering Committee discovered that there was a lack of awareness for the Staff Emeriti designation and a need for an Association to maintain contact with these retirees.  Our focus this year was to increase awareness on the JMU campus and highlight the process for being granted the status. The following goals were identified for the Association and accomplished during the year:

1. Communicate with Administrators: A new “Recommendation for Emeritus Status” form was approved in early 2017.  To increase awareness, a letter providing information on the Staff Emeriti designation outlining this new nomination procedure was prepared and emailed to all academic and non-academic unit heads during spring semester.  A yearly email notification schedule of the first week of April and the first week of November for Director level administrators and above was established.  This fall semester, two forms of communication were utilized.  In late November, a mailing that included a letter with the SEA brochure was put in the campus mail, followed by an email letter with a link to the brochure in early December.

2. Increase Awareness on campus and for members: The Staff Emeriti Association website was reorganized and updated this year (  The website includes Steering Committee meeting minutes; the Association’s purpose; event news and photo gallery; the Staff Emeriti Policy with eligibility requirements and the nomination process to receive the designation; Staff Emeriti benefits; and links to other on-campus events.  A Welcome Message by President Jon Alger with a photo from his visit to our information table at the Opening of School picnic, along with a new Welcome Message by Christina Updike, Steering Committee chair opens the website.  The picture gallery was updated to new software.  Other new links included the SEA brochure and logo, JMU Lifelong Learning Institute and volunteer activities.  The shared mailbox was used for member communications and for individuals to submit questions and comments (

A new SEA informational brochure with a logo was created by staff in the office of University Marketing and Branding to establish an identity for the association. During the year, all new Staff Emeriti receive a mailing consisting of the brochure, a letter from the steering committee chair, and a response card with return envelope.  The response card queries communication and participation preferences.  The responses are used to plan activities each year. Lisa Hajdasz receives all incoming Staff Emeriti approval letters, so she contacts new members with SEA information in a timely manner.  Lisa also printed SEA stationery and envelopes for our correspondence, along with logo labels to be used on name tags at events.

A Staff Emeriti Association column has been added to JMU’s Madison Magazine to highlight our activities throughout the year.  We send copy and pictures for each issue, which is published three times a year.

3. Organize events for the Association: Six SEA events were planned and enthusiastically attended this year: 

  • winter gathering at the JMU men’s basketball game on 2/4
  • spring luncheon followed by a guided tour of the new College of Health and Behavioral Studies building on 5/12
  • summer social at Cross Keys Vineyard’s “Finally Friday” event on 7/21
  • fall wine and cheese social at the JMU Arboretum on 9/1
  • fall gathering at a LLI Brown Bag lecture followed by lunch at Rocktown Kitchen on 9/26, and
  • Holiday Gala, which is a joint event with the Faculty Emeriti Association on 12/13. 

Out of 127 members, 69 members and guests attended at least one event.  Enthusiasm for the continued development of the SEA was expressed by attendees throughout the year and President Alger requested that he be included on the invitation list to receive news of our activities.

4. Pursue a volunteer activity: SEA is aware of the Madison Plan’s commitment to volunteerism and set a goal to carry out at least one volunteer activity at JMU to give back to the University. SEA exceeded this goal by hosting an information table at a JMU CHOICES event on 4/7 and hosting an information table at the JMU Employee Appreciation Day on 5/11, where committee members spoke to attendees and handed out our new brochures.

5. Establish Governance Structure:  By-Laws were created for SEA after studying the By-Laws of other Emeriti/Retiree Associations at JMU’s Peer Institutions.  After several drafts, the final document was approved November 7.  These are posted on our website:

Goals for the upcoming year are:

  1. Focus on membership development through increased communication and engaging the membership in new activities.
  2. Coordinate a volunteer activity.
  3. Increase awareness of the SEA on the JMU campus and in the community. 

As the Association increases in size and participation levels, discussion will continue regarding membership dues, elected officers, and adding special interest groups.

Two members will transition off the Steering Committee at the end of 2017 (Mary Ann Chatelain, Nancy Dove) and one new member (Alma Hale-Cooper) will be added in January 2018.

Respectfully submitted, January 24, 2018: 

Christina Updike (chair), Jane Beach, Norma Burkholder, Alma Hale-Cooper, Mike Lam, Gail May, Mary Lynne Smith, and Milla Sue Wisecarver.

Back to Top