JMU students sitting on the quad

James Madison University Staff Emeriti Association

2023 Year End Report

The Staff Emeriti Association just completed its ninth successful year as an approved JMU organization!  SEA is sponsored by the Office of Human Resources, with Director Chuck Flick providing funding and staffing support.  We greatly appreciate our HR connection and especially the support given by the Director, his assistant Amanda Thomas, and Julie Byers the benefits specialist.  Kathy Sarver, Director of Planned Giving, serves as our liaison to the Development Office.  Kathy regularly attends our Steering Committee meetings and membership events.  We are grateful for her advice and support.


The Steering Committee meets regularly throughout the year to work on the association’s goals, and to plan events for the membership.  The current SEA Steering Committee members are: Christina Updike (chair), Rosemary Brenner, Donna Burch, Alma Hale-Cooper, Judy Marshall, Gail May, Judy Powell, Louise White and Milla Sue Wisecarver.  Their dedicated leadership and vision are greatly appreciated.  In 2023, three committee members completed their terms of office: Jane Beach, Norma Burkholder, and Barbara Monger.  The SEA thanks them for their service.


Purpose: The Staff Emeriti Association is a multifaceted organization open to all retired full-time classified employees who have earned Emerita/us status and are 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 identified that there was a lack of awareness for the Staff Emeriti designation both on campus and in the community and a need for an Association to maintain contact with these retirees.  Our focus this year was to continue to increase awareness on the JMU campus by highlighting the process for being granted the designation and to provide quality programming to engage the membership. The following goals were identified for the Association and accomplished during the year:

Communicate with Administrators: A letter providing information on the Staff Emeriti designation outlining the nomination procedure was prepared and emailed to all academic and non-academic unit heads during spring and fall semester.  The email letter includes a link to the SEA brochure ( ).  All Director level administrators received the biannual communication.  With these efforts, there has been an increase in staff emeriti nominations submitted by supervisors for qualifying retirees and approved by the President.  There are now 308 staff emeriti; 18 were added in 2023.

Increase Awareness for members, for the campus community, and regionally: The Staff Emeriti Association website was maintained and updated throughout the year (  The website includes Steering Committee meeting minutes; the Association’s purpose and Bylaws; 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 along with an updated Welcome Message by Christina Updike, Steering Committee chair opens the website.  The staff emeriti mailbox was used for member communications and for individuals to submit questions and comments. (

On December 6, 2023 the SEA was contacted by Leah Gould, Asst. Dean for Public Service in the University of Virginia School of Law, as co-chair of the UVA Staff Senate’s Advocacy Committee requesting information on JMU’s staff emeriti program.  UVA’s Staff Senate is preparing a proposal to their leadership to start a similar program.  Christina Updike, SEA Chair, responded answering the questions of numbers of staff emeriti, how the nomination process is conducted, and the Office of Human Resources sponsorship of the association.  She provided the link to the JMU Staff Emeriti website, which has a wealth of information including the Bylaws, Policy #1318 Emeritus Staff, member benefits, the Steering Committee’s agendas, minutes, and annual reports, and a list of SEA events. Leah Gould was very appreciative of the information and will reach out if UVA needs more information.

During the year, all new Staff Emeriti receive a mailing consisting of our brochure, a letter from the Steering Committee chair, and a response card requesting contact information and permission to contact along with a self-addressed stamped envelope.  The response card queries communication and participation preferences.  The responses are used to plan activities each year.  The President’s Office sends the Chair of the SEA Steering Committee a copy of the Staff Emeriti approval letters signed by the President.  This facilitates the SEA mailing a new member packet in a timely manner and adding that member to the SEA database.


A Staff Emeriti Association column is a regular feature in JMU’s Madison Magazine, which is published three times a year. The SEA article highlights our activities throughout the year.  We send the copy for the article and photographs for each issue to the editors.


During the year, informational emails are sent to the membership.  These included event invitations, how to order tickets for faculty-staff appreciation days at athletic events, reminders of JMU’s virtual vehicle registration for staff emeriti permit parking, and other policies that affect retirees.  As a follow-up to a new JMU IT policy, 36 SEA members JMU emails were removed from the system due to their e-ID’s not being maintained and actively used for a period of one year.  We will attempt to attain valid email addresses for these staff emeriti to maintain communication with them.


Organize events for the Association: The SEA continued our monthly Dutch-treat luncheon series, which has increased member participation by having more frequent events for networking.  Several luncheons were combined with a speaker, tour, or learning component.  Eight SEA events were planned January – May and September – November.  They were enthusiastically attended this year: 

  • January tour of the Madison Union complex led by Director David Barnes and JMU’s The Pantry led by Jeremy Hawkins, Assistant director of Off Campus Life, followed by lunch at JMU’s Panera restaurant.
  • February attendance at a JMU Percussion Ensemble concert at the Forbes Center.
  • March tour of the Atlantic Union Bank Center led by Chase Bailey, Events and operations manager, followed by lunch at Vinny’s Pizzeria, Harrisonburg.
  • April networking lunch at El Charro, Harrisonburg.
  • May luncheon with address by President Jonathan Alger on the “State of the University” at JMU’s E-Hall Montpelier room, sponsored by the Office of Human Resources.
  • September networking luncheon at Cracked Pillar, Bridgewater.
  • October tour of the Lisanby Gallery’s “Highlights of the Madison Art Collection” exhibition led by Ginny Soenksen, Director of the Madison Art Collection and Lisanby Museum, followed by lunch at O’Neill’s Grill, Harrisonburg.
  • November Holiday luncheon at Cross Keys Vineyard, Mount Crawford.


For the year, we had a total of 232 attendees; an average of 29 per event.  Our highest attendances occurred at the luncheon with President Alger’s address (52) and our Holiday luncheon (45).  Enthusiasm for the continued development of the SEA was expressed by attendees throughout the year.


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. In 2023, the SEA adopted The Pantry as their new volunteer activity.  SEA support is in the form of monetary donations and needed supplies to help alleviate student food insecurity on campus, which effects 38% of the student body. This project was promoted at all our events, as well as through informational emails to our members, and instructions on “how to donate” are on our website.   During the year, the SEA has made individual gifts totaling just over $2500 and has donated nearly 50 pounds of supplies in support of a fall “Back to School” campaign.  Jeremy Hawkins, Assistant Director of Off Campus Life, thanked the SEA for their “generous donations that have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of countless students at JMU. He stated, “With your support, we've expanded our general offerings to include more consistent school supplies, dairy and non-dairy milks and creamers, and a steady supply of fresh produce. Your thoughtful contributions have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of countless students at JMU.”


The Steering Committee members also attended the annual Staff Retirement Recognition Brunch hosted by Human Resources.  In June, the 2022 retirees were recognized and in November, the 2023 retirees were recognized at the events.  At both events, SEA Steering Committee members greeted the new retirees and handed out our brochures and registration/contact cards to staff emeriti designees. Christina Updike, SEA Chair, made remarks during both programs regarding the staff emeriti designation and the activities of the Staff Emeriti Association.


Goals for 2023-2024 are:

  1. Continue to focus on membership development through increased communication and engaging the membership in new activities.
  2. Coordinate a new volunteer activity. The SEA will adopt JMU’s The Pantry.  After consultation with Jeremy Hawkins, Asst. Director of Off Campus Life and Kathy Sarver, Director of Planned Giving, support will be in the form of monetary donations and needed supplies.  This project will be promoted at all SEA events, through informational emails to the membership, and on the SEA website.
  3. Maintain awareness of the SEA on the JMU campus and in the community.


All Steering Committee members will return to serve in 2024; however, a few will be completing their terms of office this year.  During the year, other SEA members will be cultivated to serve next year.  


Respectfully submitted: 

Christina Updike (chair), Rosemary Brenner, Donna Burch, Alma Hale-Cooper, Judy Marshall, Gail May, Judy Powell, Louise White and Milla Sue Wisecarver.

January 30, 2024


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