These kids need us now


Meet David and Jennifer Campfield: A couple so in love, facing down the problems of society every day and finding a way to make their love and their legacy last forever.

By David ('83) and Jennifer Campfield ('91, '02M)

David and Jennifer: For each of you reading this, JMU occupies a special place in your hearts. Like us, you’re thinking about how to make a difference. We hope our journey will lead you to follow your heart, too.

"I explained to the development officer that my husband is a rock star for the K-5 crowd. I remember this vividly because as I talked about this amazing man who I have the privilege of sharing my life with, I started to cry," says Jennifer Campfield ('91, '02M). "After I pulled myself together, we talked through our giving options."

Jennifer: My husband, David, and I are both JMU alums. I finished college in the traditional four years with a double major in psychology and English. David, well, let’s just say when I met him 20-odd years ago, he wasn’t sure what year he graduated. He knew the range, but not the year. He got his degree in art, with a minor in education, and he became an art teacher.

David: After teaching in an impoverished high school, I changed to elementary school. I envisioned it would be very low key by comparison. How naïve. For example, in one of my schools, 70 percent of the students are eligible to receive free or reduced lunch, and there are a high number of economically disadvantaged students in all three of the schools I work in. Many of these students have no positive male role models. At the beginning of my first year, some of the kindergarteners took one look at me and cried or wet their pants. So I developed a routine to make them feel welcome and safe.

Jennifer: While some may say I’m biased in my assessment, I know David is a truly exceptional educator. When we are together — walking downtown, in the grocery store or in Gypsy Hill Park — kids of all ages come running: “Mr. Campfield, Mr. Campfield!” They want to reconnect. He comes home and shares the details of his workdays with me — who is doing well, who is struggling, who he’s worried about. David knows that education matters. He paints a picture for kids of the grown-up world and what it takes to be successful now and in the future.

On the front lines with schoolchildren today

David: As the art teacher, I can see all the students in a school in a matter of days. The one constant amid this change is the resilience and enthusiasm of young children even in the face of the daunting challenges that are unfortunately prevalent. I can drag myself into school on a dreary Monday morning and feel instantly energized by literally hundreds of children who are genuinely happy to see me. What could be better?

Jennifer: David won’t tell you this, he won’t brag. But he is the kind of teacher movies are made of. He is dramatic when he needs to be. He will jump up on the table to get children’s attention. And he gives great art instruction. He can get a self-portrait out of a first grader that would blow your mind.

David: My philosophy is to project rampant enthusiasm in a fun environment. I develop a positive relationship that often lasts for six to seven years with these wonderful children. I envision myself as not just their art teacher but as a role model. I make a great effort to encourage my students to take a path that will lead to success in life. I have seen students change paths with tragic consequences, while others rise above adversity and go on to achieve success. This spring, as my fifth graders prepare to leave for middle school, I am excited for them, but sad to see them go. I will no longer be able to play an active role in their lives, but I know I have helped them prepare for their journey.

Campfield VideoCultivating college students of tomorrow

Jennifer: My admiration for David started an idea percolating in my mind. I reached out to Susan Fersner, a development officer at JMU, and she helped me explore our options, including leaving a gift for JMU in our will.

David: We walk the hills of Staunton a lot with our two dogs, and we talked about endowing a scholarship after we died. Well, frankly, a bequest seemed like an easy commitment to make. So we decided to do it. But that seemed like a long time to wait.

Jennifer: I had always imagined that people who endow scholarships had to plunk down a big pile of cash all at once, and I knew we couldn’t do that with David’s schoolteacher salary and mine as director of JMU Training and Development. Susan explained that we could endow a scholarship over time. Now that was appealing. After some number crunching, we thought we could make it work. So we also decided to endow a scholarship — so a student can benefit sooner.

David: Still, we realized that an endowed scholarship would be six years down the road until it’s fully funded for a student. Even though we aren’t rich, we didn’t want to wait that long.

Jennifer: We decided that we’d make an additional gift — an annual gift — each year until we fully endowed our scholarship — so that a student can benefit now. Right now. Amazing. I get to come to work every day and know that somewhere on this campus there’s a student getting a little boost from David and me. He gets to know that his legacy as a teacher lives on. And it honors the significant place that JMU holds in both of our lives.

David and Jennifer: We wanted to make a difference now. Our gift commitment is making an impact on our personal, financial bottom line. And yet we knew we needed to make these gifts. If we can contribute to a student at JMU leaving with a top-notch education and a little less debt, we’ve made a difference. If this scholarship makes it a little easier for a student to focus more on her studies and less on how she’s going to pay her bills, we’ve made a difference. We acted on our impulse to make a difference, the same one stirring in you now, and it feels really good. If David and I can make a difference in the life of a JMU student, anyone can. Please act. Give to JMU. You’ll feel great.

Three Ways We’re Making a Difference

● David and Jennifer Campfield Scholarship
● Designates: Students from David’s schools
● Bequest: Make a gift in our will
● Endowed Scholarship: Fulfill our gift over six years
● Annual Gift: Give the award amount each year
until our scholarship becomes endowed

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Published: Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Last Updated: Thursday, January 28, 2021

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