A couple of days ago, we received a difficult announcement: For the safety of our students, faculty and staff, most classes will be online for the remainder of September. No doubt JMU leadership wrestled with this decision and made it with a measure of both sadness and determination to get us all through this incredibly tough period.
The full impact and financial implications of this change will be significant, the extent of which is still unknown. Here’s what we do know: Each of us has our own unique Madison Experience enriched by personal relationships with students and faculty, staff and community members. That’s what makes JMU special, and it hurts to know that today’s students aren’t getting to experience it.
What can we do? We must work to ensure that, once we emerge from this pandemic, a rich Madison Experience is guaranteed for future Dukes.
And here’s something else we know: Dukes come through in a crisis. On Sunday, Mike (’76, ’77M) and Kathy (’78) Thomas kicked off Paying It Forward: JMU’s Giving Week with a $125,000 challenge for Dukes to make 2,024 gifts in honor of the Class of 2024. On Tuesday, the news came that campus life would be turned upside down. But here’s the thing: alumni continued to give. That’s extraordinary.
And then the Thomases decided to make their $125,000 contribution no matter what happens. Mike said,
Private philanthropy has become a real necessity for JMU. Those who've been fortunate need to understand that our good fortune started with the education that we got at James Madison University. Paying it forward is something all of us should try to do.
With the Thomases’ leadership, and inspiration from all the alumni who have rallied around JMU this week, Nora (’82) and Stephen (’80) Crouch also decided to award the full amount of their challenge, $50,000 in memory of Robert J. (Bobby) Morrissey (’80), as did the Women for Madison Executive Advisory Council, who are contributing $25,000 regardless of our final count.
Steadfast alumni support at all levels of giving coupled with a desire to see our students succeed also inspired two new endowed scholarships, one from Joe Russo (’95) family and another from Wes (’87) and Melissa (’90) Strong.
Carrie Combs (’07, ’09M), our director of Alumni Relations, put it this way:
Especially now, when so many families are facing financial insecurity, this generosity is a testament to the beauty of the JMU family.
Clearly, giving back is part of who we are. It’s ingrained in us to want to pay it forward for students, whether it’s with our time, our network or our financial gifts. We are all working to secure the Madison Experience: For what it was, for what it is, and for what it can be in the future, we are supporting the university today.
So we invite you to do whatever you can do to encourage our students: offer a kind word or some good advice for staying positive, or make a gift to assure them we are still in their corner and supporting them in their Madison Experience.
Thanks for showing up for our fellow Dukes,
Director, Office of Annual Giving
Paying It Forward: JMU’s Giving Week is inspired by the spirit in which Mike (’76, ’77M) and Kathy (’78) Thomas established the Dukes Pay It Forward scholarship program in 2016. The $125,000 Mike and Kathy Thomas Dukes Pay It Forward Scholarship Challenge will be unlocked when we hit 2,024 gifts! As Kathy put it when reflecting on her Madison Experience, during years when support from others was crucial to completing her degree, “I can’t pay anyone back, but I can pay it forward."
With all of JMU’s funding sources under stress, our students’ need for the support of private donations is greater than ever. Please consider joining with JMU alumni, employees, friends and families who are Paying It Forward by making a gift.
If you need assistance with your gift or designation please give us a call at (855) 568-4483 during business hours between 8AM and 5PM Monday through Friday. Outside of business hours you can visit http://bit.ly/ForwardJMU .