Madison Magazine: Spring/Summer 2024

Page 14



Frances Weir (’49) paved the way for generations of Army women




Full Frame


Catedral Vieja

Dance students tour the Old Cathedral in Salamanca, Spain, which dates to the 12th century. Their trip also included a performance at the Reina Sofía in Madrid, site of an international exhibition of the artworks of Ben Shahn. That same day, students in the Semester in Salamanca program traveled to Madrid for a behindthe-scenes tour of the Shahn exhibition. For more on the exhibition, see Page 15.


Leadership in a time of change

President Alger reflects on leadership as the university prepares for a presidential transition

Leadership is the theme of this edition of Madison . And by now, you’ve likely heard that JMU leadership is entering a phase of transition. After serving for 12 years as president of James Madison University, it is with a true mix of emotions that I have accepted an offer to become president of American University in Washington, D.C., in July 2024. In such a time of transition, it is vitally important that JMU comes together as a community, celebrates how far we’ve come, acknowledges that our collective efforts and culture of excellence are responsible for JMU’s current momentum, and sets the table for what’s next.

In the pages of this issue, you will read about the experiences of many leaders who belong to the greater JMU community. But you will also see that leadership comes in many different forms and that leaders don’t all look alike. To me, this is the main point of presenting this issue devoted to leadership — that true leaders, while often in the spotlight, may also be working quietly and without a lot of attention.

Sometimes, real leaders are those who mainly serve others. The idea of “servant leadership” emerged in the 1970s with an essay written by Robert K. Greenleaf: “The Servant as Leader.” Greenleaf was an executive at AT&T and had the idea for his essay after reading Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse, in which Leo, the main character, is a servant. One day, Leo disappears from work, and the productivity and effectiveness of the rest of the workers falls apart, revealing that Leo was in fact a leader of sorts. Greenleaf put this theory to the test while working at AT&T, and it has gained traction over the years as an effective leadership style.

after 25 years and during one of the most exciting runs of success in JMU intercollegiate athletics history, Athletics Director Jeff Bourne represents a style of leadership not always appreciated in headlines. While he’s often in front of the camera, Bourne’s greatest impact was mostly behind the scenes.

Announcing her retirement after 47 years, Vice President of Access and Enrollment Donna Harper (’77, ’81M, ’86Ed.S.) held a dizzying array of positions in the division of Student Affairs, has led the division of Access and Enrollment — during an incredible surge of applications to JMU — and has been secretary of the Board of Visitors since the Linwood H. Rose presidency.

Bourne and Harper represent but two examples among thousands pervading our campus. Professors, advisers, counselors, coaches, nurses, housekeepers — they all perpetuate the culture at JMU. This is the reason why for decades prospective students have fallen in love with JMU the moment they set foot on campus. It’s the culture. They can feel it. It’s more than one leader; it’s more than any one administration.

Our collective efforts and culture of excellence are responsible for JMU’s current momentum.

While it’s hard to pin down the precise source of culture, I believe the outlook on life possessed by the sorts of people attracted to JMU has a lot to do with it. Throughout its history, Madison has drawn people who want to live lives of purpose and meaning. Such an outlook perpetuates a culture of embrace, a culture of humanity and a culture of excellence. At a place devoted to learning, such a culture of excellence drives people to do their best while also doing good. That’s what Being the Change is all about, and that’s what JMU is all about. This is not only powerful; it is rare. And it will persist.

Maybe not as dramatically as in Hesse’s novel, I have witnessed the impact servant leadership can have on people and organizations, and I’ve practiced servant leadership tactics for most of my career.

Among the many stories of leaders in this edition of Madison , two examples provide sound evidence that servant leaders can be effective in ways not always in the spotlight. Announcing his retirement

Presidential Perspective

Purple. Pocket-sized. Yours.

In his dedication to the common good, James Madison gave 110%.

To celebrate the legacy of the “Father of the Constitution,” first-year students were given Pocket Constitutions last August. Since then, alumni have been asking for their own. Now’s your chance!

Match Madison’s dedication with a gift of $110 to receive your own Pocket Constitution a profound piece of Madison with you.

Scan to reserve your copy today.

JMU Pocket Constitutions are 4.5"w x 7"h cloth-bound, quality hardback books including a foreword from university President Jonathan R. Alger, the full text of the Constitution and all 27 amendments, plus the Declaration of Independence. This offer is valid through June 21, 2024. (The Constitution was ratified on this day in 1788.) Pocket Constitutions will be in the mail by Independence Day, July 4, 2024. All proceeds support the Madison Vision Fund.

34 BeatGig’s roots took hold in Harrisonburg. Now based in Florida, Forbes 30 Under 30 winner Connor Feroce (’17) and co-founder Tim Mulligan (’16), left, are just getting started. BY AMY CROCKETT (’10)


1 Full Frame

Study-abroad tour of the Old Cathedral in Salamanca, Spain

2 Presidential Perspective

President Jonathan R. Alger reflects on leadership during a period of transition for the university

6 Letter From the Editor

Are leaders born or are they made?


7 Letters to the Editor

College GameDay elicits gratitude and nostalgia; Duke Dog in the clouds

8 Contributors

Some of the individuals behind this issue of Madison

10 Advancing


Highlights from JMU Giving Day; CoB Bluestone Seed Fund Challenge backs young entrepreneurs; donors’ cherished memories of Carrier Library lead to the naming of spaces in the new addition

14 News & Notes

Best Colleges for Future Leaders ranking; economic impact report; JMU-owned art on display in Spain; alumna is Virginia Business Person of the Year; Paralympic Skill Lab; REDI now a university division

17 Research

Town put ISAT graduates’ emergency drought plan to use last year


18 Faculty Focus

Spotlighting professors and administrators through the lenses of scholarship, awards and service

20 JMU Nation

Retiring AD’s legacy; Hall of Fame Class of 2024; Q&A with head football coach Bob Chesney; remembering men’s basketball coach Lefty Driesell

24 Bright Lights

Suzanne Underwood Rhodes (‘72) shares the power of verse as poet laureate of Arkansas

26 Saluting an uncommon colonel

The late Frances Weir (‘49) blazed a trail for women in the Army — and left a generous gift to her alma mater

31 Called to serve

Instructor Amelia Underwood (‘13M) uncovers military women’s stories

33 Culture of opportunity

What is it about JMU that produces so many leaders?

34 The beat goes on

Two alumni are filling a niche in the music industry with BeatGig, an online platform

38 Diplomatic security

Students in JMU’s Hack ing for Diplomacy class tackle real-world U.S. security issues abroad

40 Innovation and impact

ISAT alumni look back on the program and its signature capstone projects

42 Familiar foes

Classmates face off 30 years later as party leaders in the Virginia Senate


44 ‘Challenge and support’

Donna Harper (‘77, ‘81M, ‘86Ed.S.) is set to retire after more than four decades of service to JMU BY ANDY


46 Alumni for Life

Black alumni honor the late Forrest Parker (‘84M); staying engaged with JMU; new Alumni Association director; Richmond-area band Laburnum Park; plant-based cookies served with kindness; bowl-game watch parties; Mixed Media; Duke Dog comic strip

54 Class Notes

Scholarship thank-you; celebrations; Dukes represent JMU at university presidential inaugurations; Staff Emeriti news

64 By the Numbers

UREC is a recognized leader in the field of collegiate recreation



Online Giving Day excitement spread to campus, where fun activities gave students a new understanding of the ways generosity has built the Madison Experience. Purple cookies were handed out in the Student Success Center, prompting students to consider their “JMU Why?”

DUNN (’05) PHOTOGRAPH BY KATHY KUSHNER (’87); HACKING FOR DIPLOMACY STUDENTS BY RACHEL HOLDERMAN; COOKIES BY DIEGO CRESPO (’24) Hacking for Diplomacy students pitched security solutions at the State Department in December. Back cover: Former JMU football player and U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn (’05) launches a bid for Congress.

Letter From the Editor

Growing leaders

Are leaders born or are they made?

It’s an age-old question, one that still resonates in the halls of higher education today.

If in fact they’re born, then colleges and universities exist to serve members of this elite class as they prepare to assume their place in society. This educational model, which has been in place for centuries, is rooted in tradition with an emphasis on refinement and mastery. For the uninitiated, there’s little desire to improve one’s station in life, no true path to enlightenment. We simply fall in line behind those who are called to lead us.

Ah, but if leaders are made, then institutions of higher learning serve an altogether different purpose. Their missions are dynamic, providing opportunities for each student to achieve their full potential. Instruction is based on personal growth and professional development, with an emphasis on critical thinking, collaboration and the common good. From this fertile soil, a different type of leader — one focused on serving the organization and empowering others to become their best selves — emerges, ready to make their mark on the world.

JMU aligns clearly with the servant-leadership philosophy. Not that we don’t attract and welcome traditional leaders. Indeed, we have plenty to offer this group, from academic rigor and first-rate professors to top-notch athletic programs and hundreds of student organizations. But on the whole, JMU is in the business of producing leaders. In a review of 2,000 top U.S. executives’ resumes conducted by TIME magazine and Statista, the name “James Madison University” appeared alongside Ivy League schools, state flagships and large research universities. Although we don’t know for sure who these executives are, we know the mold from which they were cast. They’re Dukes.

So, you might be asking, what is our special sauce? What is it about the culture at JMU that produces leaders? According to professor emeritus and former Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Warner (’79, ’81M, ’85Ed.S.), who taught a popular class at JMU on leadership, the ingredients — opportunity, challenge, support and a willingness

to learn — are all readily available at other schools (Page 33). But JMU introduces them to students early in their undergraduate careers, expertly combines them, and allows them to simmer until ready to serve. The recipe can then be applied to many dishes and handed down to members of the university community. This issue is full of examples of Dukes who have led and continue to lead. Our cover story (Page 26) highlights the remarkable career of the late Frances Weir (’49), who enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps after graduating from Madison College and quickly rose through the ranks, retiring as a colonel in 1977. Her leadership, which included oversight of a mostly male combat support battalion, earned her the respect of her superior officers and paved the way for generations of future Army women. We also feature entrepreneurs Connor Feroce (’17) and Tim Mulligan (’16), cofounders of BeatGig, which provides a platform for connecting musicians and other artists with venues and event managers looking for talent (Page 34). The startup made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the 2024 Consumer Technology category.

You’ll read about Scott Surovell (’93) and Ryan McDougle (’93), who sparred as student government representatives at JMU and now serve as the Virginia Senate’s newly elected majority leader and minority leader, respectively (Page 42). We look back on 30 years of Integrated Science and Technology, a pioneering curriculum that has produced hundreds of successful graduates (Page 40). You’ll hear from Donna Harper (’77, ’81M, ’86Ed.S.), who knows a thing or two about leadership after 47 years of service to her alma mater in various administrative roles (Page 44). And we’ll take you inside last fall’s Hacking for Diplomacy class, in which students worked with a State Department bureau to devise solutions to improve security on U.S. embassies and bases around the world (Page 38).

Whether they come here as leaders, find their voices as students or grow into the role later in life, Dukes are making a name for themselves — and for JMU.


Vol. 47, No.1


Jim Heffernan (’96, ’17M)


Amy Crockett (’10)

Josette Keelor


Bill Thompson


Carolyn Windmiller (’81)


Haley Garnett


Paige Ramandanes

Lily Seely (’24)

Madison Whitley (’24)


Lilly Johns

Jane McConville (’24)


Steve Aderton (’19)

Rachel Holderman

Olive Santos (’20)

Cody Troyer


Cathy Kushner (’87)


Alumni Relations


Donor Relations

Family Engagement

University Marketing & Branding


Email: or call 1-855-568-4483


Email: or call 540-568-2664

Madison magazine, JMU, 127 W. Bruce St., MSC 3610, Harrisonburg, VA 22807

For Class Notes, go to

Madison is an official publication of James Madison University and is produced by the Division of University Advancement for alumni, parents of JMU students, faculty, staff and friends of JMU.

Editorial office: JMU, 127 W. Bruce St., MSC 3610, Harrisonburg, VA 22807


Jim Heffernan (’96, ’17M) executive editor

James Madison University does not discriminate on the basis of age, disability, race or color, height or weight, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation or belief, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, parental status (including pregnancy), marital status, family medical or genetic information in its employment, educational programs, activities and admissions. JMU complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding nondiscrimination, affirmative action and anti-harassment. JMU prohibits sexual and gender-based harassment, including sexual assault, and other forms of interpersonal violence. The responsibility for overall coordination, monitoring and information dissemination about JMU’s program of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination, Title IX and affirmative action is assigned to the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX. Inquiries or complaints may be directed to the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX: Amy Sirocky-Meck, Title IX Coordinator, 540-568-5219,



Letters to the Editor

An open letter to JMU

Dear JMU, You are on an absolute roll! Congratulations, love to see it — and it makes me miss you even more!

My home in Scottsdale, Arizona, is 2,152 miles from campus, yet seeing the absolute joy and energy coming through the TV on the Pat McAfee Show as well as ESPN College GameDay transported me right back to the Quad, the Wilson Hall steps, the sixth floor of Eagle Hall and beyond.

You meant a lot to me over the four years I spent with you. You gave me my money’s worth, and even as an 18- to 22-year-old, I remember having the presence of mind to realize in the moment, “You know, this is pretty good; soak this all in.”

The lessons you taught have been sticky and long-lasting in my personal and professional life, too.

Many companies attempt to promote a culture of “work hard, play hard.” You gave me a master class on that topic but never had to label it. With you, it was simply every weekday’s routine: a couple of classes in the morning, D-Hall or Mrs. Greens for lunch, Carrier Library or ISAT to study, UREC for a workout, and then out late with friends. Repeat.

You taught me other realworld lessons, too. Going to meet with a professor three days before a test or a paper was due? Always led to better outcomes. Funny how clients and spouses also reward that same type of thoughtful, proactive communication.

A third visit from ESPN’s College GameDay crew in November, which included a recordbreaking crowd on the Quad, prompted this letter from a proud alumnus.

You know, this is pretty good; soak this all in.

Outside of class, you showed me the invaluable benefits of immediately seeking out the people who were hosting that night’s party to avoid being just a random underclassman in the crowd. Wouldn’t you know it — saying “hello” to the priest after Mass or the principal at school drop-off also goes a long way toward being welcomed as part of a community.

What else? You’re the reason I can’t stand UVA but love the Foxfield Races. You’re the reason my group texts are exploding this week. You’re the reason my company’s logo is purple, and my youngest daughter is named Madison.

The best part of it all, JMU, is that — with respect to [former] coach Curt Cignetti — I never thought of you as a football

school. Still don’t. You’re an amazing “people school” that happens to be winning a heck of a lot of football, basketball, soccer, volleyball and field-hockey games right now. It’s fun, it’s prideful, keep it up — but we both know all the other wonderful things you bring to the table for me and my fellow Dukes. My last in-person memory of

Don’t forget to look up

A few years ago, I shot a picture of a cloud that everyone I show it to agrees looks like Duke Dog.  Ken McNulty

you was walking off the stage in Bridgeforth Stadium as the student commencement speaker at my graduation. A top-10 moment for sure, but one that needs to be refreshed with a more recent version. Let’s make that happen soon; it’s been too long. Until then, thank you, JMU, and Go Dukes!



Ciara Brennan (’17) is a writer, editor and content marketer in University Advancement. Her life goal appears to be collecting writing degrees: a Bachelor of Science in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication from JMU and a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of Galway, Ireland. She’s currently a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing at Randolph College. Brennan wrote several pieces for this issue, including the cover story on Page 26.

Rachel Holderman is a creative producer in University Marketing and Branding. She joined the Enrollment Marketing team in November as a photographer and graphic designer. She has worked in marketing roles since 2019, including at two other universities, and has her own freelance business. In addition to photography and design, she enjoys making ceramics and murals. Her photos appear throughout this issue.

Lilly Johns, an editorial assistant on the Content Marketing team, is a second-year Political Science major with a minor in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Johns has been happy to call the Shenandoah Valley home for the past two years. She will be participating in the JMU Washington Semester this fall. Her first Madison feature story, “Diplomatic Security,” begins on Page 38.

Editorial assistant Jane McConville (’24) is a fourth-year Communication Studies major and Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication minor from Richmond, Virginia. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she serves as an account manager for the student public relations firm Bluestone Communications and teaches group exercise classes at UREC. She wrote about JMU’s Paralympic Skill Lab on Page 16 and a plant-based cookie franchise on Page 51.

Design assistant Lily Seely (’24) is a senior Graphic Design major from Long Island, New York. From a young age, she has had a passion for art and design, constantly exploring new mediums to express her creativity. After graduation, Seely hopes to pursue a career in print design and branding. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family. She designed this issue’s By the Numbers on Page 64.

Alyssa Woosley, a Florida-based photographer, brings more than 15 years of expertise in capturing portraits filled with personality and emotion. Having photographed 150-plus weddings and thousands of families, couples and individuals, her portfolio is filled with cherished memories. As a sixth-generation Sarasota native, Woosley’s connection to her hometown infuses her work with its unique beauty and charm. She is inspired by Florida’s landscapes and loves capturing people in the many picturesque settings her state has to offer. For this issue of Madison, Woosley photographed Tampabased JMU entrepreneurs Connor Feroce (’17) and Tim Mulligan (’16) on Page 34.


Vol. 47, No.1


Maribeth D. Herod (’82), Rector

Christopher Falcon (’03), Vice Rector

Richard “Dickie” Bell (’88)

Teresa Edwards (’80)

Carly Fiorina

Kay Coles James

John C. Lynch (’91)

Lara P. Major (’92, ’20P)

Suzanne Obenshain

John C. Rothenberger (’88)

Steve Smith (’79)

Michael Stoltzfus

Jack White

Nicole Wood (’96)

Abigail Cannella, Student Representative

Kathy Ott Walter, Faculty Representative

Donna L. Harper (’77, ’81M, ’86Ed.S.), Secretary


Jonathan R. Alger


Jeff Bourne

Director of Athletics

Brian Charette

Special Assistant to the President, Strategic Planning and Engagement

Heather Coltman

Provost and Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs

David Kirkpatrick

Chief of Staff

Arthur Dean I I ( 93 ’99M)

Associate Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Hollie Hall

Dean of Students

Donna Harper (’77,’81M,’86Ed.S.)

Vice President, Access and Enrollment Management

Jack Knight

Senior Assistant Attorney General and University Counsel

Nick Langridge (’00,’07M, 14Ph.D )

Vice President, University Advancement

Malika Carter-Hoyt

Associate Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Bruce E. Mitchell II

Associate Vice President, Accessibility and Belonging

Tim Miller (’96, ’00M)

Vice President, Student Affairs

Rudy Molina Jr.

Vice Provost, Student Academic Success and Enrollment Management

Towana Moore

Vice President, Administration and Finance

Elizabeth Oldmixon

Vice Provost, Faculty and Curriculum

Chris Orem

Director, Institutional Research

Andy Perrine (’86)

Associate Vice President, University Marketing & Branding

Caitlyn Read (’10, ’18M)

Director, State Government Relations

Narketta Sparkman-Key

Associate Provost, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Academic Affairs

Anthony Tongen

Vice President, Research, Economic Development and Innovation

Mary-Hope Vass (’22M)

Executive Director of Communications and University Spokesperson


Linda Cabe Halpern

University Programs

Rudy Molina Jr.

Student Academic Success and Enrollment Management

Elizabeth Oldmixon

Faculty and Curriculum


Traci Zimmerman ( 92, ’94M)

Arts and Letters (interim)

Bethany Blackstone Honors

Michael Busing


Rubén Graciani

Visual and Performing Arts

Robert Kolvoord

Integrated Science and Engineering

Mark L’ Esperance


Fletcher Linder University Studies

Sharon Lovell (’85)

Health and Behavioral Studies

Bethany Nowviskie


Samantha Prins

Science and Mathematics

Nick Swartz

Professional and Continuing Education (interim)

Linda Thomas

The Graduate School


Tripp Hughes (’09)



James Atkins and Robyn Young (’24P)




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Advancing Madison

A ‘purple wave of generosity’

Dukes deliver on Giving Day

Every day is a good day to be a Duke — and JMU Giving Day is an extraordinary one. Feb. 22 was 24 hours of nonstop rallying, tallying and celebrating. The final results showed that 5,109 donors came together to give $1,062,864.87 for 106 campus causes. Of the total, 695 Dukes gave $220,673 to Athletics. As accounting continues, these numbers are likely to rise.

Did you know?

n The first gift came in at 12:03 a.m. and the last gift at 11:58 p.m.

n 613 Dukes said they gave to JMU causes for the first time.

n There were 42,124 total views of the JMU Giving Day web page.

n Gifts came in from Dukes in 46 states.

“On Giving Day, JMU takes an incredible ride on this purple wave of generosity as people make their gifts to their favorite causes at JMU,” said Karen Risch Mott, director of the Office of Annual Giving. “It’s electric! It’s also deeply meaningful to see our community come together like this. Way to go, Dukes!”

Challenge highlights

n CoB’s Fifty to Infinity surpassed the 250-donor goal and unlocked $100,000 from Richard (’81) and Alison Banziger, Nora (’82) and Steve (’80) Crouch, and Chad (’88) and Lauryn Pomeroy.

Total generosity: 317 Dukes gave $151,327.

n The Donna Harper Valley Scholars challenge surpassed its 200-donor goal and unlocked $50,000 from Carly and Frank Fiorina. Total generosity: 250 Dukes gave $109,686.

n Uncle Bijan’s Scholarship Fund, created in honor of former faculty member Bijan Saadatmand, met its match

and unlocked a $12,500 challenge gift from Joe Showker. Total generosity: 85 Dukes gave $25,804.

n Women for ALL of Madison surpassed its 88-donor goal to unlock $22,000 from the WFM Executive Advisory Council. Total generosity: 317 Dukes gave $62,135.

Top Giving Day ambassadors

Of 257 Dukes who chose to be Giving Day ambassadors, the top three won $500 each to direct to a favorite fund. Check out the number of Dukes these ambassadors inspired on JMU Giving Day:

67: Carol Benassi (’82), manager of JMU Nation

54: McKinley Melton, chair of the Furious Flower Poetry Center Advisory Board

51: Ahmet Shala, JMU global ambassador

48: Taylor Kim, coach of the JMU Dukettes

44: Cannie Campbell (’95, ’20M), associate VP for Constituent Engagement at JMU

Posters indicated the buildings and programs made possible by private dollars. Students looked for hidden MAD Money Boxes full of swag which included a monetary gift from a donor. The student got to choose the JMU fund receiving that donor’s gift. Campus celebrities served students their favorite breakfast foods in Festival at latenight breakfast. (Left): Sandra “Dutey” Dutemple (’62, ’67M) met head football coach Bob Chesney, who attended the Harrisonburg Alumni Chapter event as a special guest. (Right): The JMU Pep Band, a cappella group ReScored and Tim Miller’s band played late into the night. (Above): Progress was documented at Giving Day Headquarters. (Right): The online buzz spread to campus, where students realized the importance of giving.

100% behind young entrepreneurs

Bluestone Seed Fund Challenge hits $500K goal

If you give a Duke a goal, odds are they will rise to meet the challenge.

Last fall, Jason (’96) and Tennille Adkins were searching for a cause that would impact today’s students and have a ripple effect for years to come. Their search led them to the hottest new initiative for entrepreneurs in the College of Business: the Bluestone Seed Fund. It inspired them to issue a $100,000 matching challenge to propel the BSF to its goal of $500,000.

The challenge was successful, fortifying the fund that gives JMU students and alumni the chance to bring their entrepreneurial ideas to life by providing seed capital and mentorship. To date, the fund has invested $80,000 in 13 companies, including three “opportunistic investments” in alumni-owned startups that already had negotiated term sheets.

“I like doing something that teaches the students,” said Jason, the former CEO of a telecommunications company. The first of its kind at JMU, the BSF is offered through the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship.

The local angle of the BSF resonated with the Adkinses, who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, attended rival high schools and then met through mutual JMU connections. “Some of these [entrepreneurs] will be local Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, Shenandoah County businesses, and having grown up there, we like things that support the Valley too,” Jason said. “So this was a home run.” Andrew Forward (’86), a Harrisonburg real-estate developer, owner of Chathill & Associates and $100,000 donor to the BSF, saw the importance of the fund early on — particularly its low barrier for students across the academic spectrum to enter the entrepreneurial world. “I graduated with a Political Science major, and would have welcomed the opportunity to explore business and work with the business school to provide support and guidance in my endeavor.”

Budding investors selected as student venture associates also “gain insights into entrepreneurship from an investor’s perspective,” said Michael Rebibo (’88), emeritus member of the GCFE Executive Advisory Board and member of the College of Business Board of Advisors.

In addition to supporting students across the university, support of the BSF highlights the university’s commitment to helping students reach their professional dreams. “The Bluestone Seed Fund shows that JMU is prioritizing entrepreneurship,” said Courtney Pallotta (’00), chief marketing officer at Reprise and member of the GCFE Executive Advisory Board. “It is real evidence that the university is 100% behind helping young entrepreneurs build their own

businesses and transition from life as a student to life in the workforce.”

The seed metaphor is also an apt description of the way Jason views his support of the BSF. “Hopefully, it plants a seed that grows 20 years from now,” he said. “Somebody is going to be super successful and want to give back to the university.”

The BSF enhances JMU students’ educational experience in two ways. Student entrepreneurs pitch to an investment committee composed of JMU alumni, faculty and local professionals. For students, the typical investment is $5,000 for a 5% common stock equity stake in the company. However, students are encouraged to seek additional funding and negotiate a higher valuation if justifiable.

Student venture associates also experience the venture-funding process through the investor perspective, helping with deal flow, conducting due diligence, providing feedback on practice pitches, engaging in the deliberation process and managing the portfolio of investments.

“The university is 100% behind helping young entrepreneurs ... transition from life as a student to life in the workforce.”


Umbral Edge Games (

Ethan Howard, Engineering major

n Strategy board and card-game development company

n BSF invested $5,000 (spring 2023 investment cycle)

n BSF invested $10,000 (follow-on investment, fall 2024 investment cycle)

BarTrack (

Brett Danielson (’18) and Hunter Markle (’18), Management majors

n Sensor-enabled, beverage inventory management system

n BAF invested $10,000 (opportunistic investment, joining a $10.5 million round)

Jason (‘96) and Tennille Adkins hosted a fundraising event at their home in Kansas City, Missouri. Forward (’86) Rebibo (’88)

‘Worth the wait’

Carrier Library memories inspire alumni to name new spaces

For many alumni, Carrier Library is personal. When Susan Brown (’84) arrived on campus in 1980, the library was under renovation to meet state standards after a large influx of students and faculty members. “Like students at JMU today, I watched the ongoing construction through chainlink fences, wondering when it would be ready,” she said.

The library reopened in 1982, unveiling cozy stacks, study nooks and a plethora of research materials. “It was worth the wait,” Brown said.

These memories and personal connections have inspired alumni like Brown to invest early in the Carrier Library renovation project — slated to reopen in Fall 2026 — by naming rooms in the new space.

Supporting and naming the Accessible Technology Lab “has special meaning for our whole family,” said Becky (’93) and Dave (’93) Thomas. “Especially [our son] Dylan, because

of our collective interest in ensuring an even playing field for students with disabilities.” The Thomases also chose to invest in the Anatomy Lab to recognize their daughter, Madison (’18), who graduated with honors in Biotechnology. “The opportunity to support the learning of the entire academic community at JMU while helping to honor Dr. [Ronald E.] Carrier’s legacy made the decision to support this project easy for our family,” they said.

One alumni family feels a special connection to the library’s quiet and coveted study rooms. Michael (’91) and Jessica (’92) Donlan have fond memories of scouting out a quiet place to study or taking advantage of the library’s physical and digital research materials. Two of their sons, both Dukes, made their own library memo-

“Helping to support this next transformation for future generations to enjoy that same cultural experience just made sense to us.”
The new intellectual and cultural crossroads of campus takes shape. Scan the QR code to read more about the Carrier Library renovation and expansion:

ries. Carrier Library is “a community-gathering location that can foster a sense of belonging, no matter what a student’s particular major might be,” the Donlan family said. “Helping to support this next transformation

for future generations to enjoy that same cultural experience just made sense to us.”

For Brown, “libraries have been a kind of touchstone in my life, there for me during good times, bad times and challenging

times.” Alongside her husband, Mike, the Browns are naming the Conservation Lab, a new space celebrating print culture and dedicated to the preservation and conservation of historical books and manuscripts. “I think current students will love how original parts of the building have been discovered and reclaimed,” Brown said, “but the new construction will also offer the modern: new, panoramic views toward East Campus as well as new technologies to expand student horizons.”

Whether Dukes gravitate toward the old or the new in Carrier Library, Brown knows one thing for sure: “It’s going to be worth the wait.”

To date, alumni have invested $265,000 in the future of Carrier Library by naming the spaces that are special to them.

Vibrant East Campus views will be on full display through the windows of the Grand Reading Room in the new Carrier Library addition.

&News Notes


Madison Art Collection loans artworks to international exhibition in Spain

JMU was a leading contributor to an acclaimed five-month exhibition in Madrid, Spain, on Ben Shahn, one of the pioneers of 20th-century social realist art in the U.S.

Ben Shahn, On Nonconformity/De la No Conformidad opened Oct. 4 at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, home to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and part of the Golden Triangle of Art, along with the renowned Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. The exhibition featured important works owned by the Madison Art Collection — many of them donated by Michael Berg — that were on display at the Duke Hall Gallery in 2017. It marked the first time that the MAC has loaned artworks to a major museum overseas. The retrospective consisted of more than 200 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, hand-scripted books and commercial designs

from 50 museums, archives and private collections in the U.S. and Spain. JMU was the second-largest institutional lender to the show behind the Smithsonian.

Art history professor

Laura Katzman served as guest curator of the Ben Shahn exhibition in Madrid.

“Shahn reminds us of our shared humanity and our responsibilities to each other as human beings.”

Popular in the U.S. from the 1930s through the 1960s, Shahn’s art is best known for its support of the underdog, the marginalized and the disenfranchised, and for its protest of injustice and denouncement of prejudice and discrimination.


Laura Katzman, professor of art history and a Shahn scholar, was invited by the Reina Sofía’s director to serve as guest curator of the exhibition, which occupied the largest and most distinguished space in the museum’s historic Sabatini Building.

The exhibition drew a record number of visitors, and Katzman personally led scores of curatorial tours, scholarly workshops, student seminars and public events. Highlights from her private tours included showings for the director of the National Museum of Lithuanian Art — Shahn is a native of Lithuania — as well as for 13 female ambassadors to Spain from the European Union, Latin America, the United States, Canada and Australia on Jan. 15 to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The show was hailed by El Pais as one of the top 10 exhibitions of 2023 in Spain and selected by Art News as one of 25 “mustsee” exhibitions outside the U.S.


CVPA students performed a choreographed dance based on the Shahn exhibition in one of the Reina Sofía’s interior courtyards on Oct. 20. For more on the exhibition, including a video, scan the QR code:

Alumna is Virginia Business Person of the Year

Kristen Cavallo (’91), former CEO of the Richmond advertising firm The Martin Agency and the marketing communications network MullenLowe Global, was recognized by Virginia Business for her leadership and successes as well as for championing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

“JMU taught us to see our skills as ambidextrous and transferable, and not to depend on one or two muscles,” Cavallo said in an interview for earlier this year. “And that has been helpful in my professional life as problems come at you from all sides. Good leaders know how to ask the right questions, not just answer them. They think about how to set ambitious goals, not just measure against them.”

Cavallo recently stepped down from her executive roles in advertising to pursue political and social activism.

— Jim Heffernan (’96, ’17M)

“Good leaders know how to ask the right questions, not just answer them.”

Professor alumna introduced disability sport in kinesiology curriculum

Now in its ninth year at JMU, the Paralympic Skill Lab introduces Kinesiology students to parasports and gives them the opportunity to learn from some of the best Paralympic athletes and Para-athletes in the country.

Cathy McKay (’98), associate professor of kinesiology, started the skill lab at JMU in 2015 and has seen the growth of the program firsthand.

found plenty of research, including her own, about the impact on elementary, middle and secondary schools, but Paralympic School Day had never been used at the college level.

“When we started, we were offering the lab to just a small group of KIN 100 students, and then once we saw that it was really successful, we collected some pilot data to see what the student experience was,” McKay said. “From there, I started writing grants in order to get funding and offer it to the wider KIN 100 program. It grew from about 20 or 30 students to a reach of 300 to 400 a year.”

But for McKay, her PSL journey did not start at JMU. She conducted her dissertation research on Paralympic School Day, a program created by the International Paralympic Committee for K-12 schools. McKay

REDI elevated to university division

The former Office of Research, Economic Development and Innovation within Academic Affairs is now the Division of Research, Economic Development and Innovation.

Positioning REDI as a university divi-

“This was one of the reasons I decided to pilot it at JMU, because the K-12 research shows that it works great to change attitudes and perceptions about disability and disability sport,” McKay said. “My hope, and what I came to find out was accurate, is that it would change attitudes and perceptions about disability and disability sports for college students as well.”

As a professor, McKay sees the potential for a future of acceptance, especially among her students who have attended the skill lab for years.

“They’re our future teachers, our future business and government leaders ...” she said. “When students are able to come to an activity like the PSL, where they are able to shift the paradigm through which they view disability, then that is going to make a difference, a ripple effect.”

Read more about the Paralympic Skill Lab:

sion under the leadership of REDI Vice President Anthony Tongen reflects the increasing scope of research and economic development activity at JMU as well as its evolution as a national

research university, according to President Jonathan R. Alger.

The REDI team supports faculty and student research and scholarship; advocates for faculty and student interests; and acts as a liaison to procure, locate and secure resources, partnerships and collaborations that will move JMU’s vision and mission forward.

The lab features athletes from sitting volleyball (top), wheelchair basketball (above) and goalball.

Emergency drought plan showcases impact of ISAT capstone project

When a drought gripped Strasburg, Virginia, in 2023, a long-dormant capstone project suddenly sprang back to life, helping the town avert disaster.

The solution had emerged years before when three Integrated Science and Technology majors, Alex Pineda (’16), Alex Barnes (’16) and Ricky Rizzo (’16), developed a way to address the drought challenges faced by the small town in Shenandoah County. Under the guidance of ISAT professor Carole Nash, the team collaborated with Lee Harvey, the owner of Burnshire Hydroelectric, to revitalize Burnshire Dam, which powered nearby Woodstock, Virginia, until 1956.

During the early 1900s, many dams were constructed to supply hydroelectric energy and create reservoirs for small towns in the Shenandoah Valley. Over the years, most of these dams ceased energy production because of aging infrastructure and the introduction of a centralized power grid supplied by cooperatives or companies.

In 2012, Harvey purchased the aging Burnshire Dam to restore it using state-of-the-art generators, thereby preserving a historic site and modernizing hydroelectric power in the Valley.

Initially focusing on hydroelectricity, Pineda, Rizzo and Barnes were the first of several student groups to work at Burnshire. Originally planning to test the generators, they adapted their approach when the delivery of the generators was delayed, shifting their attention to the water powering them.

“We recognized the reservoir’s potential for supplying water. We redirected our focus to help address this problem.”

Burnshire Dam, known as a “run of river” operation, diverts some of the flow of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River to the generators while the excess water runs over the dam. Behind the dam lies an “impoundment” — a reservoir of water collected over time. During discussions with Harvey, the team learned about Strasburg’s reliance on the North Fork for its water supply and the challenges of low-water periods, which were becoming more common. “We recognized the reservoir’s potential for supplying water,” Pineda said. “We redirected our focus to help address this problem.”

To assess the impoundment’s capacity, the team conducted more than 30 depth measurements in the pool behind the dam from a canoe. They analyzed the river’s water levels using data from stream-flow gauges monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey and identified regular periods of decreased water flow. Together, these data points allowed for an estimated 37 million gallons of water in the impoundment.

Discussions with stakeholders and legal experts, including town officials and the Virginia hydrologist, addressed potential implications and impacts. In comparing the impoundment capacity with water usage, the students found that the dam could supplement Strasburg’s water demand for 23 days.

The ambitious plan sat dormant until the 2023 drought hit the Valley. Recalling the students’ proposal, Strasburg’s water plant director contacted Burnshire Hydroelectric.

Using the team’s findings, Harvey released 40 cubic feet of water per second for 10 days. According to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the students’ plan proved pivotal and accurate. Strasburg lifted its declaration of a drought emergency on Sept. 27, 2023.

The work of Pineda, Barnes and Rizzo illustrates the impact of the ISAT capstone project, demonstrating real-world solutions to daily problems. “The capstone experience allows students to showcase their understanding of complex systems and problem-solving skills, making a meaningful impact even in times of crisis,” Nash said.

Harvey describes the restoration of the dam as a new green-energy source as a “win-win-win-win for us, our future customers, the planet and, most importantly, our children.”

(Top): Water flows over the Burnshire Dam in the Shenandoah Valley. (Above): Three ISAT graduates’ work at the dam in 2016 was used to address drought challenges in 2023.


Spotlighting JMU professors and administrators through the lenses of scholarship, awards and service

Dinç directed and produced Wine Dark Sea, a 43-minute documentary film on global warming in the Mediterranean region. The project was funded by the U.S. Mission in Turkey. The film focuses on the climate change and green-economy principles in the eastern Mediterranean. Recent studies indicate that the temperatures are rising 20% faster in this area compared to the rest of the world. As a result, the daily life, environment and economy are badly affected.

At the same time, people from all walks of life and many organizations are working to minimize the negative effects of global warming in the region through positive initiatives such as renewable energy, which is being introduced at a faster pace in the Mediterra nean.

general picture of the region under the pressure of climate change, offering possible adaptation strategies and sus tainable energy options for the Mediterranean region.

Dinç has produced seven documentary films. She studied economics at Ankara University and has a master’s degree in media and culture and a Master of Fine Arts in documentary filmmaking. From 2005-13, she taught documentary filmmaking at the State University of New York at Fredo nia. Dinç was also the project director of the Youth Filmmak ing Project, teach ing young Turkish students how to make short films on democracy and human rights.

Brooks Hefner


Hefner, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of English, and Gary Holcomb, professor and chair of Ohio University’s African American Studies Department, traveled to Morocco and France to give talks on Jamaican-American author Claude McKay.

McKay was a poet and novelist born in Jamaica in 1889. After publishing his first book of poetry, Songs of Jamaica, in Kingston, he also published his

Kevin Phaup


Psecond work, Constab Ballads. He then moved to Harlem, New York, becoming one of the first African-American poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

In Morocco, Hefner and Holcomb gave a talk, “Claude McKay: Letters From Tangier,” at the Tangier American Legation Museum. Their presentation focused on McKay’s history as a writer of letters, giving particular attention to the letters written during his decade in Europe and

haup, assistant professor of industrial design, was awarded the 2023-24 Paul and Lillieanna Beck Faculty Fellowship — established by Phil (’73) and Christina Beck Updike (’73). The fellowship recognizes a full-time faculty member in the School of Art, Design and Art History who works to advance the visual arts in the JMU community, focuses on student success, and embraces new technologies in their classrooms.

In Summer 2022, Phaup pitched a concept to the Harrisonburg Electric Commission to design and construct a new area of the Explore More Children’s Museum dedicated to teaching young people about electricity, where it comes from, how it’s generated, how safe it is and more. HEC contributed $50,000 toward the design and construction of the exhibit. Phaup then spent 2023 designing and planning the exhibit, and construction began in March 2023.

North Africa and his time in Morocco. They unpacked McKay’s fascination with Moroccan culture, music and literature, as well as his remarks on the diversity of Morocco’s inhabitants and how these might have influenced his posthumously published novel Romance in Marseille. Their talk drew upon research for their upcoming book, Claude McKay: The Letters in Exile, which is scheduled for publication in 2025.

Fabrication and installation took place over the summer, and the exhibit opened in Fall 2023.

Phaup and SADAH Industrial Design students developed the installation, marking another project in Phaup’s ongoing collaboration with the museum. He plans to use the funding in his upcoming projects over the next few years, including developing a Nomadic House of Worship. “Through the support of the Virginia Urban Wood Program and my previous scholarship in skin-on-frame kayaks, I hope to produce a skin-on-frame, tent-style house of worship.” Phaup hopes that various ministries in the Harrisonburg area could use the Nomadic House of Worship for outdoor events.

Hefner Dinç (L-R): Molly Wallace (’24); Marcia Zook, museum exhibit director; Kevin Phaup; and Addie Merlo (’24)


Pili and his research team conducted a lengthy investigation tracking the Russian cargo vessel SPARTA IV. Their findings revealed that the ship, despite Russia’s claims of carrying civilian goods, was actually involved in transporting military supplies.


“It’s the making of art that brought me to JMU in the first place. It’s what inspires passionate teaching.”
— LISA TUBACH, professor of art

Sofia Samatar ENGLISH


Lisa Tubach


Before joining JMU, Pili was at the Royal United Services Institute. His work focused on monitoring how North Korea evades sanctions, often by using ships to transport illicit cargo.

Pili’s interest shifted when he learned about Russia’s evasion of sanctions and the SPARTA IV. His motivation was grounded in a belief that such actions were unreasonable from an international security perspective.

Pili used open-source intelligence from RUSI and Geollect to unveil the truth about the SPARTA IV.

For example, ship logs revealed that the SPARTA IV had voluntarily turned off its Automatic Identification System, which serves as a safety and security precaution on ships. This raised immediate concern.

The SPARTA IV mainly sailed between Tartus, Syria, and Novorossiysk, Russia. These two ports are separated by straits restricted to civilian ships. Most civilian vessels dock in regular commercial areas, even during wartime.

To determine if the “ghost ship” actually transported military cargo, Pili created an illustrated diagram with precise measurements. His calculations revealed that 17 trucks commonly used by the Russian military could fit inside the SPARTA IV. At the same time, the team used satellite imagery to confirm what the ship was carrying.

Pili’s diverse set of data confirmed that it was posing as a civilian ship to gain entry into and out of the Black Sea.

Samatar is the recipient of the 2023 College of Arts and Letters Madison Scholar Award. Each year, CAL recognizes one faculty member for their record of outstanding scholarship, research, and/or creative work and its dissemination through publication, exhibition, performance or other means.

Samatar is the author of six books: Tone (2023), The White Mosque (2022), Monster Portraits (2018), Tender: Stories (2017), The Winged Histories (2016) and A Stranger in Olondria (2013). Additionally, she has published numerous peer-reviewed articles, multiple book chapters, and many essays and pieces of short fiction.

“The most rewarding aspect of my work is the way it allows me to mediate between different genres, publics and fields,” Samatar said. “Ultimately, I see my work — both writing and teaching — as the creation of vibrant, productive contact zones.” She specializes in Arabic literature, African literature, world literature, transnational anglophone and postcolonial literature, Afrofuturism, and speculative fiction.

Her works have been nominated and selected for numerous awards: finalist for the PEN/ Jean Stein Book Award (2023); the Bernard J. Brommel Award for Biography and Memoir (2023); finalist for the Calvino Prize (2018); the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2014); the Word Fantasy Award (2014); and the William L. Crawford Award for Best Fantasy Debut (2014).

For more on her publications, visit

Sturm received the Enhancing Community through Holistic Opportunities Award from JMU’s Center for Global Engagement. This recognition is given to the director of a study-abroad program that is designed to go beyond the idea of just a “classroom in context” and embraces a “classroom within community” approach. Sturm served as a program director for Nature, Creativity and Well-Being Across the Lifespan in Scotland in Summer 2023. She was nominated for the award by her colleagues and students.

For several years, Sturm has leveraged her expertise in climate change and mental health to create a hands-on, study-abroad experience for undergraduate and graduate students. Participants regularly engage with international leaders on nature pedagogy and climate change.

In the summer program, students not only learned from local experts, but they had the opportunity to engage in community-inspired, naturepreservation programs that included all ages. Sturm arranged for the students to receive advanced training and invited them to consider how they would use their experience abroad to positively influence JMU and the surrounding community.

Sturm co-led the Scotland study abroad with Renee Staton, professor of graduate psychology, with doctoral students Shayna Finn and Sarah Johnson serving as teaching assistants.

Tubach participated in the Bajo el Olivo: International Artist Residency in the Andalusia region of Spain, where she created paintings based on the area’s influences last summer. Prior to the residency, Tubach conducted research, documenting the underwater conditions of the Alboran Sea, snorkeling along the Costa del Sol and whale watching in Tarifa. Her residency goals focused on her creative interests, including “the connectivity between marine and terrestrial ecologies, as well as other key dichotomies — such as health versus illness, macro versus micro, geological versus biological.” Tubach’s work also involves a passion for conservation efforts.

Spain’s landscape and ecology was a source of inspiration during her residency. “There were lemon trees, rosemary bushes the size of small trees and enormous queen-of-the-night cacti,” Tubach said. The country also boasts majestic bodies of water. “I learned about new species of soft corals and anemones, which I saw firsthand. I also had the opportunity to see an octopus in the wild, which was absolutely thrilling.” Spain’s snow-capped mountains and Pueblos Blancos villages were also highlights. By the end of her residency, she had garnered new experiences and artistry. “I created a body of small paintings on paper that brought together these influences of the Andalusia region,” Tubach said. Several of her pieces were featured in exhibitions in the U.S. Tubach’s Benalmádena #3 (Near Nocturne) was selected for the First Street Gallery’s 2023 National Juried Exhibition in New York City in the summer of 2023. The exhibition Intricate Oceans: Coral in Contemporary Art also showcased her work at the Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Pili Tubach Samatar Sturm

Bourne legacy

Athletic director led one of the most well-rounded athletics programs in the nation

When Jeff Bourne arrived as director of Athletics at JMU in 1999, it made sense as a next career step for the Salem, Virginia, native and Bridgewater College graduate. The question was, in a profession of climbing ladders, how long would the Bourne family stay in Harrisonburg?

“JMU immediately offered such a high quality of life from a personal and professional standpoint,” Bourne said. “It got to the point where I really felt like I was working with family members, people who I trusted and knew that when challenges came, we could rise to the occasion. I got the chance to be around my sons growing up, and my wife was able to participate and be a vital part of the experience in JMU Athletics. Also, Harrisonburg is such a beautiful place to call home.”

After 25 years and a nearly unending list of accomplishments, Bourne is stepping away from “home” and a legacy overseeing one of

the most well-rounded athletics programs in the nation. He is retiring in a manner any leader would envy, with a program experiencing a pinnacle of success across the board. Bourne is quick to pinpoint the source of that success.

“We had the opportunity to hire and retain really good people,” he noted. “It wasn’t just coaches, but it was the whole team, the support arm and everything that we do to embrace student-athletes in our program. Add the great support from campus administration, our donor base and our fans. The passion that developed from all facets made it easier for coaches to recruit and develop high-quality student-athletes. The shared commitment makes high achievements possible.”

The achievements are high in both scale and quantity. It’s easy to identify elite accomplishments, such as three national titles

(Clockwise from top left): Jeff Bourne with his family; at JMU’s Sun Belt Conference announcement; cutting down the net after the men’s basketball team won the SBC tournament in March; at an FCS football championship pregame pep rally in Frisco, Texas; with Lefty Driesell at his Athletics Hall of Fame induction; with Kenny Brooks and President Jonathan R. Alger at a women’s basketball game versus Drexel

(2004 and 2016 in FCS Football and 2018 in women’s lacrosse) or the 2021 Women’s College World Series or men’s soccer quarterfinals, among 157 total NCAA appearances. Then there’s the nearly 200 All-Americans and other individual accomplishments. JMU has become known for its achievements across all its sports programs, a fact that Bourne cites as a source of pride and a continuance of a model built by former administrators Dean Ehlers and Dr. Leotus Morrison.

When sharing his favorite memories, not surprisingly Bourne couldn’t cite just one, saying, “Obviously the national and league championships stand out. But I’m also proud of some of the success where context adds perspective, such as our women’s tennis team


breaking through 30 years of losing to William & Mary to win a conference title, or our women’s basketball program overcoming an elite program in Old Dominion and turning the tables in program status.”

Perhaps most notably, Bourne pointed to the fact that JMU is a coveted program, whether that’s for coaches to be hired or student-athletes to be recruited or, in the recent example, the school being courted by FBS conferences and joining the Sun Belt. “I think the fact that we’re a coveted program that others want to mimic says a lot. I’m not sure all of the schools in the Sun Belt knew what they were getting in JMU. Most folks who have not been to JMU underestimate our program, but once you come here and see

what’s in place, it’s eye-opening to people on the outside. It’s the same reason ESPN keeps returning for College GameDay. It’s extremely validating for everything that we’ve known internally for a long time. There is no doubt that JMU is a brand on the rise.”

That perspective of the rise of the program combined with the relationships shape how Bourne will remember his time at JMU. “I rarely think about the days where we had real challenges. I remember all the positives. It’s rare that a person comes to work in the morning and really looks forward to what they’re doing and enjoys their day. There’s just a warm joy in your heart when you’re able to look back on something that you feel like was well done and successful.”


Four elite student-athletes, two outstanding coaches and one national championship team constitute the 36th class to be inducted in the JMU Athletics Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held Sept. 6 in the Atlantic Union Bank Center.

MEREDITH (FELTS) ROWLAND (‘10) Softball (2006-2009) GREG MILLER (‘01) Baseball (1998-2001) JULIE (MARTINEZ) BOWLES (‘00) Field Hockey (1996-1999) and Lacrosse (1997-2000) ANNIE (LOWRY) YOUNG (‘08) Women’s Soccer (2004-2007) MICKEY MATTHEWS Football head coach (1999-2013) BETTY JAYNES Women’s Basketball head coach (1970-1982) 2004 FOOTBALL TEAM

Chatting with Chesney

New head football coach

Why JMU?

Bob Chesney: I’ve followed JMU for quite some time, being at the Football Championship Subdivision level. It was a perennial power, winning multiple national championships and seemingly always in the final four or even final two. I followed the transition and was very intrigued by it. Then you see College GameDay here and the chance to go bowling, and all the things that transi­

tioning teams from FCS to Football Bowl Subdivision strive to do — JMU was living it as a reality. Also, the geographic area of JMU is one that I’m familiar with, having lived in Baltimore, Maryland, for five years, and recruiting in the District, Maryland, and Virginia and into Richmond. So I knew the caliber and quality of football that was played in this area. JMU also has the proximity to football hotbeds of the DMV, New Jersey, into North Carolina, Georgia, plus all of our local Virginia areas. It felt promising for the ability to attract, and secure, good talent within a couple­mile radius of the campus.

Former position: Holy Cross football head coach

Hometown: Kulpmont, Pa. High school: Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School College: Dickinson College

Spouse: Andrea

Children: Lyla, Hudson, Bo

Why did you first decide you wanted to be a football coach?

BC: My father, my grandfather and my uncle were all football coaches. I grew up in a football family, where I felt like the whole community was involved in my father’s football team. I didn’t look at this as a profession, but I always felt like this was a way of life, because this was my calling, my purpose and what I was meant to do. There was never a doubt. I went to college and knew that this would be what I was doing.

Since you come from a football family, is it football all the time at family gatherings or other events?

BC: There’s a lot of football, but more importantly, there’s a lot of relationships that were started in some capacity around football and those individuals eventually become “family.” Even if the conversation is not about football, a lot of the beginnings of those relationships were formed in football. So yeah, it does certainly have a football lean to it the majority of the time. Now, we’re diversified in our interests and


our likes, and have many different conversations. But it seems to always fall back to your relationships, your past players, his past players, your friends, and a lot of that was formed through the amount of people you come across on a football team over a 24 ­year career. They are all now family. So other than family being a reason why you got into football, where does that passion come from?

BC: I truly like being around these collegeaged men who are trying to find their place in life. They’re trying to figure out who they are as people, and you watch them be pushed to different extremes to watch them succeed and fail, and in both of those grow. I love the X’s and O’s of football, the schematics and the chess match of football. But I really love the psychological element of watching what someone has to go through, and the ups and downs that each year in a career can bring. I watch them come in as young men and leave as grown men who have a better understanding of who they are. That’s what excites me about coaching. When it comes to style of play, what does a Bob Chesney team look like?

BC: We will be multiple. I don’t want to be just one thing. You want to be as multiple as you can, so that you’re hard to defend or have a defense that’s hard to offend. I want to test boundaries, take chances and just apply pressure from a lot of different ways. On offense, defense and special teams, be sound in your schematics

and philosophies. But, at the same time, try to be creative and think outside the box. Don’t just do things because you’ve always done them, but have the ability to innovate and constantly learn. Play fast, physical and inspired — excitable football. What’s the potential of JMU football in 2024 and longer term?

BC: That’s hard to tell at this exact moment, before spring ball. We graduated so many players, and then another 12 impactful players aren’t here. We have not done football­specific drills just yet, but as of this moment, our standards and expectations for this program are very high. When are standards and expectations not high in Harrisonburg? I hope the potential is that we’re a Top 25 team, which the Dukes have proven that we can do this past year. The goal that we all should be talking about is trying to get into that round of 12 playoff scenario. That would be the ultimate goal. What else should people know about Bob Chesney?

BC: As a father of three kids, that’s where a lot of my pride comes from. Just like I want these young men to find themselves, I do that because I once was them. The idea that you’re never complete is an important way to live your life, to always have that growth mindset and lifelong­learner mindset. I’m excited to challenge myself and to embrace this school and community, and excited for them to do the same with my family and me.

Remembering legendary basketball coach Lefty Driesell

Charles “Lefty”

Driesell, a member of the James Madison Athletics Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, passed away on Feb. 17 at age 92. He led four programs to the NCAA Tournament, including JMU in 1994, and is the only coach in NCAA history to win at least 100 games at four different schools. Driesell compiled a 159-111 record in nine seasons in Harrisonburg from 1988 to 1997. JMU won the CAA Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 1994, while also making NIT appearances in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 in one of the best five-year stretches in program history. Driesell was named the CAA Coach of the Year after the 1989-90 season, when the Dukes went 20-11 and 11-3 in CAA play, and after the 1991-92 season, when they went 21-11 and 12-2 in CAA play. Driesell began his head-coaching career at Davidson College. He had his longest stint at the University of Maryland, where he coached for 17 years and led the Terrapins to eight NCAA Tournaments. After JMU, Driesell coached five full seasons at Georgia State. At the time of his retirement, he was the fourth-winningest Division I men’s basketball coach of all time with 786 career victories in 41 seasons.


Bright Lights

Arkansas poet laureate lets her writing do the talking

Alumna believes verse can reach the depths of the human heart

Suzanne Underwood Rhodes (’72), of Fayetteville, Arkansas, has been crafting poetry since she was 6 years old living in Arlington, Virginia. After a career of writing, editing, and teaching poetry and other forms of writing, she recently accepted a four-year term as Arkansas poet laureate, appointed by former Gov. Asa Hutchinson II. Now, traveling the state to speak about writing, she’s eager to show that poetry is for anyone.

“People are sometimes just put off automatically, because they think they don’t

understand it,” Rhodes said. She disagrees, saying people probably understand poetry better than they think they do. After all, nearly everyone listens to music.

“I think that the musical aspect of poetry is very critical,” she said. Through rhythm, sound associations and imagery, writers can achieve an organic quality to their work that speaks to people.

“Being able to find that connection within your reader on different levels aesthetically is very important,” she said. “Beauty needs emotion with it too.”

That’s not to say poetry can’t be fun or silly. Rhodes, who returned home last fall from a haiku convention in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and often entertains herself by writing limericks as she travels, wrote the following poem after noting a sign on the interstate for Alabam:

There’s an Arkansas town, Alabam, whose founder forgot where he am. When he yelled, “Roll Tide!” his chest bursting with pride, Alabam stuck like flies on a ham.

Rhodes (’72) writes at the secretary desk in her living room; above, with former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson II.

For Rhodes, poetry offers a way of giving context to her life.

“I think that poetry, more than any other art, has the greatest capacity to reach the depths of the human heart,” she said. “Words are rooted in divinity, as we read in John 1:1: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Poetry has the ability to awaken the imagination, and through the imagination we can see more.”

Though Rhodes’ family and teachers encouraged her passion for writing from an early age, she was also greatly inspired by an English professor at Madison, Todd Zeiss, who taught an imaginative writing class and also guided her in an independent studies course.

“Everything he told me to do, I did,” she recalled. This included attending the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Middlebury, Vermont, for two weeks. Bread Loaf is one of the nation’s oldest and most famous conferences of its kind, and known to writers and students as the “Magic Mountain.” Rhodes recalled meeting several well-known authors, including poet Diane Wakoski.

During her Madison days, Rhodes was editor of the literary journal Chrysalis and, at Zeiss’ urging, she entered one of her poems in a Virginia Commonwealth University poetry contest, winning first place. Zeiss invited Rhodes to return to Madison to speak after graduating.

Rhodes earned an English degree with a minor in Secondary Education. Planning to teach at the college level, she received a Master of Arts in the Writing Seminars of Johns Hopkins University.

She later taught creative writing at King University in Bristol, Tennessee, and St. Leo University in Florida, and has led poetry workshops for students ages 5 to 80. She now conducts remote poetry workshops and classes at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia, and she owns and operates a small, independent communications business, PR Flair.

This past year, as part of her role as Arkan-

sas poet laureate, she’s been teaching poetry lessons at Magdalene Serenity House, a nonprofit organization that offers a two-year program to help women rebuild their lives following trauma, abuse, addiction or incarceration. “I was so pleased to be able to do that,” she said. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

She also received grant money from Artists 360, a program of the Mid-Atlantic Arts Alliance, with support from the Walton Family Foundation, which will help fund a book for the Magdalene writers to share with family, friends and the staff at the Serenity House.

Rhodes advises other artists to also find ways to incorporate their passion. “Put things in place so that you can have support outlets for your creative work,” she said.

“Besides writing poems, I love revising my poems,” she said. “That’s where the obsession kicks in. To have the perfect word in the perfect place. I just encourage my students to be very serious about revision.”

Being able to find that connection within your reader on different levels aesthetically is very important. Beauty needs emotion with it too.

With two chapbooks and two poetry collections, Rhodes had her second full collection, Flying Yellow, published in 2021 by Paraclete Press. She has also completed another chapbook, Milk From the Moon, based on the grief following her husband’s death in 2022. “Poems in this book are about loss,” she said. “Writing them was everything. It gave shape and meaning to my grief.”

Rhodes also writes essays, having published two books of lyrical prose, Sketches of Home and A Welcome Shore. The first was written in the mountains of Tennessee and the second one after moving to Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“These reflected an internal landscape — the strength of the mountains and the freedom of the ocean,” she said. “The interior self has its own landscape: our memory, experience, impressions. All those things that make us human.”

Suzanne Underwood Rhodes in her home library; (right): Flying Yellow won the 2022 North American Book Award of the Poetry Society of Virginia.

Straight razor, poker player


In early December, a box of the late Col. Frances Weir’s (’49) effects arrived at JMU. After being meticulously unpacked, it was difficult to decide which items were most remarkable. Was it the photographs of the 5-foot-2-inch officer in army-green fatigues and combat boots in Saigon, Vietnam? The half-dozen bronze and gold military-service medals? The newspaper clippings charting her rise from second lieutenant to colonel? Or was it the decade’s worth of potent leadership descriptions in her service evaluations?

The box of possessions arrived ahead of another gift Weir had entrusted to her alma mater: the university’s largest cash gift and largest gift solely for scholarships. At more than $6 million, the Frances Weir (’49) Endowed Scholarship will enable the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships to award approximately $240,000 annually in scholarship funds in perpetuity. Her endowment will support students who demonstrate financial need and who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher with scholarships that are renewable for three years.

(L-R): Weir’s service medals include the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

“Col. Weir was an impressive military leader and pioneer,” said President Jonathan R. Alger. “She broke new ground throughout her career, and she has done so again with her gift to JMU. Scholarships are a top priority for the university, and Col. Weir’s gift will open doors to the Madison Experience for many promising and deserving students, whose lives will be better for it.”

Ceal Gorham, Weir’s friend and neighbor of nearly 30 years and the executor of her will, described her as “a very caring and generous person — but she didn’t like to let you know it.”

After graduating from Madison College in 1949, Weir enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps, the women’s branch of the U.S. Army. Through the WAC, Weir served in Europe and Vietnam, at the Department of Defense, and on various U.S. bases, specializing in transportation and logistics. In 1976, she was “the first WAC to lead a mostly male brigade,” per the Pentagram newspaper. “She marched along a line of military that was very unusual,” Gorham said. “And we found out more after she died than we knew when she was alive.”


Weir retired to San Antonio, Texas, in 1978, introducing herself to new friends and neighbors as Tina, a spinoff of her lifelong epithet, “Teeny.” After nearly three decades of active service, she spent retirement gardening, golfing and playing poker, which she had learned from a group of noncommissioned officers. Weir told The Virginian-Pilot in 1973 that when faced with the prospect of delivering an hourlong lecture to them, “I thought, ‘My God, they’ll eat me alive.’ But they had a poker table there, a table with a felt top, and I told ’em if they’d listen to me for a half hour, I’d let ’em teach me poker for a half hour. That’s how I learned to play poker.”

Gorham said. The decision to retire to Texas was one Weir “always lamented,” Gorham said. “She’d say, ‘You can’t grow anything here. It’s too hot!’”

In the neighborhood, Weir had distinct friendships. There was Mary, with whom she shared a love of cats and a glass of wine in the evenings. There was Louise for lunch and shopping. And there was Gorham, a retired nurse, to attend her medical appointments — and ultimately oversee her estate.

“Her performance, in comparison with other officers, principally male, was outstanding. … Professionally, she is faultless.”

For Louise’s 80th birthday, Weir organized a parade through the neighborhood to celebrate. An active gymgoer who does Pilates, Louise “does not need a wheelchair by any stretch of the imagination,” Gorham said, “but Tina orchestrated this thing where we decorated a wheelchair, put her in it and pushed her down the street.” Weir gave everyone a role. Louise’s daughter pushed the wheelchair, Gorham texted neighbors to come outside for the parade, and Weir led the procession behind the wheel of her car, where she delivered round after round of honks.


In 1994, she designed and built a house in a new neighborhood in San Antonio, where she met Gorham. That first year, “I saw more of her backside than her front side, because she was always bent over working in the yard,”

A skilled negotiator and a second-rate cook, Weir organized a way to share good food with good company — no cooking skills required. Outside of a steak, “she couldn’t cook to save her soul,” Gorham said, “but she loved to go grocery shopping.” She made a deal with her neighbors: She’d buy the food, if they would cook it. “We probably had dinner together in the latter years of her life at least once, if not twice, a week,” Gorham said.

“The idea of joining the Army intrigued her,” wrote Ben Lipper of The Virginian-Pilot. From her sister Dorothy’s perspective, “she had two choices. She could become a school teacher or she could go in the service, and she decided that the better of the two things was going in the service.” Weir was accepted to Officer Candidate School at Fort Lee, Virginia (now Fort Gregg-Adams), then the location of the Women’s Army Corps Training Center. After eight weeks in basic training and six months in OCS, she emerged as 2nd Lt. Weir. As a new WAC officer, Weir would have received “The Package” — a short workshop on how to do makeup, style hair and wear the feminine WAC uniform properly, according to Amelia Underwood (’13M), who teaches in JMU’s Learning, Technology and Leadership Education Department. “It was a very big concern about women maintaining their feminine appearance,” said Underwood, an expert on women in the military, “even though they’re in this masculine field.” Weir’s early career is largely unknown, a common problem among Army women. “An understanding of how women have contributed in the military is just a missing component in our historical record,” Underwood said. Today, the U.S. Army Women’s Museum at Fort Gregg-Adams is the largest repository of archival materials for women in the military, but most records still need to be processed for researchers.


Taken in the early 1970s, the boardroom photo shows Weir

“There is a reason Army women’s history is hard to find,” said Alexandra Kolleda (’13, ’20M), a public historian and education specialist at the museum. “It’s because in the Army, [women] are the minority and perhaps the ones who are not seen as significant. But all that’s changing, which is why this is important work.”

With Kolleda’s help, a smattering of records placed 31-year-old Weir at the WAC School, a cluster of 22 cream-colored buildings nestled amid pines, oaks and sweet gum trees in Fort McClellan, Alabama, in 1958. After promotion to captain, and then major, Weir attended the prestigious Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a 20-week associate course open to only four WAC officers per year. “I was scared to death,” Weir told The Virginian-Pilot. “I didn’t want to be the first woman to flunk out.”

In 1966, Weir was promoted to lieutenant, and her assignments at The Pentagon began to reflect a growing awareness of her abilities.

“She should be considered for the most responsible assignments available to a WAC officer,” wrote Lt. Robert Cushing. “Her greatest strength lies in her ability to work quickly and coolly under extreme pressure while maintaining a warm and friendly manner.”

By the end of 1968, she was coordinating all programming activity within the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development, and her superiors took notice of her “ability, spirit and spunk equaling the highest standards of the officer corps and the general staff.” She was personally recommended for an important assignment in a combat zone: the Republic of Vietnam.


In January 1969, 41-year-old Weir arrived in Saigon to oversee personnel in the U.S. Army Support Command. “A large majority of women assigned to Vietnam who weren’t nurses were assigned to the Women’s Army Corps detachment,” Kolleda said. Only a

handful of women served in the Vietnam combat theater. Weir was one of them.

From the beginning of her military career, she was often one of the few women — or the only — in an all-male unit. “Her colonel was more worried about where this little woman was going to use the restroom than he was about her surviving,” Gorham recalled. “But she did not sit on ceremony, she was not fussy at all.”

As commander of personnel in Vietnam, Col. John Murray described Weir as “the calm storm center of personnel actions” and the “seer staying ahead of the relentless daily rotations of strength and skills.” She was promoted to the assistant chief of staffs for personnel, commanding pivotal supply and transportation logistics to ensure soldiers had what they needed at all times. She had an unmatched logistical prowess, or as Murray described it, “the versatility of a genie.”

And yet, Weir had arrived in Saigon without combat training, because Army women weren’t

(second from left, bottom row) among other senior WAC staff and WAC Staff Advisors.

given any. Trained separately from the rest of the Army, when WACs were dropped into war zones, they were issued no weapons and were illequipped to defend themselves. “It was fraught with danger,” Underwood said, “and women just rose to the challenge no matter what.”

While Weir was in Vietnam, Dorothy knew about the white cat her sister had found in a bunker and named Charlie and about the care packages of food their mother sent through a U.S. merchant marine. “She would have just starved to death, if it hadn’t been for a friend of ours that was on a ship outside of Vietnam,” Dorothy said. “My mother would tell him where my sister was, and he’d leave the ship and take her the food.” The packages included Weir’s sole culinary specialty: steak. “They would grill these steaks out and, needless to say, she was quite popular,” Gorham said.

But there was much about Vietnam that Weir chose not to disclose to family and friends. “She said Vietnam was the worst place she ever was in her life,” Dorothy recalled. “I believe it was so bad that it was better to keep it hidden inside of her, instead of discussing it openly … It was a part of her life she wanted to forget.”


Not everyone believed that an Army woman could hold her own in a combat zone. Brig. Gen. Arthur Hurow was candid about this in her service evaluation. “I frankly had some doubt that any WAC officer, however outstanding, would have the background and capability to control the manpower and G-1 dynamics of the largest Support Command in this combat theater,” he wrote. “This adverse inclination quickly changed to outright admiration. In place of doubt of capa-

Clearly retaining her military bearing in retirement, Weir was active with her neighborhood contingent, including dear friend Ceal Gorham (far left), gardening, golfing and playing poker.

bility, I have monumental conviction of it.”

Other superiors didn’t require the same amount of winning over. After comparing Weir to Joan of Arc, Murray added, “She moves from sublime concern with the individual to quickwitted exposure of the ridiculous. Straight is the word for her. Straight forward, keen as a straight razor and possessor of all the confidence of a poker player holding a straight flush. When the WAC gets its first star, she should wear it.”

Despite accolades in her evaluations, promotion to brigadier general did not hinge on Weir’s performance alone. “Up until 1967, there could only be two female colonels in the entire Army,” Kolleda said, “and [the two] were the director of the Women’s Army Corps and the director of the Army Nurses Corps.” In 1970, three years after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation to

“It was fraught with danger, and women just rose to the challenge no matter what.”


Army veteran and historian

remove promotion restrictions for Army women, both colonels were promoted to brigadier general. Brig. Gen. Elizabeth P. Hoisington joined the WAC during World War II, “so she had longer service,” Kolleda explained, “but otherwise, she had a lot of the same skills and qualifications as Weir.”

By the end of Weir’s deployment to Vietnam, her evaluations contained a statement that had once seemed impossible to say of an Army woman: “She is fully capable of performing her duties in a combat zone.” In 1969, “saying that she can compete alongside of men …,” Underwood mused, “that’s something that they wouldn’t really say.” For her exem-

plary service in Vietnam, Weir was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.


In 1970, Weir returned to The Pentagon, where she adeptly handled assignments that ranged “from the bizarre to the most complex with utmost equanimity,” wrote D.H. Havermann. As a program analyst for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, she had to attend many social events and maintain the expected polish of a WAC. “She couldn’t go to the beauty parlor every day,” said Gorham, “but she had a wig or two that she could wear and just put on so that her hair always looked presentable.”

With each passing year, calls for promotion in Weir’s evaluations became more emphatic. In 1970: “Lt. Col. Weir should be promoted to the highest level of her branch.” In 1971: “Lt. Col. Weir is general officer material.” Finally, in 1972: “Colonel Weir should be groomed to become the director of the WAC.” But the Army was still keeping superior officers like Weir from rising in rank.

Instead, Col. Weir was carefully selected by the chief of staff to be president of the Army’s Conscientious Objector Board, which reviewed the cases of those who opposed the Vietnam draft on moral or religious grounds. The issues the board faced required “wisdom, sensitivity and administrative ability … characteristics Colonel Weir displayed to an uncommon degree,” wrote Col. William Louisell Jr., who retired as brigadier general. Then, Weir was off to the Sixth Army headquarters at the Presidio of San Francisco, California, where she advised the WAC director on all aspects of WAC personnel for one of the largest theater commands.

By 1973, the Army was changing, and



Army veteran Amelia Underwood (’13M) helps keep women’s military contributions alive

Near the end of the Cold War, Lt. Amelia Underwood (’13M) was a field artillery officer assigned to Lance Missile battalions at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The tactical, surface-to-surface nuclear missile was an important part of the Army’s ground arsenal. It could be launched from the back of a vehicle and used to take out mid-range, enemy targets such as airfields, command centers and supply routes.

“Its signature was so great … it would cause a grid-square worth of nuclear destruction — very daunting,” Underwood said. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m 23 years old, and I’m responsible for launching a nuclear weapon.’ The gravity of that was tremendous.”

At the same time, she said, “I was very excited because, as a woman, to serve in a combat arms branch gave you more of an equal status with men. I thought to myself, ‘This is my opportunity.’”

That opportunity ended abruptly in 1994 when Secretary of Defense Les Aspin drafted a memo excluding women from serving in direct combat units on the ground.

Underwood, a 1987 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a member of the academy’s eighth class of women, was highly respected by her fellow officers, subordinates and staff, and was preparing to enter the Army Command and General Staff College to improve her chances at promotion when the order was handed down. “They told all women who were in field artillery, ‘You must branch transfer.’ And I didn’t have a real set of mentors who could guide me through that space to say, ‘You still have a very viable career. Let’s look at opportunities for you.’”

Underwood didn’t want to leave the Army. “I loved working with my soldiers,” she said. “People trusted me. I trusted them. I felt like what we were doing was making a difference.” But as an Environmental Studies major with leadership experience, she was being heavily recruited by big corporations with the lure of big money. Rather than accept a transfer, she decided to give up her military career to take a job with Mobil Oil Corp.

In 2006, Underwood attended a conference commemorating 30 years of women at West Point. The gathering featured women from the first co-ed class of cadets to the present day. “There was this sense of many of us coming to terms with our experience there,” she said. “I wanted to understand what was it about the lived experience of both women and men at this period of time, how they understood themselves to be cadets and warriors, and why there was so much resistance to women sharing that space with men.”

In 2010, Underwood enrolled in graduate school at JMU. She supplemented her coursework in U.S. history with classes in anthropology and psychology, and she accepted a fellowship to the Air Force Academy to research its first decade of gender integration. Following the passage of a law in October 1975 permitting women to be admitted to the nation’s military academies, the Air Force Academy had begun preparing for their arrival. But there were underlying concerns about women who served in the military becoming more independent and less feminine. One of the primary considerations at the Air Force Academy was what uniforms they should wear. “Most of the initial mockups looked like a stewardess with go-go boots,” Underwood said. The academy also chose to segregate its early classes of female recruits, a fact Underwood believes hurt their chances of being fully accepted by their male counterparts.

After completing her master’s degree in 2013, Underwood became director of leadership development and academic affairs at the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, the nation’s only all-female Corps of Cadets, at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia. She continued to serve as an adjunct professor at JMU, teaching courses on leadership, Ameri-

can military history and, beginning in 2015, American Women at War. The course examines the role of women in the U.S. during wartime, from the American Revolution to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition to looking at how women who serve in the military become agents for change in American society, students in the course gain hands-on experience with handling, archiving and preserving primary-source materials at the Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee, Virginia (now Fort Gregg-Adams). Students then create a product that brings to life the previously unknown stories of women who served in the Army in World War I and World War II.

Since learning of Madison College alumna Col. Frances Weir (’49), Underwood has expressed an interest in working with the museum to allow her students to research Weir’s military career and help tell her story.

Underwood recalls sitting in a graduate class at JMU in 2013 when she learned that the last restriction on women in direct, ground-combat roles had been lifted.

“Military service is a vital component of protecting our nation,” she said. “Not everyone wants to serve but many do. And they should have that opportunity. It shouldn’t matter that you’re a woman. If you have the capability and you have the desire, you should do it. And you should be valued and respected and accepted for that contribution, and not stigmatized because you’re different.”

“You should be valued and respected and accepted for that contribution, and not stigmatized because you’re different.”
AMELIA UNDERWOOD (‘13M), U.S. Army veteran and historian

Underwood earned a doctorate in organizational leadership and humanresource development in 2023. She teaches in the Department of Learning, Technology and Leadership Education, and serves as a mentor and role model for female Army ROTC cadets. She is the founder and chair of the JMU Women’s Military Forum and serves on the President’s Task Force for Veterans Affairs.


46-year-old Weir was making history in South Carolina. The Equal Rights Amendment was in Congress, the military draft had ended and the Army was transitioning to an all-volunteer force for the first time in history. To offset the exponential drop in numbers, the Army began to focus on recruiting more women, which necessitated more opportunities for their promotion. That fall, the Pentagram wrote an article naming Weir “the first WAC ever to head a major unit at Fort Jackson.” As commander of Headquarters Support Command, she oversaw “any kind of task that kept Fort Jackson up and running,” Kolleda said.

So novel was the concept of women commanding men that mention of Weir’s assignment in Fort Jackson made its way into the 1974 TIME magazine article, “The Sexes: Skirts and Stripes.” But the world was late, and Weir had already spent two decades among — and leading — men. She seemed to have grown tired of the conversation and the assumed differences in her experiences from that of her male counterparts. Before her historic assignment, when the Pentagram asked how her experience of being a female in an all-male unit would affect her at Fort Jackson, Weir said, “My feelings are not all that different from those of a man who goes into a new job. There is always the feeling that you don’t know enough about your new assignment. The one difference I can sense is there are going to be an awful lot of eyes on what I’m doing. The fact that I’m wearing a skirt surrounded by people wearing trousers makes me stand out.”


In 1976, 48-year-old Weir made her final military move, this time back to Virginia, where she inhabited an unlikely role as secretary in the U.S. Army Transportation School. But Weir outgrew the position and was appointed deputy assistant commandant of the school. “She operates at full capacity all the time,” wrote Brig. Gen. Arthur Junot. “She has been appointed deputy assistant commandant because of her full grasp of school operations, and her exceptional competence in organizing and supervising a large staff.” At the time, Weir was one of about a dozen female colonels in the Army, not including nurses.

In the 1949 Schoolma’am, Weir sits on the balustrade of a residence hall alongside sorority sisters.

during the Great Depression, she knew she would have to work to pay her way. But “she was bound and determined to get a college education,” Dorothy said.

As deputy assistant commandant, Weir advised on training programs for military occupational specialties, ensuring soldiers were properly trained so the entire Army had the necessary method of transportation, supplies and personnel across the U.S. and overseas. Graves’ disease pushed her toward an early retirement.

“Wears the smallest boots in the headquarters but has the biggest kick. ... Joan of Arc must be in her lineage.”

“If not for the condition, she likely would have stayed on,” Gorham said. Weir’s final service evaluations brimmed with calls for promotion, with some superiors underlining the phrases “exceptionally Outstanding” and “Star Rank.” But when she retired in 1977, one year before the WAC was dissolved and women were integrated into the Army, she was forever a colonel.


“Teeny was the type of person that could be over an army,” Dorothy said. The eldest of three daughters, Weir was born in 1927 in Winchester, Virginia. “I don’t remember [her] ever being called anything but Teeny,” her sister said. “I didn’t know what her first name was for years.” Their father managed a farm, and Weir said she enjoyed a “typical, smalltown upbringing,” per The Virginian-Pilot.

“She always knew she wanted to succeed,” Dorothy said, “and she just didn’t want to be just a housewife.” Weir talked about her desire to attend Madison College, and growing up

Weir’s childhood nickname followed her to Harrisonburg. At Madison, Teeny majored in business, routinely made the dean’s list, and joined Pi Omega Pi, Pi Kappa Sigma and the Business Club. She spent her summers working as a secretary for a beer company to afford tuition, an experience that would shape the core of her philanthropy.

“She was never boy-crazy,” Dorothy said. “She was more excited about education.” Weir’s decision to attend Madison College inspired other family members to become Dukes, including her nephew, John Anderson (’70), and great-nephew, Jake Anderson (’23). “We continued the tradition,” John said.

Despite meager earnings in the military, Weir had made a series of wise investments in retirement, and supported charities for children and cats. “But education was always very much her focus,” Gorham said. Before her death, Weir was a Women for Madison Amethyst Circle founder and donated $240,000 to JMU to establish her scholarship endowment. Gorham suspected that Weir felt a sense of indebtedness to her alma mater. “It got her out of Winchester into a life that she never would have had but for the ability to get an education and go into the military as an officer.”

Moved by her generosity and leadership, President Alger chose Weir to receive the 2024 Presidential Award posthumously at the JMU Alumni Association Alumni Awards. The award honors an individual or group who leads in ways that are relevant for our time.

At the end of her career, Weir told The Virginian-Pilot, “I don’t think I was a dedicated career woman. It just turned out that way.” How did the colonel describe her military career? “I’ve just been a gal earning a living.”

Others describe her differently. “She really was one of a kind,” Gorham said. At her retirement Maj. Gen. Alton Post, who was later inducted into the Transportation Corps Hall of Fame, wrote more simply, but no less true, “Col. Weir was very good for the Army.”



JMU emphasizes leadership through learning and encouragement

Professor emeritus Mark Warner (’79, ’81M, ’85Ed.S) is a product of JMU’s culture of leadership.

In his freshman year at Madison, his resident adviser, Dale Holt (’76), who pursued a career in teaching and later became chief operations officer for Virginia Beach City Public Schools, encouraged him to be an RA. Warner wasn’t convinced, but Holt persisted.

“I became an RA, and it changed the whole trajectory of my life,” Warner said. The decision led him to pursue a career in higher education at the school that taught him about leadership. Warner would go on to serve in a variety of administrative roles and develop Impact3, a leadership development program, and the popular class Leadership and Personal Growth.

Now retired after 40 years — his last position was senior vice president for Student Affairs — Warner gives guest lectures and consults primarily on servant-based leadership. He also touts the importance of leaders passing the torch. “I think the idea of ‘you

have to have a title to be a leader’ is totally wrong,” he said. “You can be a wonderful leader without a title.”

Pointing to the student-led SafeRides program, he said the organization is successful because students lead where they are. “To me, that’s the magic.”

While anyone can, in theory, be a leader, Warner said they must have access to opportunity combined with learning, challenge and

support. “I think that’s key,” he said. At JMU, which was recently named to TIME magazine’s list of the Top 100 Best Colleges for Future Leaders, students have those opportunities. “I think it really starts with our student success culture. We have a student success ethos that has permeated the campus.”

JMU isn’t an institution where, at orientation, some official stands and says, “Look to your left, look to your right; one of you won’t be here in four years,” Warner said. “We’re the campus that says, ‘Look to your left, look to your right,’ and ‘in four years there’s going to be three very successful people here.’”

Potential leaders must also be willing to learn, said adjunct professor Brian Charette, who also taught leadership classes at JMU for many years before his retirement. “Unfortunately, most leadership training — at least in the corporate environment — is not very effective at developing the leadership behavior of its participants,” he said.

Charette, former assistant to the president for Strategic Planning, teaches Applied Leadership, an elective in the Innovation MBA Program. The final class in the program for many MBA students, it takes a practical approach to leadership with a study of self — such as through a focus on emotional intelligence — and real-world leadership practices.

First, his students develop a set of leadership competencies and define their own parameters for “effective leadership.” Then, they develop those competencies. In terms of an approach to theory, Charette said, much of the learning is based on Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s research and model.

Faculty and staff also benefit from Impact3, which Charette said has graduated 241 participants over 20 years. To his knowledge, it’s a unique program in American higher education, because it joins faculty and staff from every campus division to learn leadership and share the experience of developing it.

“Just through the Impact3 program, JMU has invested thousands and thousands of both man hours and dollars to deepen the culture of leadership on campus,” he said.

2016 President’s Cabinet: Brian Charette, (front row, second from left), Mark Warner, (front row, third from left), President Jonathan R. Alger (third from right) Mark Warner teaches a class on leadership. He believes learning, challenge and support make great leaders.

Alumni co-founders connect music artists with talent seekers through successful startup


IOt was just another Tuesday morning for Connor Feroce (’17) at his Tampa, Florida, office when mentor Patrick McQuown relayed the disappointing news. “You didn’t get it. I can’t believe it,” said McQuown, the former executive director of JMU’s Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship.

“At the time, I said, ‘Bummer. Well, it is what it is,’” recalled Feroce, a contender for Forbes 30 Under 30 list as co-founder and chief operating officer of BeatGig, an online marketplace that connects musicians with venues and event managers looking for talent. “Given the number of applicants and incredible companies in the world, I figured getting noticed was a long shot.”

Out of curiosity, Feroce opened the Forbes website and scanned the 2024 Consumer Technology category. To his surprise, he found his name on the awardee list — BeatGig had made the cut. “I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? We did get it!’” Feroce said. He and McQuown shared a laugh of relief and elation, chalking up the misunderstanding to a website glitch.


The co-founders’ app, BeatGig, makes it easy to book live music for bars, private parties, colleges, weddings and more.


A Forbes honor is huge publicity for Feroce, an Intelligence Analysis major, and CEO Tim Mulligan (’16), who had strategically stayed under the radar for several years to focus on developing and investing in BeatGig. “There’s not a single article about BeatGig on the internet other than back when we won the 2017 Tom Tom Festival in Virginia when I was in college at JMU,” Feroce said.

The roots of BeatGig first took hold in Harrisonburg, with Mulligan spearheading the concept for the startup. A Business Management major, he was always an entrepreneurial thinker but never envisioned a career in the live entertainment industry until his third year, when he stumbled into David Cottrell’s music industry class. “By the end of his first lecture, Cottrell had succinctly explained the shift in the music business from record sales to live touring and how technology was the catalyst,” Mulligan said.

At the time, Mulligan had talented friends who had each amassed millions of

“I think JMU instilled a certain grit and determination in Connor and me. We feel entitled to nothing — everything must be earned. This attitude is a part of our culture.”

streams but struggled to turn their passion into a career. Technology had devalued recorded music to the point where being on the road was the only way for a musician to make money; but without a talent agent to represent the artist, there was no effective way to book shows and route tours. Mulligan sought a solution.

“Tim said, ‘There’s got to be a better way to do this.’ And this was [in 2015], around the time when Uber and Airbnb were really taking off. He said, ‘Let’s apply that same business approach to the music industry and make it easier for anyone who wants to book talent.’ Tim ran the proposal past Cottrell during office hours; Cottrell responded that he would be foolish not to pursue it,” Feroce

explained. “I was immediately attracted to the idea and jumped on board right away.”

Nine years later, with more than 10,000 artists on its platform, BeatGig has generated over $4 million in revenue through commissions and brought in more than $25 million in transactions from booking artists such as Odesza, Steve Aoki and Jason Derulo. In addition to the big-name acts, the startup lends itself to the college market, facilitating music events at more than 100 schools across the country.

BeatGig users can search for vetted artists by location and price, with detailed profiles featuring reviews, music and videos. When an offer is sent to an artist, the booking process is designed to minimize the time spent scheduling, negotiating and contracting shows. From start to finish, BeatGig serves as the trusted party for the venue and the artist to lock in the event.

Combined with its user-friendly functionality, BeatGig saves venues countless hours by automating payments, providing internal calendars and data analytics, and offering marketing tools to improve promotion on social media and websites.

In 2023, BeatGig booked more than 15,000 concerts. “When you’re looking to book just one artist, whether that’s a local or national artist, our platform really simplifies the process for you. But when you’re a public venue that’s booking lots of talent over the course of a year, BeatGig is your entertainment operating system that is truly taking all these offline, manual processes and putting

(Above): Connor Feroce (’17), a 2017 Venture Creation Fellow, presents his BeatGig pitch to a JMU audience that included President Jonathan R. Alger. After launching BeatGig in 2016, the business booked nearly 100 shows at colleges in the Mid-Atlantic region and handled more than $50,000 in show volume. (Right): In 2017, Feroce — with mentorship from Patrick McQuown, former executive director of the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship — won first place for his BeatGig pitch in the University of Virginia’s College Cup venture competition.

them online into our simple platform,” Feroce said.

Vital to BeatGig’s early success was the mentorship of McQuown at JMU. From fundraising to pitching, “he was always very founderfriendly,” Feroce said. “I think BeatGig was the first business that came across his desk when he joined [the Gilliam Center]. We hit it off from the get-go.”

McQuown echoed that sentiment. “Connor was one of the first students I met at JMU,” he said. “In 2017, the University of Virginia had a competition called The College Cup, where each of the Virginia schools sent one student-led venture. I convinced Connor to pitch BeatGig. After weeks of practice, he got on stage and gave his pitch. Connor was the only undergraduate facing off against MBA students, law students and med students.”

Feroce won, walking away with a $10,000 cash prize while earning the audience vote. Later that year, in the first JMU summer venture accelerator, BeatGig competed against Georgetown University and its student ventures. “Once again, Connor and BeatGig won,” McQuown said.

Regardless of the Forbes recognition, Mulligan insists that he and Connor are just normal guys who show up to work every day. “I think JMU instilled a certain grit and determination in Connor and me. We feel entitled to nothing — everything must be earned. This attitude is a part of our culture. People overestimate what can be accomplished in a year and underestimate what can be accomplished in 10 years,” he said.

McQuown has stayed in touch with Feroce and Mulligan over the years, keeping track of their growth. “As Tim is now over 30, this distinction is as much his — it’s just Forbes is late,” he said. Past 30 Under 30 winners from JMU include Brianna Keefe (’16), 2022 Food and Drink, and Emily Warden (’17), 2023 Arts and Style.

Although Mulligan was a College of Business graduate, the Gilliam Center is available to JMU students regardless of their major, minor or class year. “We offer programs, events and activities for any student across campus,” said Suzanne Berg-

meister, executive director of the center. “Learning to use innovation and creativity to solve problems is a skill that is highly valued in any company, in any industry. So, whether the student just has an idea and doesn’t know what to do with it, has a side hustle and wants to grow it or just wants to learn a different way of thinking, the GCFE can help.”

The Gilliam Center is also a campus resource that helps prepare Dukes to lead. “The center inspires all JMU students to think outside the box with an entrepreneurial mindset to solve problems and ultimately change the world for the better. We teach students that entrepreneurs work hard, but we also have a lot of fun,” she said.

“Learning to use innovation and creativity to solve problems is a skill that is highly valued in any company, in any industry.”
SUZANNE BERGMEISTER, director of Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship

Purple and gold carry over into their company culture as well. A closer look inside BeatGig’s Tampa headquarters reveals a squad of focused Dukes, managing college divisions and venue teams in different regions of the U.S.: Anthony Abruzzo (’19), senior account executive; Charlie Turnage (’21), account executive; Luke Lyons (’17), senior account manager; and Lawson Evans (’18), senior account manager. “It’s been great that we’ve been able to launch from JMU, hire within the network and keep that core,” Feroce said. On the horizon, Feroce foresees BeatGig as the default destination to book, organize and market musical talent. He stays inspired by the scale of Live Nation, looking to implement its successes — in terms of talent booking, sponsorships and marketing — and drop it into BeatGig’s vertically integrated software. “Live Nation is in a different world than us. They deal with the arenas and the Taylor Swifts,” Feroce said. “Your local bar — it should have the same resources and capabilities as a Live Nation venue.”

Mulligan and Feroce share the same vision — to generate more than a billion dollars in annual artist bookings. Feroce says, “I’m all in on BeatGig, and we’ve still got a ways to go. I’m a big believer in staying focused on one venture, especially for what we’re trying to accomplish. I eat, sleep and breathe BeatGig on a daily basis.”

Connor Feroce (’17), an Intelligence Analysis major and Business Analytics minor


Students pitch realworld solutions at Department of State

After months of hard work, students in JMU’s Hacking for Diplomacy course boarded a bus to Washington, D.C., in December to pitch their ideas for protecting U.S. diplomatic interests abroad to officials at the Department of State.

The interdisciplinary class brought together students from Mathematics; Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication; and Political Science.

H4Di is supported by BMNT Inc. and the Common Mission Project, which strives to put students in conversation with members of the defense and intelligence communities to create innovative solutions to “wicked problems" through courses like Hacking for Diplomacy, Hacking for Defense and Hacking for Homeland Security.

The course implements the Lean LaunchPad methodology created by adjunct professor Steve Blank at Stanford University. The idea behind the method is to “fix the problem like how you would pitch a startup company,” said JMU political science professor Bernie Kaussler.

The class, taught in the Fall 2023 semester by Kaussler, Séan McCarthy and Hala Nelson, tasked students with finding solutions to five unique threats against U.S. national security. Students worked in teams with the Diplomatic Security Service, the principal security and law enforcement agency of the Department of State. Each group pursued their assignments with the goal of creating a feasible prototype by paying attention to cost and efficiency.

“We had the privilege of working on this project for more than four months, learning more than we could have ever expected.”

the group Less Than Lethal. “We were no longer just presenting to our professors, but instead presenting an innovative solution to a real-world problem to those who are engaging with our problem every day.”

Each group had a problem sponsor, a Department of State employee with knowledge of the problem and the DOS ecosystem, who kept them on the right path. “Our sponsors were very special … They not only answered our questions and concerns, but they also allowed us to work alongside them, taking our recommendations in real time and implementing them,” said Ai Vy Le, a member of the group Longer Lifespan, Longer Security. “Our spon sors pushed us to dig deeper and solve this problem not just at a surface level, but at the level an actual employee would.”

DSS put a heavy emphasis on policy recommendations, although a few of the groups proposed physical solutions as well.

“The opportunity to present in Washington elevated our project by adding a healthy pressure,” said Adonis Ortiz, a member of

Fourth-year student Henry Donovan was one of four members of the group Caught on Camera, which strived to modify the lan guage used in the newly modernized digital security camera sys tem policy in the hopes of increasing efficiency. The team traveled to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia in October to interview U.S. Marines about some of the learning curves they’ve faced with the implementation of the new system. “Our interviewees were far

The Caught on Camera group in Hacking for Diplomacy presented their project at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., in December.

more educated on the topics at hand than us, and letting them take the reins often yielded information that was more relevant to our problem,” Donovan said.

Another group, Less Than Lethal, aimed to stay true to its name by designing a multitier defense system to better protect U.S. Embassy buildings and personnel abroad. “We had the privilege of working on this project for more than four months, learning more than we could have ever expected,” Ortiz said. “Through this class, I have

“We had to build a structured data-management framework that could life cycle any device that the Department of State may try to implement in the future.”
AI VY LE, student

maximize the life cycle of X-ray machines and explosive-device itemizers to building a structured data-management framework that could be implemented in any device.

“We recognized the need for a more expansive, long-term perspective,” Le said. “[W]e had to build a structured data-management framework that could life cycle any device that the Department of State may try to implement in the future … This endeavor transcended a short-term commitment for the semester; instead, it established a lasting solution that

tion device for all three categories.

The students’ on-the-ground experience took them much farther than Washington, with a select group traveling to Costa Rica to visit the U.S. Embassy. “Being able to actually speak to the people whose dayto-day lives we were making a difference in took our resolve to a higher level,” Donovan said. The ability to be on the soil of a real U.S. Embassy elevated the research process of the students attending as it allowed them to see more clearly what their projects were work

(Above): Students worked in teams with the Diplomatic Security Service, the law-enforcement arm of the State Department. (Right, L-R): Members of the Less Than Lethal group: Isabella Santo and Bonnie Pohland, Political Science and International Affairs majors; The Mystery Risks group: Jocelyn Carter, Alma Cruz, Amelia Buswell and Maxine Payton



From its humble beginnings in the early ’90s, the program has become a powerhouse of interdisciplinary education, preparing students to tackle real-world challenges with creativity

For three decades, JMU’s Integrated Science and Technology program has been a beacon of innovation and excellence.

Formed in 1993 and spearheaded by faculty with business and industry experience, the ISAT program aimed to bridge the gap between academia and the real world, transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries. “Virginia began pressing schools to develop new, innovative programs for the increasing number of students entering higher education,” explained Bob Kolvoord, dean of the College of Integrated Science and Engineering and an early ISAT faculty member. Jeff Tang, associate dean of CISE and ISAT professor, says the program’s vision was to produce well-rounded graduates adept at tackling real-world challenges in science and technology. Under the leadership of thenPresident Ronald E. Carrier, ISAT flourished, leveraging the expertise of professionals from industry and government to enrich student learning experiences. “The ISAT program and the development of East Cam-

pus were endeavors close to Dr. Carrier’s heart,” Tang said.

ISAT’s curriculum diverged from the conventional specialist approach, emphasizing a broad-based education fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership and collaboration. This empowered students to tailor their course of study to align with their unique interests and offered more flexibility than traditional programs. “ISAT’s hands-on and collaborative approach to learning, coupled with the capstone project, has been integral to the program’s success from the outset,” Kolvoord said.

Virginia Commonwealth University, where he uses his knowledge, management skills, and experiences to create a positive and effective workplace.

Chris Butters (’17) appreciates the invaluable experience gained through his capstone project on integrating unmanned aircraft systems into emergency management. His experience in ISAT prepared him for his role as a response officer for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Kolvoord says internships are not just encouraged in ISAT — they’re essential, offering students invaluable industry exposure and experiential learning.

Jeremy Bost (’97) recalls his senior thesis on digital mapping, a collaborative project with the National Park Service, as showcasing ISAT’s innovative solutions to real-world challenges. Combining business with science was a gamechanger for Bost. “It was a technical solution for a communications and awareness problem,” he said. Bost’s career has centered on problemsolving, learning and training. He works at

Alicia Collins (’97), vice president of Supply Chain and External Manufacturing at Tune Therapeutics, credits her undergraduate internship at Merck for laying the foundation for her successful career in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. “ISAT is unique because of these opportunities,” she said.

Research is the cornerstone of the ISAT experience. Students and faculty work closely, often collaborating with industry or government partners. “In ISAT, undergraduate research is a right, not a privilege,” said Stephanie Stockwell, co-director of the School of

“ISAT’s hands-on and collaborative approach to learning, coupled with the capstone project, has been integral to the program’s success from the outset.”

Integrated Sciences. “We believe that impactful and long-lasting educational experiences go beyond classroom learning.”


Supporting ISAT capstone projects is a ‘no-brainer’ for alumni

Wthat skill set,” he said. “We’re talking about equal opportunity.”

Cushing, who co-established the endowment, worked with Winebrake to receive funding through the National Park Service to electrify a fourwheeler. His team converted a complicated, variable-drive transmission system to electric — “and it absolutely worked, and that was just so gratifying,” Cushing said.

Kelly Davidhizar (’06) recounts her collaboration with an ISAT professor to develop a plague vaccine for the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. “It was really cool to have a real-world project that mattered,” said Davidhizar, who now serves with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Germany.

hat would happen if students majoring in Integrated Science and Technology knew on their first day at JMU that their big ideas would be financially supported? That question sparked Peter Denbigh (’02) to create the ISAT Student Projects Endowment alongside Patrick Cushing (’02) and Bob Kolvoord, professor and dean of the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

But looking back, it’s hard for him to believe that the project might never have happened without grant funding. “When I look at the value of those dollars, we’re talking about $2,000 to $3,000 on a project that was three semesters of work, countless hours,” he reflected. “It’s almost amazing to me to think that that little amount of money in the grand scheme of things could have stood in the way of that experience.”

‘Step up with us’

Matt Keller (’97) praises ISAT’s interdisciplinary approach for fostering his entrepreneurial spirit. “ISAT trains you to do a little bit of everything, and that’s the perfect entrepreneurial person,” he said. Keller worked at Corsec Security, a small startup focusing on government security consulting, and took on various roles, including marketing, sales, consulting and liaising. He currently works at Nutanix, a cloud and virtualization company, leading teams working toward meeting government requirements.

Reflecting on their ISAT experience, Bost and Keller fondly remember the camaraderie among students and faculty, underscoring the program’s collaborative spirit. ISAT’s impact has persisted over the years, shaping the trajectories of its alumni and enriching its legacy.

ISAT’s commitment to problem-solving, collaboration, and real-world application resonates with students and professionals, making it a hallmark of JMU’s academic landscape. As it celebrates 30 years of innovation, ISAT remains a shining example of how interdisciplinary education shapes the leaders of tomorrow.

The fund doesn’t create a new experience for students — it simply elevates and expands the ISAT program’s unique, undergraduate student-project experience. Denbigh, an entrepreneur, investor and inventor, said the decision to support it was a “no-brainer.”

The ISAT program’s 30th anniversary has spurred a fundraising effort by grateful alumni who feel the program set them up for success — and set them apart — in their careers. ISAT is “this mold-breaking, trend-bucking program with massive, positive, realworld applications,” Denbigh said, “and our world needs that.”

An investment in innovation

In ISAT, capstone projects are completed by juniors and seniors across the program’s disciplines. “It’s just this visceral common denominator that we all share,” Denbigh explained. “It’s more than just this fleeting class project. It’s a one- to two-yearlong transformation.”

During his senior project, Denbigh said he grew from the freedom, challenge and trust that he received from his faculty mentor, James Winebrake. “My capstone experience was incredible,” he reflected. “You rise to the occasion.” To cover the costs of his alternative-fuel vehicle project, Denbigh said he hustled, raising sponsorships and writing grants. “But not everyone has

When Denbigh approached Cushing with his idea to endow the senior-projects fund a few months ago, “I just immediately said, ‘Count me in,’” Cushing said.

Now, other alumni have the opportunity to raise their hands in support. The first public push happened with a challenge on Giving Day. The fund now sits close to $98,000, including more than $10,255 from 71 donors on Giving Day. Now the next push is on. Denbigh believes the program’s relatively young alumni network can come together to hit the next goal of $250,000.

In order to reach the goal, Denbigh is hopeful that companies that “have benefited from ISAT graduates and understand the unique mindset that ISAT grads bring to their organization” will be excited to support this initiative. And with the additional support of alumni, parents, faculty and friends of the program, this endowment will come to life. “It would have an immeasurable impact on not just the student but the program itself,” Denbigh said.

When asked if there are any areas in which Denbigh hopes students will pursue projects down the road, the answer is a resounding no. “If there are no limits, then these students are going to think way bigger than me,” he said. “The bigger the problems our graduates can solve, the better this world is going to be.”



Dukes face off in leadership positions in Virginia Senate

For the first time, two JMU graduates — one a Democrat and one a Republican — are leading their respective caucuses in the Virginia Senate in Richmond.

Sen. Scott Surovell (’93), a Fairfax County attorney, was tapped by Senate Democrats to serve as majority leader after his party maintained control of the chamber in November’s statewide legislative elections. Surovell has been a member of the Senate since 2016 and previously served in the House of Delegates.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, chose Sen. Ryan McDougle (’93), an attorney from Hanover County, as minority leader. McDougle, also a former delegate, has served in the Senate since 2006.

The two men are familiar foes, having sparred not only in the halls of the state Capitol, but also dating back to their days in student government at JMU.

“Back in college, Ryan and I, we knew each other,” Surovell said. “But I wouldn’t describe us as friends. I’m not saying we were enemies either. But we didn’t run in the same circles.”

“Scott was a Greek Row guy. I was not,” McDougle said. “He lived on campus; I lived off. Our politics were different. As a conservative, I remember having a few differences of opinion, and we butted heads a few times.”

Surovell recalled one time during his junior year when he and a group of fellow student senators convinced the Student Govern-

ment Association leadership to join a group called the United States Student Association, which lobbied for the rights and interests of college students at the federal level. The membership dues were a few thousand dollars a year, Surovell said. “Ryan and some of his colleagues took offense to that. And he ended up getting some of his friends to join the Student Senate as commuter senators my senior year. And within a few months, we were no longer members.”

McDougle remembers traveling to Richmond with Surovell and other student government leaders to participate in a state budget hearing. “In those days, as a citizen you would sign up to speak. Everybody would get in line and when it came your turn, you had 60 seconds or maybe two minutes to make your case [for funding]. I remember Lin Rose [then vice president of JMU] was there. He was not real keen on what I said, because I talked about fiscal responsibility and the need to keep taxes low. After I walked away from the podium, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee quipped, ‘I bet you don’t pay taxes anyway.’ That fueled my fire for years and years.”

In 1993, Surovell ran for SGA administrative vice president. He won, drawing largely on three bases of support: the Marching Royal Dukes — of which he was a member — Greek Row and his fellow student employees at PC Dukes. “Whenever you run for office, you have to secure your bases,” he said, adding it’s especially important in low-turnout elections.

Surovell appealed to his MRD friends with a platform that included making participation in marching band count toward JMU’s physical education requirement. And, to his Greek Row mates, he tailored a proposal — later adopted by the university — to give students with a meal plan one or two guest punches per

Surovell and McDougle first sparred as members of the Student Government Association in 1992. (Back row): Surovell is fifth from left; McDougle is third from right.

semester for when their friends visited from other schools, or for pledges to use to feed a hungry brother during pledge interviews.

During that same election, McDougle, a commuter senator, ran for legislative vice president and lost. “I got beat fairly handily,” he said. “But I learned a lot of lessons about politics that I was able to apply later. That loss at JMU resulted in my first win as a Republican Party committee chairman in my home county. Without that first defeat, I don’t know that I would have approached that race the same way.”

After JMU, Surovell and McDougle followed remarkably similar career paths — internships on Capitol Hill, law school, private practice, local party leader, election to the House of Delegates and, eventually, the Virginia Senate.

“I think we’ve both moderated some over the years,” Surovell said. “I don’t think there’s anybody in the legislature I’ve known longer than Ryan at this point. And we both care deeply about the institution of the state Senate.”

“We approach life from different directions, different viewpoints, yet we work together very closely,” McDougle said. “I think that’s a real testament to JMU.”

Although both men bleed purple, their new leadership positions in Richmond require them to put their respective parties’ legislative agendas first.

For Surovell, that means a blue agenda of increasing the minimum wage in Virginia to $15 an hour, banning sales of assault-style weapons in the Commonwealth and protecting women’s reproductive rights.

For McDougle, it means a red agenda of tackling the fentanyl epidemic by prosecuting cases involving fatal overdoses as homicides, undoing Democrats’ attempt to hitch Virginia’s vehicle emission standards to California’s and protecting the rights of the unborn.

Still, both men say there are plenty of

JMU Dukes Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) and Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) serve as majority leader and minority leader, respectively, in the Virginia Senate. Both are members of the Class of 1993. Although they are focused on advancing their respective caucuses’ legislative agendas, they say there is room for the two parties to work together on issues affecting Virginians.

“I think we’ve both moderated some over the years. And we both care deeply about the institution of the state Senate.”

issues on which the parties can, and should, work together for the benefit of all Virginians, including mental health resources, personal data security and learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Surovell, who as a student was encouraged by former JMU President Ronald E. Carrier to participate in Virginia’s Governor’s Fellows Program, credits him with establishing a leg-

acy of Dukes in the halls of state government.

In addition to Surovell and McDougle, JMU graduates currently serving in elected or appointed positions in Richmond include Delegates Jay Leftwich (’85), Chris Runion (’84M) and Atoosa Reaser (’96); Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Joshua Humphries (’15, ’20M); and Attorney General Jason Miyares (’98). Additionally, former GOP Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (’86) is a Madison alumnus, as is Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (’04), who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2025.

“Somewhere up in heaven, I think Uncle Ron is smiling down on all of us,” Surovell said.



Harper’s 47-year run at JMU BY

In the spring of 1977, “Hotel California” by the Eagles was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Construction of Greek Row had just begun. And students graduating that spring could select whether they wanted their diploma to read “James Madison University” or “Madison College,” since the name had just changed in March.

Senior Donna (Warner) Harper (’77, ’81M, ’86Ed.S.) selected Madison College for her diploma and was hired by JMU right after graduation to help fraternities and sororities move into their new homes along Newman Lake. Though it was supposed to be only a one-year position, it marked the beginning of Harper’s 47-year run at JMU. She is set to retire in June.

“Bill Hall, who was the vice president of Student Affairs, had determined that they wanted to hire two recent graduates to help transition the fraternities and sororities to Greek Row, and help write the policies and procedures,” Harper said of her first gig at JMU. She had been president of her sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, and very active in Greek life. So the job came naturally to her.

“Early on, one fraternity had an unfortunate incident with an animal getting injured in its house,” Harper remembered. “The president called in the middle of the night and told me what had happened.” She met fraternity members the next morning, “And then I got the call from the president to come explain what happened and what we were going to do about it.”

The president at the time was Ronald E. Carrier, a larger-than-life figure who was quite interested in Greek life, having been an enthusiastic member of Sigma Phi Epsilon during his college days. So you can imagine the young Donna Harper in Carrier’s office explaining the fraternity incident with the animal.

“Donna epitomizes servant leadership. She has never sought leadership positions for the power or prestige, but only to make a difference. And she certainly has made a difference!”
— MARK WARNER (’79, ’81M, ’85E d .S.), former vice president of Student Affairs

Soon, an opening in the office of the Dean of Students appeared, and Hall asked if Harper would be interested. Part of her responsibilities was to oversee Greek life, and she jumped at the chance given how much she enjoyed that aspect of her Madison Experience. The position, of course, came with unique challenges — as one would expect overseeing social organizations on a college campus known for its active student life. These conflicts would be most formative in Harper’s career and shaped her approach to the rest of her time at JMU.

“Our philosophy of what we wanted with Greek life was to build trust and respect with the organizations,” Harper said. “It was important to acknowledge what might have gone wrong and help them deal with it and have it be a learning experience.” Dealing with potentially difficult situations in this positive way became a hallmark of Harper’s approach. She went on to work in Judicial Affairs, and in hundreds, if not thousands, of difficult conversations with students, she maintained this orientation. “All along the way, our philosophy was ‘challenge and support, challenge and support.’ Our job is not to give the student the answer. Our job is to help the student find the answer themself. And I think that’s been very consistent.”

This is an important element of the JMU culture, and Harper’s role in perpetuating it was key. Over her 47 years at the university,

SANTOS (’20)
(L-R): Paul Holland (’82) talks to Donna Harper during the Holland Yates Hall dedication in 2022; President Alger and Harper hold the ribbon during the Reddix Center ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2023; Harper helps cut the UREC 10-year celebration cake in 2006.

Harper held a diverse set of roles: She ran the Health Center and successfully guided the unit to become far more than an infirmary. Harper became an associate vice president in Student Affairs with a broad portfolio of responsibilities. Former President Linwood H. Rose tapped her to be his executive assistant as well as secretary of the Board of Visitors. Eventually, Harper became vice president of Access and Enrollment, overseeing Admissions, Financial Aid, University Events and several other functional units spanning the institution. Rose said of Harper, “You cannot be a truly studentcentered university if you don’t have people

leading the institution who are dedicated to student development. Donna Harper was a fixture of my administrative team, because I could always count on her to be the one at the table who would represent the perspective of the student.” Emphasizing her “challenge and support” approach, Rose added, “That is not to suggest that she did not have high expectations of students. She would advocate for students, but she could also be very demanding. I recall when she was advising the Greek organizations that she always held them to the highest standards.”

Interestingly, however, a student could pass through their time at JMU without ever

Vice President of Access and Enrollment Management Donna Harper attends a Board of Visitors meeting. Scan this code to support the Donna L. Harper (’77, ‘81M, ‘86Ed.S.) Scholarship Endowment for Valley Scholars:

knowing Harper, since she never sought the limelight. Longtime Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Warner (’79, ’81M, ’85Ed.S.) said, “Donna epitomizes servant leadership. She has never sought leadership positions for the power or prestige, but only to make a difference. And she certainly has made a difference! Her humble demeanor and desire to help others succeed are the attributes that have made her such a successful leader.”


for Alumni Life

Finding their home Chapter Spotlight: JMU Black Alumni Chapter

In January, members of the JMU Black Alumni Chapter, representing a variety of decades, came together to honor the late Forrest Parker Sr. (’84M), a longtime JMU recruiter who touched many lives. This reignited the love and commitment of this community for JMU.

Brittany Asante (’18)

I came to JMU with nothing, but I left with everything! JMU truly helped mold me to become the woman I am today. I chose to attend JMU because of its prestige and the environment I would be entering. I’m a first-generation college graduate, so my parents always pushed me for higher education. JMU is special, because the opportunities are endless and you can meet people who can build you up due to their grand experiences and wisdom.

Secretary of African Student Organization, Delta Sigma Theta

Diane Smith

Butts (’84)

In 1980, I was prepped to enroll in another university when I opened the letter to attend JMU’s Black Freshman Weekend. A few months later, I entered JMU as a Business major but changed to Communication Arts. I loved my classes and internships; I made great friends and learned so much about myself and my place in the world. I graduated in 1984, fully ready to explore the opportunities that came my way. My JMU experience was incredible, and fond memories still make me smile today. JMU was the perfect choice for me.


Lauren Magruder (’13, ’15M)

JMU wasn’t my dream school when I graduated from high school, but I was awarded the Dingledine scholarship and decided to attend. I loved everything about my experience. I learned so much about myself there. The family atmosphere that the students create is one of the things that makes it memorable. I stayed and ended up becoming a Double Duke! JMU will always have a special place in my heart.

Dingledine Scholar, resident adviser, Delta Sigma Theta

Melvin Brown (’93)

When I arrived on campus, I knew I wanted to attend JMU. Madison made an indelible mark on my life in so many ways and presented me with growth opportunities and experiences that I could never have imagined upon graduating from high school. I made friends who became family and forged lasting relationships that will be with me for a lifetime. It also made me see my potential, even when I failed to live up to it. I am so thankful for my four years.

Alpha Phi Alpha, Students for Minority Outreach, Black Student Alliance

Francine Toliver Edwards (’91)

I fell in love with JMU after attending a journalism camp in high school. A follow-up visit during Black Freshman Weekend sealed the deal. What I enjoyed most about my education is that much of what happened outside of

the classroom was complementary to my coursework. The student organizations I was involved in, the peer and faculty mentors who invested in me, and engaging in community service helped provide a holistic view of my college experience. One of the greatest attributes of JMU is a sense of community and support. As a college administrator, I look at the best practices from JMU and work to implement them. Vice president of Students for Minority Outreach, reporter for JMU Today, Black Student Alliance, Delta Sigma Theta

Nicole Hicks (’12)

My experience was a real one. JMU is a reminder that your reality is just that. YOUR REALITY. A reminder that you are unique within a world of endless possibilities, and your ability to adapt to unfamiliar situations and make the best of it is strengthened. Centennial Scholars, NAACP, Women of Color, Delta Sigma Theta

Ron Burke (’85)

Receiving my acceptance letter from JMU is a moment I cherish. As a student, I enjoyed the academic challenges and social atmosphere. The campus became a second home. The groundwork I laid for four years was a springboard to a bigger world. I am happy to say that over the years, the name JMU has resonated from coast to coast. I often wonder what life would have been like had I NOT gone to JMU, and I always return to the thought that I’m glad I did. Student Government Association, president of Black Student Alliance, president of Alpha Phi Alpha


Ivaco Clarke (’10)

I was initially concerned that my collegiate experience at a predominantly white institution would challenge my commitment to self-acceptance, suppress my identity and devalue my unique contributions. My Madison Experience proved otherwise. I was awarded countless opportunities to not only define my educational and career goals, but to also determine WHO I aspired to be while inspiring others to do the same. JMU provided a nurturing environment to openly express my passion, creativity, spirituality and sense of self-awareness. I graduated with the conviction that I’d find my place in the world and with optimism that the world would enthusiastically receive my offering.

Black Alumni Chapter, Executive Board; Delta Sigma Theta; president of Students for Minority Outreach

Anthony Bowman (’14)

What I enjoyed most about JMU was the vast number of opportunities that I was able to be part of while here. Being a Music major, including being in the Marching Royal Dukes, allowed me to grow a lot musically. Being part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Contemporary Gospel Singers allowed me to grow in my faith and with friends. I loved going to JMU football and basketball games, as well as being a First yeaR Orientation Guide, to grow in my university spirit.

Various School of Music ensembles, Marching Royal Dukes, Pep Band

Jonathan Oliver Jr. (’12)

I transferred to JMU because the university offered prime educational and athletic opportunities. I enjoyed it so much — I learned how to be a student, made lifelong friendships and attained some of my grandest aspirations through campus engagement. I partied HARD, learned harder and made my own mark on Madison. In particular, I was surprised at how fully realized and diverse the Black JMU community experience was, coming from a historically Black college and university. The way that Black students and alumni open avenues to find their own place in our community is special. All of the food slapped too.

Football, Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Kappa Alpha Talent Show

Lee T. Parker II (’86)

My cousin, Forrest Parker, convinced me to apply to JMU even though I actually wanted to attend a historically Black college and university. Black Freshman Weekend changed my life. I grew up in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and had never been to the Valley. I was mesmerized by the beauty. I had a tremendous weekend, where I met lifelong friends who I interact with weekly. When I returned home from Black Freshman Weekend, I told my mother, “I think this is where I belong.” My Madison Experience was very special, setting the path for my legal career. JMU gave me friendships and memories that I treasure.

Omega Psi Phi, Army ROTC, intramural sports

Monyette L.F.

Martin (’93, ’94M)

My experience at JMU has changed my life. As an only child and first-generation student, the Madison community became my village. I have also been a JMU employee for more than 20 years. In my position, I plant seeds allowing students to grow in the same manner that I did. My life has been changed and continues to be shaped for the better by JMU. I have the great pleasure of living my life’s purpose in an environment that continues to shape my life in amazing and positive ways!

University History Committee, Women for Madison Executive Advisory Council and Amethyst Circle member, Black Alumni Chapter member and liaison Allison Baker (’87)

I don’t remember when I first learned about JMU, but one visit and a tour with Forrest Parker from the Office of Admissions had me hooked. It was the best decision I’ve ever made: an amazing campus setting, a safe community, academic training that continues to serve me well and lifelong friendships. Our Black student population in the ’80s may have been small, but more importantly, we were connected. JMU was an experience that confirmed that I belong in any space I choose. I will continue supporting efforts to increase opportunities for Black students to experience all that JMU has to offer.

President of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Lambda Chi chapter; The Breeze staff; Gospel Choir

Ten ways to stay engaged with JMU

The JMU Alumni Association believes in the motto “Dukes From Day One, Alumni for Life.”

The JMUAA represents more than 160,000 Dukes. Its mission is to be the leading connector and primary resource to meaningfully engage alumni and build exceptional relationships with and among students, alumni and the university to keep Madison Traditions alive for future generations. Joining the JMUAA is free — everyone who

Check out this list from the JMU Alumni Association, which offers a starting point.

earns a degree at JMU is part of the JMUAA family.

All alumni are encouraged to renew or maintain their connection with JMU. The JMUAA’s list of 10 ways to stay engaged with JMU offers a starting point. Whether you attend a local alumni chapter event, visit campus for Homecoming, donate to support the university or reconnect with former classmates, remaining engaged with JMU is guaranteed to rekindle fond memories from the past and create new memories in the future.

4 8 9


1 Connect with your local alumni chapter/regional ambassador.

2 Visit the JMU Alumni Association website ( to update your contact information and sign up for the alumni e-newsletter.

3 Reconnect with your JMU family — former roommates, classmates, professors, friends and acquaintances. Connections matter!

4 Make a pit stop when traveling in the Harrisonburg area and visit JMU. Drive or walk through campus to see what has changed and what has remained the same.

5 Wear purple and gold frequently. Shout “Go Dukes!” when you encounter a fellow Duke sporting JMU colors and attire.

6 Connect with JMU’s many social media channels.

7 Give back to JMU by donating your time, talents and treasure. If your employer has a philanthropic gift-matching program, use it to make a greater impact.

8 Stay up to date on all things JMU by reading Madison magazine, and sharing your career and personal milestones for publication in Class Notes.

9 Become a part of the Madison Network through the JMUAA and enjoy benefits such as webinar series, book clubs, career resources and networking events. The Madison Network is free to all JMU alumni:

10 Talk about JMU and your Madison Experience. It will help you make connections and promote the place we all love.

Iam honored to take on the role of director of Alumni Relations and executive director of the JMU Alumni Association. As a proud alumna and longtime JMU employee, I feel called to serve you, our 160,000-plus alumni, with energy, excitement and a desire to build even stronger connections to our alma mater. My senior year at JMU, I was fortunate enough to take a leadership class, taught by Linwood Rose and Mark Warner, in which we were inspired by the leadership of others while exploring our own leadership journey.

A new senior class, the Class of 2024, is about to embark on its alumni journey — Dukes From Day One, Alumni for Life! As you lead the way into new communities and careers, stay connected to JMU by reaching out to alumni chapter leaders in your area, donate every year on Giving Day, follow the JMUAA on social media, and make plans to come back this fall for Homecoming.

This spring, we celebrate alumni leaders at the Alumni Awards on April 12. These alumni are recognized in the areas of all-around contributions to JMU, volunteering, social justice, young alumni and student involvement. Nominations for the 2025 Alumni Awards will open this summer, and I encourage you to recognize outstanding alumni in your life.

Alumna embarks on leadership journey as new JMUAA director Honing your leadership skills is important at any age and career level.

The Class of 1974 is back on campus this spring for its 50th reunion and to be inducted into the Bluestone Society as part of Bluestone Reunion Weekend. Hats off to the wonderful alumni who stepped up to lead their reunion committee! If you are part of the Class of 1975, please reach out to join the reunion committee and mark your calendar for April 25-27 for Bluestone Reunion Weekend 2025.

Honing your leadership skills is important at any age and career level. The JMUAA offers excellent, online content FREE to all our alumni. Past webinars included sessions on changing careers, reaching your potential, being a savvy ally and creating a culture of connection. Keep up with more free offerings shared on our social media and through email.

Finally, I want to thank the Alumni Board of Directors for making me feel welcome, and especially board President Tripp Hughes (’09) for holding the door open for me. My heartfelt thanks to Carrie Combs (’07, ’09M) for serving as director and leading the alumni efforts for the past eight years and to Jessica Savoie (’14, ’20M) for serving as interim director during much transition this last year. The time, energy and effort you have both shown to your alma mater is exemplary, and the JMUAA is better for your guidance. My leadership journey as your alumni director is just beginning. I can’t wait to see where we go!


Laburnum Park

Alumni band rocks the Richmond music scene

Beginning in the basement of a Richmond, Virginia, historic district of the same name, Laburnum Park is a five-member cover band that plays rock, country music and everything in between.

Laburnum Park’s members are all well-connected to JMU. Drummer Eric Bowlin (’02), guitarist Chuck Gould (’93) and vocalist/guitarist Barry Saadatmand (’94) are alumni. The other two members — Matt Cochran (bass) and Courtney Easley (vocals/keys/mandolin) — did not attend JMU, but are friends of the university.

Laburnum Park’s members, whose professional careers range from tech to the marine industry, met through an unexpected avenue — JMU tailgates. Saadatmand has been tailgating at JMU for the last 20 years, which is where he first met Bowlin through a mutual friend and where they later met Gould through his wife.

should get together sometime and play some music.’ But, we would never do it,” Saadatmand explained. When he finally asked Gould to play with him that summer, he said, “I mean it this time!”

As the three continued to play, they picked up some new members — Cochran and Easley — to fill the gaps in their sound, and they began regularly rehearsing in Saadatmand’s Laburnum Park basement. Easley was also introduced to the group through JMU, as her family tailgated for 15 years with Bowlin and Saadatmand.

Despite knowing each other for well over a decade, the trio never really talked about playing music together. Bowlin was a percussionist in the Marching Royal Dukes, and Gould plays and owns an impressive collection of guitars.

In the first half of 2021, they began to talk seriously about forming a band. “For like five years we would say, ‘Hey, we

The band enjoys performing. “We’re definitely not doing it for the money; we’re all just doing it for fun,” Saadatmand said. And fun they have had!

Laburnum Park keeps a busy schedule. Generally, the band books gigs at local bars and breweries in the Richmond area. Occasionally, they will play for events like the JMU vs. Utah State football watch party hosted by the Richmond Alumni Chapter, as well as private parties and OystoberFest — an annual oyster festival in Richmond in October.

You can find Laburnum Park’s performance dates, along with clips and images from past performances, on their Instagram profile: @laburnumpark.

Richmond-based Laburnum Park practices a set.

Franchise owner delivers kindness — one cookie at a time

In 2018, with only a few business classes under his belt, Johnny Nguyen (’16) started his cookie company, MidnighTreats, out of his mom’s Vienna, Virginia, kitchen. Since then, he’s grown a business that serves all 50 states and was the first 100% plant-based cookie franchise in the U.S.

The idea for the company arose from Nguyen’s time eating late-night snacks with friends at JMU. “Once I graduated and moved back to Northern Virginia, I realized everything was closing at like 8:30 p.m.,” he said. “This area has a lot of recent college grads and people in their 20s, who I was sure still had some of those late-night eating habits but no options at that time.”

MidnighTreats’ slogan of “Be Kind. Spread Love. Eat Cookies.” was inspired by Nguyen’s Madison Experience. The brand seeks to promote a culture of kindness, not only toward other people, but also toward animals.

MidnighTreats has always specialized in larger-than-life cookies with fun and adventurous flavors. But when Nguyen decided to go vegan, the company went vegan with him. “When I personally went vegan, it felt wrong to be buying hundreds of pounds of butter and then not ever eating it, so I did a lot of testing and re-formulating of the recipes to make them vegan,” he said.

Despite his success, Nguyen has found that some potential customers still have a negative perception of plant-based foods. MidnighTreats is working to change that. “The stigma around vegan and plant-based food tasting bad is what makes people not conscious of vegan options,” he said. “MidnighTreats isn’t healthy — we are still desserts —

so we can show people that just because something is vegan or doesn’t have animal ingredients, it doesn’t taste like cardboard.”

This change in perception is reflected in MidnighTreats’ mission statement, which seeks to help decrease demand for animal ingredients and the exploitative nature of factory farms.

MidnighTreats is also focused on the environment, partnering with Eden Reforestation Projects to plant one tree for every box of cookies sold as well as donating to animal sanctuaries across the country. “We are trying to set the standard of being a for-profit business that gives back and helps better the environment. That would be a big win for us,” Nguyen said.

These efforts, he added, “go hand in hand with Madison, where there is a sense of community on campus and [it] feels like everyone is friends and everyone is kind to each other, since we’re all at the same school working toward similar goals. I don’t think that type of community should just be limited to university. It should be how we live outside of school as well.”

Nguyen said his days as a Duke also helped guide him when he faced challenges during the creation of MidnighTreats. “It wasn’t until my time at JMU that I learned how to take it upon myself to grow and ask questions, and how to go about figuring problems out for myself. Each time we grow, it’s something I have never done before, so I would say my biggest takeaway from JMU was learning how to learn.

“Hopefully, you’ll see a MidnighTreats in Harrisonburg soon, and things will have come full circle,” he said.

MidnighTreats owner Johnny Nguyen (’16) shares his larger-than-life cookies, which are plant-based.

Bowl-game watch parties

JMU Nation made history on Dec. 23, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, JMU’s first bowl-game appearance. Alumni not only showed up in Texas to support our Dukes, but alumni all around the globe participated in local watch parties. Shoutout to our alumni chapters for organizing and facilitating these opportunities to cheer on the Dukes together!

The numbers speak for themselves!



Standing My Ground: A Capitol Police Officer’s Fight for Accountability and Good Trouble After January 6th

ISBN-13: 978-0306831133

Walking the halls of democracy as a Capitol Police officer, Harry Dunn was a man slowly experiencing an awakening. It sparked after the election of America’s first Black president, and grew as his belief in the bravery and honor of law enforcement was shaken by the Ferguson, Missouri, uprising and countless other cases of police brutality toward the Black community. It continued to burn brighter as he watched members of Congress, many of whom he had befriended, lose their way to partisanship, as political extremism intensified. And it exploded into a blaze when he fought side by side with his fellow officers on Jan. 6, 2021, when democracy and their lives were threatened.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Standing My Ground is “a powerful, patriotic tale — told with striking moral clarity,” that provides a crucial, definitive firsthand account of what happened on that day when the U.S. was shocked to its core. But it also shares the story of a man who refused to stay quiet when he learned that some of the individuals he had risked his life protecting, who knew him by name, would deny the horrors they faced. That’s when he chose to speak up and seek out what his hero, the late Rep. John Lewis, once termed “good trouble.” Dunn’s ongoing story as a witness willing to meaningfully engage with the media, lawmakers and the public provides a backdrop for examining the political and racial divide in America — one that must be overcome to demand accountability and preserve democracy.

57 watchparty location requests

Across 19 states

With 1,050-plus registered attendees across all locations

SAVE THE DATE: OCT. 25-27, 2024


Sun Seekers: A Novel


ISBN-13: 978-1639104970

From Emmy Award-winning writer Rachel McRady comes a vital, illuminating debut novel of a broken family uniting in the face of a terrifying crisis.

Six-year-old Gracie Lynn is perpetually curious and big-hearted. Convinced she knows how to save her beloved grandfather, John, from the “worm” that is eating his brain — a metaphor her mother once used to explain John’s dementia and sundown syndrome — she helps him break out of his nursing home, and the two disappear together on a quest to chase the sun. But what’s an adventure for Gracie is a nightmare scenario for her estranged parents, LeeAnn and Dan. There’s no way to predict where John might have taken their young daughter, or if he’s capable of keeping her safe.

Jaded beyond her years and struggling with her own mental health, LeeAnn has no delusions about what might happen if they don’t locate Gracie soon. Dan is no less frantic, but communicating with LeeAnn isn’t easy, even under the circumstances — too much stands between the hopeful young couple they once were and the people they’ve become.

Sun Seekers artfully explores the truths of parenthood, the ways in which we sometimes hurt those we love most and the universal experience of deep loss — even when the person is still here.

Do You Need a Song?

ISBN-13: 979-8886794113

Sometimes a simple song can help children navigate all of life’s biggest feelings. With a Master of Arts in Communication and Advocacy, Everett Brubaker based Do You Need a Song? on a lullaby he’d sing to his son to help him fall asleep.

The children’s book is a joint project with Brubaker’s childhood friend, Kendall Yvonne, who reconnected with him after two decades to create it. Each rhyming, love-filled stanza of Do You Need a Song? invites the reader into a new feeling. Kids will enjoy the colors and animal metaphors associated with each feeling, and every page has a hidden music note to find. Whether read or sung, Do You Need a Song? is a beautiful book kids and adults will enjoy.

Markets in Chaos: A History of Market Crises Around the World

Business Expert Press

ISBN-13: 978-1637425145

Markets in Chaos is useful for those seeking to learn about the history of market crises and protect against downside risks for an investment portfolio. The purpose of the book is not to convince the reader to anticipate the timing of the next market crash but rather to draw parallels (and some contrasts) between different crises in history. Hughes reviews case studies related to specific macroeconomic event triggers ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to hyperinflation.

Readers will come away with extensive knowledge of different market crisis events spread across countries and timelines. The reader will be well versed on important macroeconomic topics such as the history of currencies. Perhaps most importantly, readers will feel better prepared to handle the next market catastrophe. Audiences, such as business school students and members of organizations like the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, will find this book of interest.

Living an Intentional Life: The Formula for Building Your Legacy

Independently published

ISBN-13: 979-8396396593

As a high school graduation gift to his son, Patrick Julius wrote a book to share his journey and the wisdom he has acquired through his life. Unsure what the future holds, Julius provides his children a perspective on how to navigate life as it unfolds. By discussing the factors they can control and those they can’t, he provides “a formula” to help them maneuver through a world that is simultaneously full of beauty and the inertia that perpetuates ugliness and harm. He ties the past to the present and the present to the future through his anecdotes, observations, illustrations and examples to help everyone understand how choices matter and influence society.

Since we all have limited time to make our mark, this book serves as a reminder that everyone’s journey contributes to the world we live in, that we are not alone and that we can work together to build something greater than if we only depend that upon ourselves.


Notes Class

Dukes lead: To honor Shenandoah Valley veterans in 2018, Army ROTC cadet Franklyn Gil-Bautista (‘22) placed commemorative U.S. flags on the Quad.



Nancy (Snead) Winn (’60), 85, of North Chesterfield, Virginia, died peacefully at her home June 12, 2023. She is survived by her daughter, Elizabeth Wilson, her stepson, many nieces and nephews, and her favorite cat, Cookie. She retired from Colonial Heights Public Schools in 1991 as an elementary school librarian.



Elaine Marie Early Beal, 83, of Waterbury, Vermont, died on Dec. 19, 2023, after a yearlong battle with stomach cancer. Fol-

lowing graduation, she married Army Lt. William Ross Beal Jr. of Brewster, New York. A lifelong traveler, in recent years she created incredible memories, seeing more of the world together with daughter Cate Beal.


David Teel, a columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, was named Virginia Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association for a record 15th time. ■ Susan (Dawson) Whittington, a Communication Arts major, and her husband, Tom, received the Charlene Hoag Leadership Award from the Business Development Board of Martin County, Florida. The award is named for the late

Charlene Hoag, former Martin County commissioner and community advocate. Given to recognize outstanding community service and commitment to the county, the award celebrates economic excellence. A

resident of Martin County since 1999, Whittington is a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley and co-owns Manatee Pocket Yacht Sales.

Nancy (Snead) Winn (’60) Susan (Dawson) Whittington (’81) and Tom Whittington


Forrest Parker Sr. (’84M), 64, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, died Jan. 1. From 1981 to 1989, Parker was the associate director of admissions at JMU, and was instrumental in the recruitment, retention and graduation of Black students under Virginia’s revised college desegregation plan. During his tenure, he was largely credited with increasing the enrollment of minority students at JMU by 400%.

Parker created two groups for Black students, Brothers of a New Direction (BOND) and Women of Color — organizations that had a profound effect on student members and which continue to thrive on campus.

Parker held a Master of Arts in Counseling Education. He was a proud and devoted member of the Beta Delta Delta


Craig Blass Memorial Scholarship

To many in JMU’s African American community, Parker was a mentor, brother, motivator, and inspiration, and the reason they attended the university. His undeniable impact on the institution, culture, students and alumni is immeasurable. His spirit is a part of countless Madison Experiences and lives on in the memories of those who cherished him.

■ Charles Taylor took a road trip in August 2023 to visit JMU and stopped in Weyers Cave, Virginia, to lunch with his Dukes besties.


Kyle Ritchie, a Communications major, started his own company in 2023 following a 30-year career in professional sports with the Baltimore Orioles, Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins and Carolina Panthers. Through Ritchie Eventures LLC, he provides sports and liveevent production and consult-

Thank you so much for your contribution to the Craig Blass Memorial Scholarship. This means the world to my family and me. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for this scholarship. I am a rising senior studying Finance and Accounting. Besides being a student, I am the vice president of Theta Chi fraternity and a senior analyst with the Madison Investment Fund. This summer, I am completing a wealth management internship with Wells Fargo and hope to do investment banking out of undergrad. My passion for business was sparked by my uncle, who started coffee and ramen shops in the Philippines. These shops raised my mother’s side of the family out of poverty. His journey inspired my long-term goal to be a successful business owner and have a similarly uplifting effect on others. In my free hours, I love to spend time with family, participate in church activities and bond with my fraternity brothers. Joining Theta Chi has been a life-changing experience. Coming into college around the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was lost, lacking structure and dealing with a weird social dynamic. Joining Theta Chi gave me a rock-solid brotherhood and the confidence to succeed in all aspects of my life. Through my time as vice president, I’m really hoping to make our chapter the best it can be — a chapter that takes immense pride in our brotherhood, community service and philanthropy, holding these values to the highest standard. Most of all, I wish to have a profound impact on the lives of my fraternity brothers, much like the transformative influence Blass had on others. Again, I cannot emphasize how much this scholarship does for my family. I am inspired by the legacy of Blass and hope to make a difference in the lives of others.

Thank you,

Chapter of Omega Psi Phi at JMU. He went on to earn some of the most prestigious awards the fraternity offered.
(Left, L-R): It’s been more than 30 years since Caroline Benson Botkin (’84), Chuck Taylor (’84) and Lisa Niday Botkin (’84) (no relation) have gotten together. (Above): Kyle Ritchie (’88) Forrest Parker Sr. (’84M)

ing services. Some of Ritchie’s recent clients have included the United States Football League, MLB, NASCAR, the Atlantic Coast Conference, Wake Forest University, High Point University and the Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile. ■ Mark Rendell was appointed to the position of superintendent of public schools in Brevard County, Florida. Brevard is the 49th largest school district in the U.S. with more than 70,000 students. Rendell was awarded the Ronald E. Carrier Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in 2018. He and his wife, Heidi Albrite Rendell (’90), live in Melbourne, Florida. ■ Andrew Thomas, an English major, was recognized by Best Lawyers in America 2024. Thomas is a personal injury lawyer in Warrenton, Virginia, with the law firm Dulaney, Lauer and Thomas, LLC.


Chris Andres was inducted into the Virginia Rugby Hall of Fame on Sept. 22, 2023, at Pale Fire Brewing Co. in Harrisonburg. During his Madison years, he was a Rugby East Collegiate 1989 MVP and a U.S. FirstTeam All-American in 1989 and 1990. As an adult, Andres played in the VRU, PRU, and ERU 7’s and 15’s, and played for the USA Eagles from 1990 to 1995.


Alex Pedersen, a History major, completed a fouryear term on the Seattle City Council in January. “My history degree from JMU with extensive writing bolstered by research; my job experience on campus all four years; occasional political columns for The Breeze; and a painfully unsuccessful campaign for president of the stu-


dent body in 1990 all forged a foundation for my future careers in the public and private sectors,” he said. “I’m not done yet. Go Dukes!”


Ken Jordan, a Finance major, is in his second year of co-leading Purple Gold Partners, a boutique talent firm helping companies hire mid-to-executive level talent. Jordan and his firm partner, Todd Cornell (’88), paid homage to their JMU roots with the name of the firm. Jordan is also president and board chair of LAUNCH

for Life, a nonprofit that mentors young men in need of a positive male


role model. Andrew Thomas (’88) Mark Rendell (’88) (Above, L-R): George Sucher (’92), Virginia Rugby Hall of Fame Class of 2012; Bill Boyer (’89); Chris Andres (’90), Virginia Hall of Fame Class of 2022; Mark Fowler, JMU coach; and Mike Coyner (’91), Virginia Hall of Fame Class of 2012, at the induction festivities Alex Pedersen (’91), center, was sworn in as a Seattle City Council member by Ron Sims, former King County executive and retired deputy secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, at Seattle City Hall, Washington. The Lambda Chi Spring 1993 initiation line of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority recently celebrated its 30th anniversary at JMU.


son County, Virginia. They met at JMU when Macy was a first-year. The bridesmaid, Madison, was Macy’s college roommate. 5. Mark Rowan (’95) and Melanie (Neergaard) Rowan (’96) married on June 24, 2023. They met as cast members in a JMU theater production directed by Brian McEntire (’95) (also pictured) and were friends throughout the years before they started dating. 6. Ryan Fox (’21, ’22M) and Margaret Boncek (’21) married on Nov. 4. Fox graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, and Boncek graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Fox later earned a Master of Science in Accounting.

1. Joe Gowen (’17) and Karly (Margerum) Gowen (’17) married on June 2, 2023, in Spring Lake, New Jersey. They met as first-years in January 2014 when they were grouped together in a general communications class. 2. KellyAnne (Thompson) Mimm (’17) and Jon Mimm (’17) celebrated the first birthday of their future Duke, Olivia, in August. KellyAnne and Jon met in 2013, dated throughout college, married in 2019 and gave birth to Olivia in 2022. 3. Sarah (’17) and Travis Moss celebrated the birth of Bennett Alan Moss, a future Duke, on Oct. 3. 4. Macy Raquel (Hooper) Fleischer (’21) and Noah Aaron Fleischer (’19) married on May 28, 2023, in Madi-
3 5 4 6 2

7. Mackenzie (Bliss) Lawhorn (’20, ’21M) and Carter Lawhorn (’18) married on Aug. 5 in Washington, D.C. Ninety Dukes attended with class years ranging from 1982 to 2021. 8. Claire (Rafter) Reed (’19) and Matthew Reed (’19) married in October with a number of alumni in attendance. 9. Jenny (Smith) Lewis (’10, ’11M) and Joe Lewis married in February 2023 at Bluestone Vineyard in Bridgewater, Virginia. 10. Erin (Frye) Provencher (’07) married Chris Provencher (’06) on Nov. 11 at The Estate at River Run in Maidens, Virginia. Their love story dates back to the early 2000s, when they met at JMU as friends before moving to opposite sides

of Virginia. Even though their lives were apart for many years, the world kept giving them signs that they were meant to be together. In 2022, Chris was working in New Orleans, Louisiana, but was ready to move back to Virginia. The long-distance phase of their romance ended with Erin flying down to visit Chris in New Orleans for a weekend, and then a week later, he flew to Richmond — forever. 11. Jessie Everett Pedersen (’11) and Dane Pedersen, head coach of JMU swimming and diving, married on Sept. 23 at Brix and Columns Vineyards in McGaheysville, Virginia. “JMU gave me so many of my closest friends and now my husband!” Jessie said.

10 11
7 8 9
12. Megan Enneking (’18) and Daniel Pinson (’18) married on Oct. 20 in the charming Lowcountry of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, exchanging vows under moss-laden oak trees on Hobcaw Creek. 13. Gary Hargrove (’17) and Emily (Kerekes) Hargrove (’17) met at JMU and married on Sept. 29 at Bluemont Vineyard in Bluemont, Virginia. (L-R): parents of the bride Beth (Krebs) Kerekes (’86) and Seth Kerekes (’86); groom Gary Hargrove (’17) and bride Emily (Kerekes) Hargrove (’17); Matt Kerekes (’84) and Diane (Hattendorf) Kerekes (’83), uncle and aunt of the bride (and now groom) next to Duke Dog. 14. Adam Wright (’17) and Heather Knowles married on Aug. 25 at Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands of New York. 15. Future Duke Liana Hurley spent Nov. 4 supporting JMU football with her father, Brian Hurley (’04). 16. Jordan (’16M) and Jacqueline Burns (’15, ’16M) welcomed daughter Josephine Anne on Nov. 13. 17. Kyle (’11) and Maretta (’11) King welcomed their newest future Duke, Camden Joseph King, on Aug. 23. Camden attended his first JMU home game on Nov. 18. 18. Tanner Dofflemyer (’18) of JMU baseball and Caroline Dofflemyer (’19) of JMU lacrosse married Sept. 30 in Elkton, Virginia.

94 Racquel Oden was appointed head of wealth and personal banking at HSBC on Sept. 18, 2023. She will oversee the bank’s wealth management, global private banking and retail businesses in the U.S.

Oden joins HSBC from JPMorgan Chase & Co., where she served as head of Network Expansion for Consumer Banking. She previously led National Sales and the Northeast Division for consumer banking and wealth management. Before JPMorgan Chase, Oden held several roles at Merrill Lynch, including heads of advisor strategy and global product strategy and market executive for the firm’s flagship New York Fifth Avenue market. Previously, Oden spent 10 years at UBS in a number of senior leadership roles.

A Political Science major, Oden was a Lambda Chi Alpha chapter member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at JMU. ■ Kelly Stefanko, Suzanne Fleming Maddalena (’10) and John Lynskey (’89) attended a government accountability conference, AGA Professional Development Training 2023, in Orlando, Florida, where their enthusiastic presenter, Darryl Ross (’88), announced he, too,


was a JMU alumnus. The alumni in attendance called out “Go Dukes!” and gathered for a photo op afterward.

Stefanko was an Accounting major, serving as an audit manager in the National Science Foundation’s Office of the Inspector General. Maddalena, a Finance major, supports the Federal Risk Services line for KPMG. Lynskey was an Accounting major and recently transitioned from the National Science Foundation controller and deputy director of financial management to the Smithsonian Institution deputy chief financial officer. Ross is a former TV news reporter and highly requested motivational trainer and keynote speaker. A Communications major, he began his career in the entertainment industry. ■ Audra Yuki (Wright) Jones was named the 2023 Old Dominion Dental Society’s Dentist of the Year. The ODDS is a 110-year-old Virginia organization of African-American dentists. The ODDS recognized Jones for her 24 years of dental practice and philanthropic role as president of the Virginia Dental Association Foundation. The VDAF organizes Missions of Mercy programs to pro-

vide underprivileged patients free dental services in areas of need across Virginia. To date, those programs have provided more than $72.6 million in free dental care. Jones is married to Vaughan Jones (’92) and has two children, Casey and Liam.


Aaron M. Pritchett recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary at Newport News Shipbuilding, Virginia’s largest industrial employer located in Newport News, Virginia. He is senior video production specialist for the Communications Division, and is in charge of all public relations and internal executive video production

for the company. Pritchett has a passion for telling the stories of shipbuilders who bring the nation’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines to life for the U.S. Navy. He has spent the last 30 years honing his skills in the local TV broadcast, local city government and corporate video-production realms.



Tiffany Peterson Bennett (’98), 47, of Irmo, South Carolina, died unexpectedly July 14, 2023. A Social Work major, Bennett served in various capacities in elementary education. She drew strength from her willingness and desire

Racquel Oden (’94) Audra Yuki (Wright) Jones (’94) (L-R): Suzanne Fleming Maddalena (’10), John Lynskey (’89), Darryl Ross (’88), Kelly Stefanko (’94) at AGA PDT 2023 (Below): Aaron M. Pritchett‘s (’96) 10-year anniversary highlights at Newport News Shipbuilding

to help children with life and learning challenges.


Sean Dunne, a Sociology major, moved to Ireland for his postgraduate studies. After completing his dissertation and postdoctorate at Trinity College, he moved back to the U.S. Dunne is now a sociology professor at Shawnee State University while serving as the mayor of Portsmouth, Ohio. “[I] encourage JMU students and alumni to consider running for local political office,” he said.


Molly McElwee Malloy (’02M), a Music major, moved into a new role at Locus Health in Charlottesville, Virginia. As vice president of metabolic health, she will be instrumental in ensuring data relevant to metabolic health goes directly to the electronic health record. McElwee Malloy’s years of experience in diabetes has taught her that clinicians need to focus more on metabolic health to prevent, treat and properly manage diabetes. ■ Stephen Ravas, who studied Psychology and Business, joined the Corporation for National and Community Service Office of the Inspector General as counsel to the inspector general in August 2019. A member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, he served as acting deputy inspector general from January 2022 to May 2023.

Prior to joining AmeriCorps OIG, Ravas served as assistant counsel to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security OIG. There, he was the lead attorney for investigative issues related to criminal procedure, law enforcement techniques, and the Special Agent Handbook, and participated in and provided legal counsel for

30 Rock employees share their pride for JMU and NBCUniversal on Sept. 14: Haylie Reichner (’18), Danielle Finn (’19), Abby Marks (’02), Bianca Melloni (’18), David Ramirez (’19), Vince Moran (’20), Annie Sizemore (’15), Emily Goodnight (’19), Gia Morreale (’22), Kelsey McMahon (’16), Dyer Pace (’19), Diana Rocco (’05), Mashiyath Zaman (’20), Brittany Howard (’18), Sage

multidisciplinary investigations, audits and inspections.


Abby Marks, an employee of NBCUniversal, recently discovered 15 Dukes who work at 30 Rock .


Chris Falcon was elected to an eight-year term as Fairfax County (Virginia) clerk of court. He previously served as deputy clerk and legal counsel at the Arlington Circuit Court since 2014. ■ Caroline (Banks) Sanders placed fifth in her age group at the 2023 USA Triathlon National Championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Aug. 6, 2023.

With a finishing time of 1:12:07, she is among the top 4% of female sprint triathletes in the country. She also qualified for the 2024 World Triathlon Championship Finals in Malaga, Spain.

“Our close-knit group of JMU alumnae are so very proud of her and … her amazing accomplishments,” said Johanna Smith Olaya (’03), Sanders’ friend. “Caroline is self-trained and took up triathlons while rehabbing a running injury. She competed with JMU Cross Country early in her college career, and after graduation, got married and raised a family (three boys) in Wey-

ers Cave, Virginia, with fellow alumnus Dan Sanders. She took up triathlons in the last five years and has quickly excelled to the top of her game!”


Jessica Black was named one of Birmingham Business Journal’s 2023 “Women to Watch.” She serves as vice president of Marketing and Communications at the Greater

Molly McElwee Malloy (’00, ’02M) Barnett (’20) Jessica Black (’04) at the Greater Birmingham (Alabama) Convention and Visitors Bureau

Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau in Alabama. She also worked at JMU as assistant director of Communications and Marketing from 2007 to 2010.

“Over the next 10 years, I hope to say that I played a role in furthering Birmingham’s


growth and reputation,” Black said. “The current momentum in our city is palpable, and we have so many opportunities in front of us. Ultimately, I don’t want those outside of our market to consider us a ‘hidden gem’ but simply a gem.”

Alumni delegates attend university presidential inaugurations

Harvard University

Cambridge, Mass.

Jason Glass (’99) attended the inauguration of President Claudine Gay at Harvard University this past fall. “Despite the rain, it was a wonderful event at Harvard for its presidential inauguration,” Glass said. “I was honored to have served as JMU’s delegate and joined hundreds of delegates from around the world for this ceremony.”

Sewanee: The University of The South, Sewanee, Tenn.

Lisa Eyster (’83) represented JMU at the investiture ceremony of President Robert W. Pearigen from Sewanee: The University of The South. Eyster mentioned that President Pearigen is a family friend, which made this event even more special.

Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va.

Martha Parker (’55) attended the inauguration of President Dondi Costin at Liberty University. The opportunity was extra special for Parker, because she got to spend time with her son, Ed Parker, director of the Hancock Welcome Center at Liberty. Parker’s two grandchildren also attended Liberty.

Roanoke College, Salem, Va.

Beverly Harris (’68) attended the inauguration of President Frank Shushok Jr. at Roanoke College this past fall. Harris emphasized how appreciative she was to be asked to represent JMU at this event. She had a wonderful time meeting all the other delegates and being part of the investiture ceremony.

George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Tim Miller (’96, ’00M), JMU’s vice president of student affairs, represented the university and President Alger at the inauguration of President Ellen M. Granberg at George Washington University. This opportunity gave Miller the chance to reconnect with old friends and colleagues from his time at GWU. He also got to share this experience with his wife, Jamie Jones Miller (’99), who was there representing Northeastern University.

07 Lori McVay and her collaborating physician, Dr. Carl Moore, were selected as the 2023 Virginia Academy of PAs Physician/PA Partnership of the Year. This award recognizes a physician-physician assistant team exemplifying the collaboration, trust, mutual respect and collegiality essential for providing excellent health care to patients and serving the community. McVay is a cardiology PA at the Centra Heart and Vascular Institute in Lynchburg, where she practices full time and is the founding program director for the Centra Heart and Vascular Institute General Cardiology PA Fellowship Program.

Wesley Hedgepeth (’08,’09M)

Josh Humphries (15,’20M)

Matthew Cabrera (’17)

08 Wesley Hedgepeth (’09M) is president of the National Council for the Social Studies for 2023-24. NCSS is the largest professional association in the U.S. devoted solely to social studies education. In December, Hedgepeth was also the chair of its 103rd NCSS Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. With a Master of Arts in Teaching degree, he thanks his JMU professors and advisors who prepared him well for these roles, particularly Michelle Cude, Kristina Doubet, Gay Ivey and Barbara Stern.

14 Melissa Rooney, a Marketing major, recently founded her own company: The Bright Side Coaching. Her business is a judgment-free, financial coaching company focused on helping people save, invest and build wealth.

After completing grad school, Rooney paid off $52,000 of student loans in 26 months and hit a $100,000 net worth by age 29. Now she helps other people hit their money goals and feel more confident about their finances.

The Bright Side Coaching is accepting clients for one-on-one money coaching who want to feel more confident about their finances and build wealth. For more details, visit https:// thebrightsidecoaching. com or follow along on Instagram: @thebrightsidecoaching.

15 Wade Dove is a media production manager with Rudy’s Girl Media and was camera operator, co-director and video editor for its hit show, Hometown Hustle, which highlights small-business owners in small towns making a big impact. A Media Arts and Design major with a concentration in Digital Video and Cinema and a minor in Music Industry, he also makes reels and client promotional videos, works on smaller web series episodes, and directs a crew of camera operators and interns.

■ Josh Humphries (’20M) was appointed by the governor of Virginia to serve as the deputy secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. He previously served as the director of legislative affairs with the Virginia Office of the Attorney General and also worked within the Office of Government Relations at JMU. Additionally, Humphries was the director of policy at the Virginia Association of Health Plans and

(L-R): Jason Glass (’99), Martha Parker (’55), Beverly Harris (’68) and Tim Miller (’96, ’00M)

a consultant in Deloitte’s State and Local Government team. Five years after graduating with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Political Communication, he earned a master’s degree in Public Administration.

16 Peter Byrd earned the certified financial planner designation administered by the CFP Board. He is a financial planning and portfolio analyst in the Richmond, Virginia, office of Agili, an independent, fee-only financial planning, investment strategy and strategic services firm that serves as its clients’ personal chief financial officer. Byrd majored in Media Arts and Design with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Sport Communication.

17 Matthew Cabrera graduated in Spring 2023 from Georgetown University’s School of Medicine and is in his firstyear of general surgery residency at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Cabrera earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Psychology, concentrating in Neuroscience.

18 Jeaninne Rowland moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2019 to be closer to family. Originally from Virginia, her background is in human services with a focus on survivor advocacy for those who have experienced

sexual assault, human trafficking or domestic violence. She got her start volunteering with CARE on campus during her final two years at Madison, amassing more than 200 hours served on hotline duty.

Rowland currently works in the Allegheny County Public Defender’s office and plans to pursue career opportunities in the legal field.

Rowland welcomes the opportunity to hang out with nearby Dukes and is interested in restarting the alumni chapter of Steel City Dukes in 2024. She can be contacted via Facebook under Jeaninne Rowland, LinkedIn at missrowland or emailed at

23 Faith Frost received the 2022-23 AIM Developmental Grant honorable mention.

Frost was a second-year doctoral candidate in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program. She studied the social communication skills of autistic individuals through a strengths-based, neurodiversity-affirming lens and how autistic adults interpret indirect requests. She hopes to expand her research for use by teachers, employers and others who are consistently in contact with adults who are autistic.

Frost intends to use the AIM grant to expand her research, fund incentives for participants and finish her project. “I feel very honored to have been awarded the AIM grant,” she said. “Currently, less than 18% of individuals with a research doctorate in Communication Sciences and Disorders are nonwhite. Funding provided by the AIM Grant will help me to accomplish my goal of earning a Ph.D. and becoming a role model for students from minority backgrounds like myself.”

SEA helps support The Pantry at JMU

(’73), SEA Steering Committee chair

The Staff Emeriti Association has completed its ninth successful year as a JMU-approved organization. Through its partnership with Human Resources, the association has grown to increase awareness of the staff emeriti designation across campus. As a result, 323 classified staff retirees have earned the designation, and 30% are active SEA members.

In 2023, the SEA adopted The Pantry at JMU as its volunteer activity. SEA support is in the form of monetary donations and needed supplies to help alleviate food insecurity on campus, which affects 38% of the student body. During the year, the SEA has made individual gifts totaling more than $2,500 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 its generous donations. “With your support, we’ve expanded our general offerings to include more consistent school supplies, dairy and nondairy milks and creamers, and a steady supply of fresh produce,” he said. “Your thoughtful contributions have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of countless students at JMU.”

SEA Steering Committee member Judy Powell shared with the committee a recent exchange she had with family members. “Over Christmas, I visited with some younger relatives who are attending JMU. Because of my involvement with the SEA, I became aware of the JMU food pantry, so I started to share with them about that opportunity,” she said. “I was happy to hear that they already knew about it, had received help from there, thought it was great and were most appreciative of the support.” SEA assistance to The Pantry will continue in 2024.

“Your thoughtful contributions have a significant and lasting impact on the lives of countless students at JMU.”
— JEREMY HAWKINS, Off-Campus Life assistant director

The SEA conducts a monthly luncheon series and periodic tours of JMU facilities, offering educational opportunities as well as a chance for members to network with former colleagues. In October 2023, Virginia Soenksen, director of the Madison Art Collection and Lisanby Museum, provided a tour and curator commentary on the Highlights of the Madison Art Collection exhibition on display in the Lisanby gallery. To end the year, a festive holiday luncheon was held in late November for 45 members and guests at CrossKeys Vineyards. The SEA returned to campus in January with a tour of the renovated Convocation Center led by Ty Phillips, assistant athletics director of facilities and events, and Adam Brunk, facilities manager.

For more information about the Staff Emeriti Association and upcoming events, visit or email

Jeaninne Rowland (’18) and Miss Munchie Moon

By the Numbers


UREC received the 2017 Leaders in Collegiate Recreation Outstanding Sports Facility Award


Since 1996, UREC has operated an award-winning recreation facility and is a national leader in the development and use of student-learning outcomes in the field of collegiate recreation.

7 annual events, including UREC Fest, Pack the Park, Nightmare at UREC, Warm a Winter Wish, Reach Out Climb, Battleship and World Cup

34 intramural sports leagues and tournaments

50+ sport clubs to join

50 student-led adventure trips per year

8,074 visitors on Jan. 22, 2024, which was the busiest day in UREC history

100+ group exercise classes offered each week

130 unique cooking and wellness classes offered each year

106 aquatics program offerings, including Dive-In Movies, logrolling and swim lessons

300+ pieces of cardio and fitness equipment available

95% of JMU students have participated in at least one UREC program or service

Every year, more than 5,000 students participate in intramural sports, and more than 2,300 students participate in sport clubs. On a busy fall or spring day, UREC welcomes more than 6,500 visitors.

Planned Giving Is Your IRA Rollover Barking Orders? Draft Your Will Here, for Free! We can help, no begging required. Scan to learn more call 540-568-8938 email Don’t let your IRA required minimum distribution (RMD) chase you into a higher tax bracket for 2024. An IRA Charitable Rollover (qualified charitable distribution – aka QCD) is a beneficial way to show your loyalty for James Madison University and receive tax benefits in return –even if you take the standard deduction! Get off the RMD short leash – contact us or visit 159,986 Total living alumni ■ More than 50 alumni chapters located worldwide ■ Free membership ■ Networking resources ■ Reunion and Homecoming programming ■ Exclusive alumni-only communications To learn more about the J M U Alumni Association, visit alumni.jmu .edu or call 540 -568 - 6234. JMUAlumniAssoc @JMUAlumni JMU Alumni JMU Alumni Association map by mymaps com L through March 2023 1 - 5 6 - 25 26 - 50 51 - 200 201 - 1000 1001 - 7696 14 618 Alumni by County 0 200 400 600 M es 0 310 620 930 M 0 100 200 300 M es



As a former U.S. Capitol Police officer, Harry Dunn (’05) took an oath to protect and serve. “I’ve always liked the idea of protecting and serving, with an emphasis on serving,” he said.

Harry Dunn (’05) returned to campus in October 2021 to speak to political science classes and studentathlete leaders.

“We can’t ever let this happen again.”
— HARRY DUNN (’05)

On Jan. 6, 2021, Dunn and his fellow officers defended the Capitol from an angry mob that had stormed the building to try to stop lawmakers from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Now, he is looking to join the ranks of those whom he previously defended. Dunn has launched a bid for Congress in Maryland’s 3rd District. He has been outspoken about the insurrection and the need for new leadership, and has written a book,

Standing My Ground: A Capitol Police Officer’s Fight for Accountability and Good Trouble After January 6th.

While the First Amendment gives every American the right to assemble peacefully and protest, Dunn said, “When those demonstrations turn violent and people are hurt, that’s when it becomes a problem. Now you’re breaking the law.”

“As ugly as January 6th was,” he said, “not one member of Congress or their staffs were hurt, and lawmakers went back [early the next morning] and certified the election, which made me so proud. Democracy did not stop.”

For his actions that day, Dunn was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal.

The notion of service was awakened in Dunn at an early age. “My parents instilled in me, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Treat people right,” he said.

A starting offensive lineman on the Dukes’ 2004 national championship football team, he credits his involvement in athletics at JMU with teaching him the value of working together to achieve common goals and overcome adversity.

The events of Jan. 6, 2021, amounted to “a stain on American history,” Dunn said, one that could resurface if the underlying causes are left untreated.

“We can’t ever let this happen again,” he said.

See more inspiring stories at

— Jim Heffernan (’96, ’17M)

NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION U.S. POSTAGE PAID Permit 4 Harrisonburg, VA 22801 Madison, MSC 3603, 1031 Harrison Street, Room 3020 Harrisonburg, VA 22807 Division of University Advancement PHOTOGRAPH BY CODY TROYER

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