What a moment for our Unleashed campaign! Not only did our university pull off another successful JMU Giving Day last Tuesday, but on that same evening, we celebrated reaching the $200 million goal for Unleashed: The Campaign for James Madison University. Hitting that ambitious target a full 15 months ahead of schedule gives our entire JMU community reason to celebrate. The campaign total now stands at more than $205 million. Unbelievable! These successes provide the momentum now to sharpen our focus in the final phase of the campaign!
We all have experienced in some way the difficulty and anguish of these last 12 months. In the face of this distress, many of us have sought joy in helping others. Unleashed has given ample opportunity for that. Together we’ve changed lives for the better. What’s more, with the support of so many, JMU can emerge from this pandemic strong and ready to provide the learning environment that will serve as ideal relief from the social separation we’ve all endured. As students return next fall they’ll be up close and in person with the Unleashed campaign’s most visible achievements, including the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship; Hartman Hall; the Atlantic Union Bank Center; and the mesmerizing Peter L. Via Collection.
But the greatest achievements of Unleashed aren’t as obvious as buildings and dazzling gems. No, you can see the most important gains in our students, those who now have access to a JMU education because of your scholarship gifts. Our doors are opening wider and wider. That’s what excites us! And that’s why we’re so pleased that the final 15 months of the campaign will be devoted to scholarship giving.
In our family, we have witnessed firsthand the impact of scholarships. And when we founded the Dukes Pay It Forward Scholarship program in 2016, our vision was to create a way for others to reflect on the support they received and to pay it forward. So far, 28 other donors have established DPIF scholarship endowments, and hundreds of others have made gifts that can help students immediately. These gifts change lives.
Getting to know many of our DPIF recipients has been an inspiring bonus. One of our first recipients, Ari, joined us for dinner about five years ago, so we learned her story and developed a connection that we have kept going since then. We have seen Ari graduate, get her first job, move to a new city — and pay it forward! She exemplifies the vision we had for Dukes Pay It Forward and the positive difference it could make.
Plenty of deserving high school students could become the next Ari, out in the world successfully Being the Change.
But through our affiliations as proud alumni, with the JMU Board of Visitors and Women for Madison, we’ve come to understand how JMU struggles to find funds to recruit students who need scholarships to attend. Dukes Pay It Forward scholarships (as well as other programs, such as Valley Scholars and Centennial Scholars) aim to open the door for deserving freshmen and transfer students with renewable scholarship dollars.
JMU has proven that once these students walk onto campus their chances of success skyrocket — they are empowered to get their degrees, find good jobs and lead lives of purpose. As tangible evidence that JMU and the donors who support these efforts are making a very real social impact, students receiving these scholarships are graduating at the same rates as their peers who attend without financial assistance.
There’s additional potential to this Unleashed scholarship focus. Funding agencies often look first at the number of students with financial need we are already helping on campus. It’s been a catch-22 for JMU. To receive more funding from those agencies, JMU must enroll more students with financial aid; however, the university needs additional funding to enroll them in the first place. The work of Unleashed has already made a difference. Now our renewed focus on scholarships for these final 15 months means these funding agencies might look more favorably on JMU when they are making their funding decisions.
We hope you will register for the May 21-22 for Women for Madison Summit, where scholarships will play a special role. Women Who Amaze, a Virtual Weekend of Connection will feature some phenomenal JMU women and some pivotal announcements for helping future Dukes.
So we believe you can see why scholarship giving excites us so much. We are so thankful for the 57,103 donors who have already given to Unleashed, and we look forward with great anticipation to what can happen before this campaign concludes in 2022.
Thank you again! And Go Dukes!!
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