Andy’s Army

In last week’s Breeze, I read about the efforts of JMU junior Andy Eblin. On Monday morning following the recent disastrous Springfest, Andy created a Facebook page, “Dukes for Harrisonburg.” In 12 hours, 1000 had signed on; as of today, the count is well over 2,000. Andy’s organization is a positive roll-up-your-sleeves kind of effort to counter a negative one — turning a bad situation into one that could make things better than they’ve ever been in JMU’s relationship with Harrisonburg.  Andy is enlisting students and others to find ways to be good neighbors in Harrisonburg.  Andy’s goal is to for students to “be residents rather than just people who have to be here for four years,” according to the Breeze.

It’s simmered for years — this town and gown standoff.  For decades, I’ve heard or read disparaging remarks about the university and its impact on Harrisonburg, yet a century ago this community wanted — indeed, campaigned — to have the school located here. Now, the two are inextricably twined, but if one looks at it objectively, it’s a symbiotic relationship that is good for both. JMU has benefitted enormously from the city of Harrisonburg, and the city, likewise, has reaped many benefits from JMU.  JMU brings jobs, revenue, services and spirit.  According to one economic impact study, in 2005 JMU provided 3000 jobs and created another 3000 indirectly. On the other hand, Harrisonburg provides endlessly rich opportunities for students to learn and grow through hands-on and cooperative learning situations — not to mention sharing with students a beautiful setting. Only a few years ago, the entire city rallied as JMU competed for their national football championship.

We — JMU people and the local citizenry — are much like a family; we live together and nobody has a chance to choose his or her family.  At times we quibble and disagree — and at times some of us misbehave.  But what is good about our relationship is the collective benefit we provide to one another.  Forgiving transgressions, and perhaps as importantly, working through conflicts, makes us both stronger. We are stuck with each other; we can let the misbehavior of some taint our relationship forever or we can work to make it the best it can be.  Andy and his army of Dukes seem determined to choose the latter.

So I, for one, applaud Andy Eblin and I’ve signed on to Dukes Helping Harrisonburg.  If this isn’t JMU’s brand of change, I’m not sure what is.

To read Megan Martin’s Breeze story about Dukes for Harrisonburg, go to:

To read today’s Breeze followup by Kaleigh Somers, go to:

To sign up for Andy’s Army, go to Facebook and search for “Dukes Helping Harrisonburg.”


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

One Response to Andy’s Army

  1. Dot & Bill Dougherty says:

    What can I say to Andy Eblin – We’re impressed. Truly impressed.


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