A great bright bonfire

Once a Duke, always a Duke

When you boil it all down, the most valuable commodity any university, any college, any institution of higher learning has is not coffers of money, grand buildings, tough courses or storied histories. It is people. People are its products, and people validate its worth. People inspire and innovate, they teach and learn, and perhaps most importantly, they form the building blocks of every facet of what makes a university more than a dry, lifeless institution. People transform education into a living, growing, inspiring collegiality with an unquestioned impact on the world.

This year — this month, in fact — marks the 100th anniversary of the first time Madison people came together to support, encourage and affirm what has become known as the Madison Experience.  A century ago, on June 13, 1911, following the first commencement of the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg, a handful of young women met to formalize an alumnae association. Back then they were few in number, but they were not short on foresight. They understood — as JMU’s subsequent 100,000 plus alumni would come to understand — that the value of what they gained as students deserves, indeed requires, ongoing support and affirmation.

It is that important. For a century their collective impact has been on two fronts.

As alumni have left Madison and ventured beyond, they have taken their talents into every corner of the world, into every profession and avocation, and they have used them for the greater good. They have improved the world in myriad ways. On a second front, they have given back to that place — the university — that nurtured them, and by doing so, they have ensured the same Madison Experience for future generations.

Think of it all as a great bright bonfire. Students light torches from the fire on campus and when they become alumni, they take their bright lights out into the world — but they come back, and they give back, to stoke the fire, to keep it burning brighter and brighter.

To celebrate this milestone in Madison’s history, the Alumni Association is featuring 100 Dukes in 100 days, beginning today and leading up to a centennial celebration of alumni during Homecoming Weekend. As one who worked on the university’s centennial, which occurred in 2008, I can tell you what fun it is to think back and celebrate the accomplishments of Madison. It’s people, it’s history are endlessly interesting and inspiring. Every day I hear of yet another alumnus’ work to which my initial response is, “WOW!” 

James Irwin (’06), assistant director of Alumni Relations, who is spearheading the 100 Dukes in 100 days campaign, says, “There are a lot of converging themes that we wanted to emphasize. Two in particular were the alumni centennial and the idea that so many of our graduates have gone on to make a difference in the world.  This list is just a snapshot of what our alumni have accomplished throughout the past century. We could run this campaign every day for years and I think we’d only scratch the surface of the great things our alumni have done and continue to do.”

Such an event only comes around, well, every 100 years, so don’t miss this one!  Follow along as Alumni celebrates its own.  Today, they begin with a great lady ….. go see who it is. Here’s the link: http://www.jmu.edu/alumni/awards/centennial.shtml

And bookmark it, so you don’t miss a single face. You can also add your own thoughts here. We’re always eager to hear about alumni, so if you or someone you know has a great story of entrepreneurship, of compassion, of pluck, of victory, of accomplishment, add a comment on this blog, or shoot me an email at Bethechange@jmu.edu


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....

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