People magazine, Madison-style

People magazine's first cover

Back about 1974, some New York executives had an idea for a spin-off of the popular, game-changing, Henry Luce-started news magazine, Time. The new venture was to be an expanded version of the magazine’s regular “People” feature. Some said it was a dumb idea that would never fly.

How wrong the naysayers were. The executives persevered, succeeded in dramatic fashion — and proved a point. People magazine, launched in March that year, was a rousing success. Part gossip, part expose, part journalism, part news, People proved that people are interested in people.

Alumni associations understand this intrinsically. Anyone who has learned from an exceptional professor or who has been impacted by a classmate or who has made a lifetime friend, understands that the past, present and future wealth of universities is vested in people.

This spring, while the Alumni association planned a celebration of a century of Madison alumni, James Irwin (’06), assistant director of communications and marketing, and his colleagues in the Alumni Association office came up with an idea to feature 100 Dukes in 100 Days as a roll-up to this year’s Homecoming (Sept. 30 – Oct. 2) where the celebration will crescendo.

The challenge of the idea was who would research and write 100 alumni profiles? It was a daunting task — almost as daunting as pairing down the list of 100,000- plus alumni to a manageable 100.

Gabrielle Piccininni ('11)

Enter writer Gabrielle Piccininni (’11).  On loan from Madisonmagazine,

Gabrielle pitched in and started assembling profiles. Gabrielle graduated Magna Cum Laude in May with a double major in English and studio art. She was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. 

“Gabrielle has proven to be a driving force behind our ‘100 Years, 100 Days, 100 Dukes’ campaign. She’s an exceptional writer, a gifted storyteller and really understands how people are at the foundation of The Madison Experience,” James says of her work.

At last count, more than 65 profiles have been completed, some by James but the bulk has been written by Gabrielle.

What I love about the list — besides reading about interesting people — is that it features alumni from all decades, all walks of life, all disciplines and all occupations. The list that represents the thousands of other alumni clearly shows the tangible proof that JMU is changing the world.

So today’s blog post is a shout-out and an encouragement to Gabrielle. Thanks for featuring some of the people who make JMU such a special and exceptional university.

To read Gabrielle’s profiles of Madison alumni, go to:

You can read more of Gabrielle’s work here:

And to sign up for this not-to-miss Homecoming that celebrates a century of Madison alumni, visit:


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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