Welcome, President Alger

Dear President Alger,

Welcome to JMU on this, your first day as the sixth president of our 104-year old university. We’re glad you’re here.

We are excited to get started in the all-important getting-to-know-each-other phase. Of course, your job is much harder that ours because there is one of you and thousands of us.

Many in the “us” group are born and bred JMU, those who studied at JMU, graduated and joined our growing ranks of alumni. Some of us, like you, me and the new Class of 2016, begin as outsiders. We’ve come from other universities or other locales before landing here in Harrisonburg. The reason I tell you this is because of JMU’s most endearing and enduring quality: the university’s overwhelming sense of welcome. One 2012 grad explained it this way: “JMU’s flagship organizations aren’t Greek, like at other schools. They’re the Student Ambassadors or Safe Rides, open to everyone. They’re not exclusive — they’re inclusive.”

Since you’ve said that your first order of business is a listening tour (How cool is that!), I asked a couple of seniors to kick it off…..

Keith Zirkle (’13), a statistics major and biology minor, says:

JMU is more than late nights in libraries, pigging out at dining halls, or even forging memories with friends. It’s a personality. All Dukes are so different in our endeavors, but we generally approach life in the same way. There’s a reason we’re universally known for holding doors open. We aren’t just nice people. We’re holding doors open to our future too.

JMU shapes its students. We’re not going into the world blinkered by our careers. We’re set on making change, balancing jobs with community engagement, meeting people, and holding doors open for all the people who haven’t experienced the JMU spirit.  What sets a JMU Duke apart from any other college graduate is the atmosphere ‑— the magic — of campus.  I’ve heard of people being states away and meeting other JMU grads in grocery store parking lots and they share that instant connection.

Engineering major Matt Wisniewski (’13) agrees with Keith. Matt says that learning JMU’s social culture

“will take time, and that’s okay. JMU is known for being incredibly welcoming and hospitable. This may be overwhelming at times, or even considered somewhat fake due to President Alger’s position. However, I have come to learn that these feelings of concern for fellow Dukes are indeed genuine and a huge part of Madison’s identity.”

Matt’s right. It is genuine and it seeps into every crevice of the campus. It gets under your skin and into your DNA. One friend of the university (who like you and me was from elsewhere) told me recently that when he first came to campus he asked student after student if they liked it here. Every single one of them said, “I love it here.” He was amazed and a little doubtful at first, but he came to understand how very real this welcoming culture of James Madison University is.

We really do love it here — and we think you and your family will too. We look forward to your leadership, but most of all we look forward to getting to know you.

Welcome to JMU.

Many thanks to Keith and Matt for their help with this post.


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....

4 Responses to Welcome, President Alger

  1. Jonathan Alger says:

    Dear Martha, Keith and Matt,

    Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful messages. On my first day here, I am already experiencing the warm welcome of the entire JMU community. I look forward to meeting all of you.

    Jon Alger, President


    • Matt Wisniewski says:

      President Alger,
      I heard that you’ve already learned the J-M-U Duuuuuukes cheer. I love it! I’m so happy to hear that your first day on the job has been met by a warm reception. Good luck with the rest of your first week. We’re rooting for you!


    • Keith Zirkle says:

      President Alger,
      Best of luck this week! It’s awesome that you’re starting over the summer, so you can see the first years come and visit. They’re where the Duke spirit begins!


  2. Lynda Ramsey says:

    Thanks Martha for saying it so beautifully…these are my exact same sentiments. I welcome Mr. Alger and his lovely family with great excitement.


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