Renaissance man

231641 Eddie Bumbaugh Portraits-1006In 1965, Harrisonburg, Va., for a small city, was a shopper’s paradise. The downtown featured large department stores, druggists, gift shops, jewelry stores, music shops, stationery stores, shoe stores, men’s clothing stores and dress shops, furniture stores, bookstores and three “five-and-dimes.” There were counters for lunching and movie theaters for entertainment — two of them, in fact. And much of the business done throughout the entire county was conducted in downtown Harrisonburg. It was a one-stop shopping venue.

All that changed in the 1970s when businesses began moving away from downtown. Many relocated to the newly-built Valley Mall, east of the city. It was part of a nationwide trend that hit Harrisonburg hard.

Leggett’s department store left. JC Penney left. The “five and dimes” and department stores closed or were repurposed. What had been a vital downtown began to see vacant store fronts and — of greatest concern — fewer people. The mall area was draining the life out of downtown.

Eddie Bumbaugh (’73) who had grown up in the area watched the decline. “My father owned a Buick dealership and I worked summers washing and reconditioning cars,” he says. He later earned his masters in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University, but home was always here in the valley.

In 2003, realizing not only the potential but the possibility of a revitalized downtown, Eddie and a group of citizens formed the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance. He became the executive director.

“When the city decided that Eddie Bumbaugh was the person to lead the revitalization of downtown, it was the wisest decision that could have been made. Eddie is the guiding light,” Glenda Rooney, city resident and former assistant to the provost of academic affairs at JMU, says. “Eddie’s unceasing energy and strong passion for revitalizing Harrisonburg is contagious….It could not have been done without his leadership.”

In well planned and strategic moves, Eddie and HDR worked step-by-step to resuscitate Harrisonburg’s downtown. In the decade that followed, they turned a dying downtown into a vibrant urban center.

One of the biggest differences between the Harrisonburg of the 1970s and today’s Harrisonburg is people — who live there, shop there and meet there once again. According to the Jan/Feb 2013 MainStreetNow magazine, the Journal of the National Trust Main Street Center, the city had 150 houses units in 2003; today that number exceeds 500.

“By having more people living downtown, we could create a strong base for retail,” Eddie told MainStreet Now, which featured Harrisonburg’s renewal as a case study for developing a vital urban downtown. (To read the entire article, including the case study, click on the embedded link above; the case study begins on page 8.)

Eddie’s leadership was critical. Lisa Ha (’04,’10M), assistant director of marketing at JMU and former program manager for HDR, says: “People know him for his genuine commitment to our community and for the unassuming way he has been been bringing people together for the common good of Harrisonburg for more than 30 years. Everybody knows Eddie.”

A decade after it began, HDR’s success is apparent. Today’s city has a thriving and attractive downtown where success has followed success. The Explore More Discovery Museum (another grassroots effort), the public library, the Quilt Museum, art and music venues, restaurants, microbreweries, and a successful community theater all drive the new life of downtown Harrisonburg, as do events like Taste of Downtown, cycling events, film series, MACRoCk, Valley Fourth and First Fridays.

Significant credit goes to Eddie Bumbaugh’s leadership, which is why we’ll soon add him to our Be the Change website. Eddie defines what it means to be an enlightened and engaged citizen. He has been an agent of change in Harrisonburg — which is no longer the city of the 1960s and 70s.

It is  so much better.

To learn more about the turnaround in Harrisonburg’s fortunes, read about Barry Kelley and Andrew Forward and their work to bring people back into the city.

Watch words

Bob Reid talks with a student

Bob Reid talks with a student

Occasionally we come across an individual who is a given for inclusion in our list of JMU Be the Change individuals. Bob Reid is such a given. While he was dean of the College of Business, he changed the lives of thousands by initiating and promoting innovations, which helped elevate the college to prominence among B-schools. He provided leadership that launched stellar careers and introduced influential individuals into the business world. He reinvigorated the Executive Advisory Council, bringing together alumni, faculty and students to foster a rich and enhanced collaborative and mentoring learning platform. He championed the now highly acclaimed COB 300 course. It is, in fact, impossible to overstate Bob Reid’s influence — and equally difficult to wrangle all of it into one short profile. COB faculty member Phil DuBose told me, Bob “took the CoB to places it had never been, and to places that some may have thought it would never go.” So as we introduce Bob Reid as a new addition to our Be the Change website, I asked  Phil, who knows him well, to offer a personal perspective of the man ……(And don’t miss the video that follows Phil’s piece!)

Bob Reid – A Leader Worth “Watching”

by Phil DuBose

(Phil DuBose is a professor of management in JMU’s lauded COB. He has also served the university as department head, associate dean for academic affairs and director of accreditation, which, he says, is how he wound up working closely with Bob for 15 years.)

Yogi Berra was absolutely correct when he asserted that “You can observe a lot just by watching.” I say that based upon my experience “watching” Bob Reid in his role as dean of the College of Business from 1996 to 2011. I not only observed a lot, but also learned a lot during the 15 years that I worked with him while he was dean. I’d like to share some of what I observed – and learned – during that period.

Bob asked department heads to do what is in the best interests of the college. This request was not as simple as it might seem because a department head is primarily responsible for his or her unit. But Bob made the process easier by modeling the behavior that he expected from others. Specifically, he always ensured that decisions made by the college’s leadership team were ones that were in the best long-term interests of the college and the university. While the outcomes resulting from those decisions were beneficial, the process aspects of these decision-making endeavors were nothing short of amazing. More specifically, Bob structured the decision-making process in such a way that the leadership team made decisions without ever “voting” on anything. Consequently, nobody ever felt like a “winner” or “loser” after a decision had been made.

If you’re thinking that one of the results of such a management practice would be a highly cohesive team, and positive, long-term relationships among team members, you’d be correct. Almost everybody serving as a department head or an associate dean remained in those roles for many years. Such long-term tenures of those in key positions speak volumes about just how much people liked working with Bob, as well as how much they liked working with one another as members of the leadership team, with the latter being an obvious result of the effectiveness of the overall leader.

One of the many reasons that people like working with Bob is the perspective that he brings to the job. As dean, he asked people to take their jobs seriously, but not to take themselves too seriously. He complied with his own request, as evidenced by the fact that, on numerous occasions, I heard him laughing heartily with whomever was in his office at the time, and I found myself wishing that I were in there with them. A dean’s office is an incredibly busy place, and much of what goes on is not particularly pleasant or fun. So it’s definitely “therapeutic” whenever the mood can be lightened – at the right time and in the right way – with some levity, and Bob was really good at lightening the mood.

Speaking of mood, I suspect that almost anybody who has ever had a job has had to deal with a co-worker, or even worse, a boss who is moody from time to time. In addition to being very unprofessional, this type of behavior is extremely unfair to those who have to work with the moody party. Nobody who worked with Bob ever had to deal with this problem because his mood was always upbeat and unvarying. As incredible, or perhaps unbelievable, as it sounds, I don’t recall his ever being “in a mood.” When you work with somebody on a regular basis and you never have to worry about how that person “is feeling today,” the work experience is much more productive and enjoyable.

Lest you conclude that the above information is simply “one man’s opinion” about Bob, let me provide you a little more information about him. He has been – and continues to be – highly regarded by virtually everybody with whom he comes in contact. He is past president of the Southern Business Deans Association, past president of Beta Gamma Sigma, and former chairman of The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business Maintenance of Accreditation Committee. Beta Gamma Sigma is the national honor society for business schools, and no business school can have a BGS chapter unless the program is accredited by AACSB, the international accreditation organization for business schools.  Last summer, Bob departed JMU to become AACSB’s chief accreditation officer, a marvelous new opportunity for him. These positions are among the most prestigious in the business education arena, and ones that are not held by – or even aspired to – by most deans. Do you see a pattern here?

People say that baseball’s a funny game because you try to end up where you start out – at home plate, scoring a run for your team. Since I began by quoting a baseball hall of famer, it seems quite fitting that I conclude by referencing Yogi again here at the end. I can say with confidence that he definitely understands the relationship between watching and observing because I certainly observed a lot when I watched Bob. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to watch.

Here’s something else to watch……(Note: If you receive this through email, you will need to go to YouTube or the Be the Change WordPress site to view the video.)

Easy, easy change

New JMU alumnus Gil Welsford has a philosophy for change that is easy and universal. Be the Change intern Anthony Baracat (’13) recently sat down with Gil to find out more.

Easier than you might think

By Anthony Baracat (’13)

Recent JMU alum Gil Welsford in the lobby of Showker Hall

Gil Welsford (’12), smiling in the lobby of JMU’s Showker Hall

When I sat down with Gilbert Welsford (’12) to talk about Be the Change, and about why he is a great example, I had a couple ideas of what type of person he was. I knew about Gil, the student—a College of Business whiz kid, academic standout, university role model. There was also the “Club Gilty” Gil—fun-loving, dancing to his friend’s DJ-ing in Warren Hall. Finally, there was the businessman, the LinkedIn professional.

But the Gilbert I met looked a lot different…

First of all, it was not “Gilbert Welsford Jr.” Just “Gil,” he said. He had an ear-to-ear grin—a grin even he admitted he was famous for. He also talked much more about people than business, it seemed.

That love of people started as a love for JMU. Gil says he has no specific memory, only “walking around campus and being inspired,” he says. “You have so many vehicles to create things here, so many resources. You can’t beat it.”

The vibe of JMU got him excited—whether it was about the College of Business or a Motivational Entrepreneurship class that he taught through JMU Teach. Gil’s enthusiasm increased, as did his love for the people around him. Creating something new through hard work and collaboration was possible, Gil discovered.

He linked up with Ty Walker (’12) to found Club Gilty, an on-campus, alcohol-free nightclub.  And he and Andrew Sparks (‘12) collaborated to build Sparks Entertainment, a one-stop entertainment event planning business based in Philadelphia.

So when I asked Gil about change, he didn’t discuss new marketing strategies or how to bring in revenue or usability testing. He said you must smile.

“People feel like they have to do something big to change someone’s life, but doing small things can be so powerful.” He continues, “I truly do feel like smiling at somebody who’s sitting on the street will save their life.”

He recounted an instance during exam week, when all the busy, weary-eyed students around him shuffled into Starbucks to get in some last-minute studying. He felt empathy for them. Gil grabbed a stack of about 15 or 20 napkins and wrote little notes on each: Good luck, Smile, You can do it! After inconspicuously planting the notes, he watched his experiment unfold. Students began to talk about what had happened, asking who did it?

He said it made them smile.

Gill is still producing smiles. After graduating last May, he is involved in two current ventures, Sparks Entertainment and ValveMan, a business he runs with his father who Gil says is his best friend, role model and now partner. Both enterprises involve fewer than 10 people on the job site. It keeps him going—not having to compete and overwork in a large corporation, but interacting with his friends and family is his own arena of change.

“That’s not why I live on this earth—for business. Not because I want a lot of money—well, so I can earn a lot of money to give it away, change peoples’ lives.”

One way he hopes to do this in the future is through venture entrepreneurship, a business tactic in which stable owners fund smaller hopefuls, sometimes providing mentorship along the way. It is, of course, more complex than a smile but derives from the same motive.

“If you ask anybody if they want to change the world, they’re going to say yes. That’s their eventual goal,” Gil says. But he would add it’s not that difficult—you can change the world every day.

Just smile.

When the dust briefly settles

Kevin Melton (’04) and General Stanley McChrystal

Few spots on earth do not have an active or brewing conflict. In some areas like Afghanistan where conflict flames up often and devastates communities. Restoring those communities is not easy, but when the dust briefly settles, there are special individuals who ply their talents to help communities rebuild.

One of those is Kevin Melton (’04).

Shortly after he arrived in Afghanistan, the armored vehicle he was riding in hit a roadside bomb and exploded. He survived though two others did not.

“An event like that changes your life,” he says.

Still, Melton stayed in the country for more than two years to work as a civilian, knowing full well the consequences of conflict. During his time there, he helped strengthen communities and governments in order to rebuild a country living with war.

The international affairs major and Rotary Peace Fellow also studied peace and conflict resolution at Australia’s University of Queensland. He understands that the old models for rebuilding and conflict resolution aren’t necessarily the most effective today. “We’ve been using the same tools for decades — post World Wars, post Cold War,” Melton says. Today, he takes a social science view, combining social science and conflict resolution.

For his work to restore areas of the world torn by war and conflict, we will soon add Kevin Melton to our growing list of individuals who are Being the Change throughout the world.

To learn more about Kevin, read Kelley Freund’s (’07) story at

They are the world

Last week’s failure of the North Korean rocket launch was a stark reminder that the world has a ways to go. Seven decades after Germany began developing atomic technology and 67 years after the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb to end World War II,  international conflict is still very real. Nations, peoples, individuals, ethnic groups, indigenous populations, armies, institutions and organizations are  scrambling to find some semblance of peace in the world. It’s still elusive. We have not arrived.

But there are glimmers of hope. Among them is a new generation with a world perspective unlike any of their predecessors. This generation of 20-somethings thinks nothing of hopping a plane to Belarus or making a temporary move to Brazil, Denmark, Australia or Kenya. To paraphrase a line from the Jackson/Ritchie song, “they are the world.”

Many of these students have gained this perspective through their collegiate experiences abroad.  At JMU, a university that ranks high for students studying abroad, this world view is strong, growing and highly productive. Last year, international affairs major Adam White (’14) participated in the 2011 INU Student Seminar at Hiroshima University, a conference sponsored by the International Network of Universities. For Adam, it was an affirming experience; already he had come to understand the critical nature of cross-cultural collaborations in formulating a vision for helping individuals in oppressed nations gain freedom.

As a result of his work, Adam received the 2011 Henry Fong Award, which recognizes an INU student for contributing to the network’s theme of global citizenship. And for his work, we have added Adam to JMU’s growing list of Be the Change individuals. 

In announcing the award, the INU said about Adam:

Adam White wrote a thoughtful and inspiring essay. He reflected on the concept of Global Citizenship and the ways that the INU Student Seminar reinforced his convictions about ethical obligations in an interconnected world. He argued persuasively that “different peoples, cultures, and belief systems are equally valuable parts of a greater human community” and that “it is the duty of each person and organization, regardless of background, to make choices that promote the welfare of this collective, diverse whole.” In addition, Mr. White presented a personal plan for carrying out this duty. He outlined a project designed to increase the visibility of persecuted North Koreans and to provide English language training to North Korean refugees.

Next week, a new group of international citizens will gather in Sweden for International Staff Training Week at Malmo University. Among the participants will be Jim Heffernan (’96), JMU public affairs associate. Jim’s participation is driven by JMU’s preeminence in the international organization.  Last October, JMU assumed the leadership of the organization for a three-year term. JMU is the only U.S. college or university in INU, which includes members from Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Sweden.

During his week in Sweden, Jim will be a guest blogger for Be the Change, giving us all a glimpse into the international world that Adam has already grasped.  Look for Jim’s posts next week.

To learn more about Adam and his work with INU, visit

Asking the right question

Rheannon Sorrells triggered change by asking the critical question. (Photo by Norm Shafer)

Sometimes Being the Change means asking the right question.

Rheannon Sorrells (’04, ’11M), a teacher at Ressie Jeffers Elementary School in Warren Co., Va., watched as children struggled to read. At the same time, she was working on  her master’s degree in JMU’s College of Education and had discovered a new methodology for reading instruction called Response to Intervention. The RtI program recognizes that teaching methods that identify individual students’ strengths and weakness, and that are designed around the child, are highly effective.

Rheannon posed a critical question to her graduate professor: What would it take to try RtI at her elementary school? The result of Rheannon’s question was a partnership between JMU’s Allison Kretlow, professor of education, and the teachers at Ressie Jeffers.

And it  worked.

Because Rheannon asked the right question and acted on her convictions, Rheannon triggered a process that changed hundreds of young lives. Eventually the RtI reading program was adopted countywide.

For Rheannon’s work and especially for being the “spark” for change, we’re adding Rheannon Sorrells to our long list of Be the Change people.

You can read Rheannon’s full profile here:

And you can read the entire story of the successful Warren County reading program by visiting

Two who are building change

Building for a downtown Renaissance

by Tyler McAvoy (’12)

Prior to the construction of the Valley Mall in 1977, downtown Harrisonburg was the place to be. Shops and large department stores lined Main Street and Court Square. Restaurants and businesses thrived, and a theater, complete with a huge lighted marque, was always showing the latest and greatest blockbuster hits.  Yet when the mall was built, things began to change rapidly, and businesses began to migrate out of downtown. When the businesses left, the people began to leave too, and throughout the 80’s and 90’s downtown Harrisonburg was only a memory of what it once was.

Barry Kelley ('83) and Andrew Forward ('86) (photo by Mike Miriello)

Yet, things have started to change.

A slew of new restaurants have opened up in recent years, each offering a different style of food.  Coffee shops and bars now stay open late and some provide  floor space where customers can cut a rug. Three different types of museums have opened their doors, featuring the world of local artists and craftsmen. A new theater regularly shows indie and art-house films to challenge your normal film-going conventions. Yearly holiday events attract thousands to Court Square, and there’s a bigger demand for housing in Downtown than there has been in years.

This change isn’t accidental, or some matter of luck. Much comes from the hard work of an organization of local businessmen and professionals who have banded together to restore downtown to its former glory. Focusing on attracting businesses to downtown, the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance brainstormed the idea of getting parts of downtown designated “historical districts” meaning that whoever builds or develops a property in these places can get a federal tax credit, as a means to attract developers to the area. And it has worked. Tax breaks piqued the interest of more then one developer, including Barry Kelley (’83) and Andrew Forward (’86). Both members of HDR, Kelley and Forward have utilized this to their advantage. And the result has been to downtown Harrisonburg’s advantage.

Urban Exchange, part of Harrisonburg's future

Kelley and Forward have partnered together on several high profile projects, such as City Exchange and Urban Exchange, which have fundamentally changed the culture of Harrisonburg.  City Exchange, located in an old abandoned seed mill, is now a modern complex featuring a restaurant and fashionable flats, while still retaining the history of the building. For Urban Exchange, Kelley and Forward took an empty parking lot and turned it into a huge multi-level apartment building, complete with underground parking and outlets for electric cars, adding a sense of definition to Harrisonburg’s generally vague architectural design.

Future projects are in the pipeline too, including turning an old ice factory into a multi-use building with a focus on creating space for artists and designers. Kelley and Forward have been instrumental in Harrisonburg’s revitalization and, as ideas emerge, will continue to develop Harrisonburg into a cultural and societal center.

For the contributions these two JMU alumni have made to the rebirth of downtown Harrisonburg, the late John Noftsinger nominated them last year for Be the Change. He was right; It’s a good fit. So soon we’ll be adding Barry Kelley and Andrew Forward to our Be the Change website.

We will also keep track of what’s next for these two builders of change.

To read more about Urban Exchange, visit their website at

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