An honor for Elizabeth’s grandfather

When Elizabeth (’58) and Charles Seaver decided to endow a scholarship in her grandfather’s memory, it was to honor a man Elizabeth loved and admired. It was also a way to keep alive the memory of a man whose impact on Madison began on the opening day of classes in 1909 and continues today. Earlier this fall, I sat down with the Seavers to learn more about the man described by many as “the historian of the Shenandoah Valley.”

A grandfather’s legacy

L-R: Katrina Seaver ('17), Charles Seaver, President Alger, Elizabeth Seaver ('56), Jacqueline Herrick ('17). In addition to hosting the game, President Alger inducted Elizabeth into the Bluestone Society during the game.

L-R: Katrina Seaver (’17), Charles Seaver, President Alger, Elizabeth Seaver (’56), Jacqueline Herrick (’17). In addition to hosting the game, President Alger inducted Elizabeth into the Bluestone Society during the game.

It’s a beautiful, crisp, blue-sky Sunday morning in September. Campus is quiet and sleepy — just waking after Saturday’s football victory. Elizabeth (’58) and Charles Seaver, guests of President and Mrs. Alger, had watched the game with their granddaughters, Jacqueline Herrick (’17) and Katrina Seaver (’17).

For Elizabeth, visiting with her granddaughters must have felt a bit like déjà vu. While she was a student, studying toward a degree in mathematics, Elizabeth often walked the few blocks off campus to Weaver Avenue to visit with her own grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. John W. Wayland.

Dr. Wayland had been a member of the first faculty of the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg and a significant player among the intrepid scholars who created the blueprint for what became Elizabeth’s Madison College — and eventually become James Madison University.

Although Dr. Wayland had retired by the time Elizabeth enrolled at Madison College, he was an inspiring and welcoming figure to her.

“I would go visit. Sometimes I’d take a friend,” Elizabeth remembers. “He had a little book of unbound poetry….He would give one to my friends. I’d ask him to autograph it.”

Elizabeth remembers her grandfather as a modest man, who was highly disciplined and dedicated to his work. He was humble and “very down to earth,” she says. “I enjoyed being around him. You’d never have known he had done all that he had done.”

By the time Elizabeth visited him on Weaver Ave., Dr. Wayland was renowned throughout the valley. In fact, he was widely regarded as the historian of the Shenandoah Valley. Today, up and down the valley, his name and the impact of his scholarship are still visible. A highway, an elementary school, a building on JMU’s campus all bear his name.

An accomplished man

Dr. John W. Wayland, circa 1909

Dr. John W. Wayland, circa 1909

Elizabeth’s grandfather — and Katrina and Jacqueline’s great, great grandfather — was born near Mt. Jackson in 1872. He was the son of an accomplished cabinetmaker and a teacher, who educated their youngest son at home until he was 8 years old. It must have been a rich season of learning. John and his parents embarked on cross-country trip that — before the advent of the automobile — took them a full year. Many years later, as an adult, Dr. Wayland would travel widely throughout Europe.

Once he enrolled in school, John Wayland’s life of scholarship and teaching began. At age 18, he taught in a small log school on the western slope of the Massanutten Mountain, beginning a period of 17 years during which he interspersed teaching with his own education. He earned a bachelor of arts from Bridgewater College, taught at a boys’ school in Charlottesville and Bridgewater College, and he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, teaching there briefly as well.

As a doctoral student, he embraced life with enthusiasm — the same kind of enthusiasm he later brought to Harrisonburg. He was a charter member of the University of Virginia’s Raven Society, editor of the Raven Book, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Washington Debating Society. It has been said, one biographer wrote, that he received nearly every academic honor given at the university.

In 1909, he joined the faculty of the brand new school in Harrisonburg — a place with unparalleled opportunities to shape the future.

A new school to build

One need only read Dr. Raymond Dingledine’s history of Madison College* to catch a glimpse of the excitement with which the first faculty embraced the mission of building a school from the ground up. Not surprisingly, it was a season of firsts, and John Wayland was right in the mix.

As a member of that first faculty, he was the first history professor, the first secretary of the faculty, the first to offer a prayer at the first assembly, the first to lead hikes up the Massanutten Mountain, father of the first faculty children — and the first faculty member to own an automobile (a Ford touring car). He drove the first editorial staff of the first Breeze to Mt. Jackson to collect the first copies of the first student-run newspaper.

Dr. Wayland was also instrumental in shaping policies and precedents, working closely with President Julian Burruss. The two 30-somethings and a close-knit faculty carefully considered each step they took — always with an eye on the future and the great responsibility their opportunity presented.

According to Dr. Dingledine (who knew Dr. Wayland and sought him out when he wrote his book), he was “a brilliant young historian,” who was also much loved by his students and his colleagues. It was John Wayland who supported students when they asked for some degree of self-governance, a cornerstone of Madison that remains strong today.

Wayland Hall, built in the 1950s and named for Dr. Wayland, underwent a major renovation in 2010. Today Wayland Hall houses a community of students pursuing the arts.

Wayland Hall, built in the 1950s and named for Dr. Wayland, underwent a major renovation in 2010. Today Wayland Hall houses a community of students pursuing the arts.

Despite his towering intellect and the gravitas of the first faculty’s task to build the new school, Dr. Wayland was not above being — in the vernacular of the day — a “sport.” He was a ready vocalist, often twanging a tuning fork to grab the correct pitch before singing a lesson. He won a Halloween show one year by singing his own biscuit recipe to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.” He wrote the first Madison alma mater, “Blue Stone Hill.” He also wrote a song for the Commonwealth that was submitted for the last competition for a state song. And when the whole world celebrated Shakespeare in 1916, Dr. Wayland donned a period costume and joined a parade through the streets of Harrisonburg.

A renaissance man

All this squares with Elizabeth Seaver’s memories of her grandfather. “He didn’t seem interested in materials things,” she says. “His whole life was dedicated to his work, but as intensely as he worked, he always had time for me when I wanted to visit.”

“He was a tall, rawboned man,” remembers Charles, then a Virginia Tech student, who met Dr. Wayland when he began dating Elizabeth. “He impressed me.”

Even when Dr. Wayland retired from teaching in 1939, he continued to study and write.

He was “a renaissance man,” Charles says, marveling at the extent of his knowledge. “…. He was involved in everything — to do that before the age of computers!”

His interests and writings covered a remarkable breadth: art, music, geneology, biography, history, songwriting, poetry, pedagogy, religion, ethics and citizenship, world history, travel, military campaigns, gardening, and American presidents.

Katrina Seaver ('17) grabbed a selfie with President Alger

Katrina Seaver (’17) grabbed a selfie with President Alger

He had two interesting hobbies. He made canes out of wood he collected from historic places, and he collected nicknames. He had a list of thousands.

In a lifetime of work that spanned half of the 20th Century, John Wayland authored 40 books, compiled 21 volumes of personal diaries that he called “every-day books” and helped found the Rockingham Historical Society. He was among those instrumental in founding a memorial at Germanna to honor the first people to settle there during Virginia’s colonial period.

All that — plus inspiring hundreds of students.

To everyone who knew Dr. Wayland, he was a consummate gentleman, a definition he not only lived but wrote. When the Baltimore Sun conducted a contest in 1899 to define a “true gentlemen,” Dr. Wayland’s entry was so strong there was virtually no competition at all. He won. His definition has been published widely and even today, more than a century later, his words still hold sway.

Amazing as his career and impact was, though, to Elizabeth Seaver, Dr. John W. Wayland was a kind grandfather who once gave her a small box of chocolate covered cherries and loaned her a card table that served as her desk for a semester. He also gave his granddaughter a legacy of life and learning and that she now passes on to her own granddaughters.

And through the gift of the Seavers’ generous Wayland Scholarship, Elizabeth’s grandfather’s legacy of scholarship will impact Madison students for generations to come.


*Madison College, The First Fifty Years, 1908-1958, Dr. Raymond C. Dingledine, Jr.

GameDay and change

The Dukes take the field; photo by Ashley Grisham ('13)

The Dukes take the field; photo by Ashley Grisham (’13)

Sometimes the stars align.

That seems to be happening this weekend at JMU:

  • An undefeated Dukes football team (7-0)
  • playing an in-state rival in a sold-out Homecoming game
  • against the backdrop of ESPN’s College GameDay broadcasting from campus
  • during the peak of the Shenandoah Valley’s fall color
  • with a perfect blue-sky autumn day forecast for Saturday

Yep, sometimes the stars align.



JMU Spirit is sparkling this week, and the excitement on campus is palpable.

Right now the Quad is filled with four tractor trailers that — like transformers — are unfolding to form the set of College GameDay in front of Wilson Hall. JMU’s able Facilities Management team is doing what they do best: getting ready to host big crowds.

Students and alumni are psyched — from coast to coast. One of my colleagues called his grandmother who lives out of state on her birthday. Her first words were, “What’s this I hear about GameDay coming to JMU?”

It’s a big deal because JMU is taking the national stage for something that is overwhelmingly positive. It is a priceless opportunity for JMU to showcase its beautiful campus and remarkable spirit in front of a national TV audience.

Duke Spirit.

Harrisonburg is in on it, too. Today’s Daily News-Record featured a large, pull out tabloid cartoon (suitable for hanging) of the GameDay crew. Cartoonist and JMU alumnus John Rose (‘86) added this ominous warning to University of Richmond fans —

Every Spider Panic Now.

Hotels and restaurants are gearing up for an influx of alumni, fans and friends. Many returning Dukes will be astonished at the variety of interesting downtown shops and restaurants that have sprung up in the ’Burg, including a dizzying array of ethnic cuisines from Cuban to Indian to Irish — Middle Eastern, German, Korean and more. The full list is downright impressive.

If nothing else, this Homecoming showcases JMU’s ability to rally, to get ready, to temporarily set aside the mundane for a day or so to have some fun.

Sometimes change comes in the form of an unexpected opportunity, and what change results from all the hoopla surrounding GameDay is yet to be seen. Aside from ruts in the Quad, an exhausted Facilities Management staff, happy alumni, and —hopefully — a football victory, new memories and new impressions of the university will form this weekend. Millions of people across the country who have never heard of James Madison University will get to know us — on a campus, in a valley, on an October day, in an arena that is hard to beat.

It is a chance for change that few have. JMU and Harrisonburg intend to make the most of this week — when the stars have aligned just for us.

To see much more about GameDay, the excitement on campus, and a lot of fun videos, check out these JMU and Harrisonburg Facebook pages:


Hope for autism

Hands down, the best part of my job is meeting interesting people. Such was the case last March when I began exploring the world of autism that swirls through JMU — a story that grew bigger and better with each person I met. Every one led me to another until — a dozen interviews later — I had a picture of an amazing community.

But, first, let me back up… Eight years ago, during the university’s centennial celebration, I met a man I remembered as “Robert.” He was new to the JMU community and handled the plethora of signage for our yearlong celebration. At the time, Robert said he and his family had  moved to the Valley, seeking services for two sons who were diagnosed with autism. I’m not sure why his name stuck in my head, but it did. So last spring when the communications team decided to explore autism for an upcoming issue of Madison magazine, I called Robert — not knowing if he would even be willing to talk to me.

Fortunately, he was. In fact, Robert Weese was eager to talk. He and his family had discovered here in the Valley an invaluable network of support. I asked him what he hoped would come from telling his story. His answer was succinct: “Education,” he said. “Education is the key.” People need to be educated, so they understand individuals with autism, their strengths and their challenges.

Several years ago, I glimpsed the impact of education on autism when I interviewed Gay Finlayson. Decades before, she had searched far and wide to understand her daughter. It wasn’t until she brought her to JMU’s Early Childhood Development Center that she learned her daughter had autism. Gay’s story is emblematic: The more people I talked to, the more I realized that when the needs of the autism community join with the abilities and potentialities of higher education everyone benefits.

Garrett, Robert and Laurie Weese

Garrett, Robert and Laurie Weese

A personal journey

In my mind, Robert Weese and his wife Laurie are heroes, although they would both say their three sons — Nathan, Garrett, and Connor — are the real heroes. Robert has become an  advocate for autism — and perhaps most importantly — he’s become a person autism families seek out for direction. Laurie, too, has met the challenge. In addition to doing — as Robert describes —“an ungodly amount of research” to help her own family, she earned a master’s degree in counseling in hopes of helping others as well. Like her husband, Laurie is eager to educate people about autism.

In exploring this story, I met Trevor Stokes, a professor of graduate psychology with a charming Australian accent and a bent for explaining complex issues. He took me down the road that so many autism parents have traveled and explained how his field, Applied Behavioral Analysis, has improved the future for many. He told me about JMU’s innovative Inter-professional Autism Clinic that marries ABA with Occupational Therapy and with Speech and Language Pathology into an innovative and collaborative therapy that benefits children with autism, but also benefits their parents and JMU students as well.

I explored the role that JMU’s College of Education plays. Keri Bethune, coordinator of JMU’s autism certificate program, explained how JMU students learn through interacting with students in local classrooms — and vice versa. Keri, herself, spends countless hours in local schools directing, advising and assisting JMU students and local teachers in becoming more and more adept at what they do.

And then there was Scott Hand, director of pupil personnel services for Rockingham County Public Schools. Scott’s supervisory role not only links local families and schools to state services, but he, personally, took the time 8 years ago to introduce the Weese family to local schools.

233225 Autism Clinic-1082Through JMU’s Institute for Health and Human Services — a compassionate giant in the valley —the Weeses and other families also have the opportunity to work with professionals like Liz Richardson, occupational therapist, and Marsha Longerbeam, speech and language pathologist. Not only do they work independently and with IPAC, Liz and Marsha run a summer camp for children with autism. Liz and Marsha, like many JMU faculty, also have professional private practices, increasing the opportunities for local families to find help. Briana Priester’s Studio B for Living LLC is another. She is an instructor in the School of Music and a licensed music therapist who has worked with Garrett Weese, helping his language skills through music.

Families like the Weeses are extraordinary — and also ordinary, as I learned from JMU student Allison Lindsey, who has grown up with two siblings diagnosed with autism. In Allison I found an amazing capacity to see people with autism as valuable individuals and to meet their needs with a remarkable selflessness and compassion. I saw the same kind of caring in senior health sciences major, Carly Delaney, who has worked with Garrett Weese for multiple years as a student volunteer. She adores Garrett and the affection is returned in kind. Carly is one of many students who volunteer with these special children and young adults.

Then there was Debi Kipps-Vaughan, a licensed clinical psychologist and faculty member in graduate psychology. More than a year ago, when Julie Strunk, professor of nursing, approached her with the observation that local autism families needed extra support, Kipps-Vaughan knew exactly what to do. She and Strunk teamed up to form a support group for families with adolescents with autism. 233225 Autism Clinic-1074Every person I talked to gave me one more strand of a loosely tied and highly adaptable network of services and opportunities.

A few weeks ago, in talking with Robert Weese again, I learned about yet another: an utility locator in the Facilities management named Jack Martin, who runs a baseball league for disabled children.

Two of my favorite interviews were with Micah Hodges and Ted Aronson, JMU seniors who have autism. Their personal stories and the insight I gained into the challenges that older students face were as interesting as they were inspiring. I also met Brett Tjaden, professor of computer science, who volunteers to advise enrolled students like Micah and Ted. I learned more about young adults with autism from Matt Trybus, assistant director of disability services. His understanding of disabilities like autism offers valuable support to students like Micah and Ted. If there is an incubator of caring that pervades the Madison community and spills generously out into the local community, I found it in the autism community. As a writer, it was an amazing journey. There is no doubt that all of these individuals epitomize the very best of what it means to Be the Change.

To read the full story, “Hope for Autism” go to this link on the JMU website:

If you haven’t watched the video embedded above, scroll back! My colleagues Chris Meyers, Mike Miriello and Justin Roth did an amazing job telling JMU’s autism story.

And if you’d like to learn more about what it’s like to be a college student with autism, read “Micah and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” here:

Biking for change

11707408_10206469400709164_8398608759566348462_nThree JMU Dukes participated in a cross-country bike ride to raise funds and awareness for the Ulman Cancer Fund. Today JMU communications intern Rachel Petty (’17) tells their story…..

Biking for Change

By Rachel Petty (’17)

Tornadoes, blown out tires and skinned knees didn’t stop three JMU Dukes from biking over 4000 miles from Baltimore to Portland, Oregon, as part of the Ulman Cancer Fund’s 4K for Cancer program.

Lizzy Powell, a 2015 alumna, along with Hannah Kotarski (’16) and Jessie Axsom (’16), both current seniors, departed for their 70-day journey on May 31 from the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. The girls each had their own motives for going, but their collective perseverance and compassion — two of 4K for Cancer’s core values — guided them through this trek across the United States.

Hannah, Lizzy, and Jessie along the road during their 4,000 mile journey

Hannah, Lizzy, and Jessie along the road during their 4,000 mile journey

“I’m biking across the country this summer to convey this sense of community to those currently battling cancer,” Lizzy said before her ride. “I want to bring hope to all the different people we meet, share their stories and ride in their honor.” The Ulman Cancer Fund’s main goal is to create a community of support for young adults and their loved ones as they fight cancer and embrace survivorship.

Too many young adults are diagnosed with cancer and may feel lost, isolated or hopeless. “Those affected whether the patient, family member, or friend, should not have to go through the challenge alone,” Hannah said.

Through visiting hospitals, taking part in community events and giving awareness presentations, the girls provided a shoulder to lean on for many cancer patients.

“I, as well as most of my peers, have had friends, family, and teammates whose lives have been destroyed by cancer,” Jessie shared. “In the wake of this destruction, however, I have also witnessed incredible examples of hope, strength, faith and bravery.”

The continuous growth of that hope and bravery is vital in a support network. While facing challenges of their own, the girls were able to foster that growth and truly make a difference in the lives of young adults and other cancer patients across the country.

The girls began their typical days at about 4 a.m. and shared the names of the people who their rides would be dedicated to that day. The names of those people guided them through whatever hardships they would face that day, including darkness, rain and brutally cold temperatures.

visiting_cancer_patient“These kids truly endured many trials and challenges on this trip,” said Theresa Garrison, Lizzy’s aunt and a JMU employee. “Bike wrecks, broken bikes, skinned knees, saddle sores, exhaustion, nowhere to sleep, no food, no shower, lightening, pouring rain and uphill uphill uphill climbs – these are just a few of the challenges they had to deal with.” There was even a day that the group could not bike into Des Moines, Iowa, since tornados and hail were in the area.

In addition to the difficulties they faced, the girls also had some extremely satisfying moments. “On the flip side – there is the reward – visiting cancer patients, handing out scholarships to cancer patients, meeting many new people along the way, seeing the beautiful country and being part of a team,” Theresa adds.

When the girls rode into Washington Park in Portland, Oregon, to end their trip on August 8, they were overcome with emotions. “Although we were all excited to see our families waiting for us in Washington Park, none of us was ready for the trip to be over,” Jessie said. “I think if given the opportunity most of us would have chosen to keep biking. So it was a very weird mix of excitement and accomplishment, but also sadness and anxiety.”

The girls will recall the memories they made and the people they impacted for a lifetime. “One really cool aspect of our trip was that every time we would stop on the side of a road for a break or at a gas station to get coffee, strangers would ask who we were and what we were doing,” Hannah said. “After we told them our story, they had nothing but more questions and [wanted] to tell us about their own personal cancer stories. People would ask us to ride for their friends and family and would give us monetary donations to keep us going.”

Cancer may live on, but these three Dukes proved that it doesn’t have to take over a person’s life. “I wanted to inspire and help those facing this lifelong journey with cancer as we embarked on ours,” Lizzy said.

And that’s exactly what they did.

4kforcancer_JMU[2]“As one of my teammates said, when we dipped our tires in the Pacific together we knew we would never be the same,” Lizzy added. “The sights we saw and more importantly the people we met along the way were what made it the epic journey that it was.”

Rachel Petty (’17) is a junior Media Arts & Design major from Oakland, New Jersey. She is striving to become a journalist for either print or online media and is currently working as a Public Affairs Intern for JMU. In her free time, Rachel enjoys reading, writing, and traveling.

80 semesters of lessons

The end of this semester marks the end of an era at James Madison University. After 40 years, David Wendelken, associate professor of media arts and design, retires from his post, a place where his influence has been great and his tutelage, beloved. In today’s blog, two of his many protégés, seniors Gabrielle Smith and Riley Alexander, take a look back at a career with tremendous impact…..

40 years and 80 semesters of passing down lessons

By Gabrielle Smith (’15) & Riley Alexander (’15)

wendelken graduation 2007 - Version 2Students, faculty and friends describe him as a mentor, both wise and supportive. After 40 years and 80 semesters, Dr. David Wendelken is retiring from teaching at James Madison University.

Wendelken began teaching at JMU in 1975. He founded and advised several publications at JMU: Curio, a general interest community feature magazine (1978); Madison 101, an orientation guide (1999); and South Main, a campus feature magazine (2000). Three years ago, he started 22807, a student-lifestyles magazine. All of these magazines have been part of the magazine-production class he has taught since 1978. Wendelken also advised the campus newspaper, The Breeze, for 25 years.

Brad Jenkins, a 1999 JMU graduate who returned to JMU in 2006 as The Breeze’s general manager, worked closely with Wendelken when he was a student working on the newspaper. He also took two of his classes (Feature Writing and Feature Magazine Production) as a student.

In 1999, Wendelken encouraged Jenkins to help create one of the publications Wendelken has begun at JMU, Madison 101, a guide to the university for new students.

“He trusted me and another student to basically launch a brand-new magazine,” Jenkins said. “That’s one of the things he does so well…he sees potential in students and then gives them the ability to get some experience and practice.”

In 2012, Wendelken began thinking about another publication called 22807, and he called on another student to develop it.

“There was an empty hole in the publications, so Wendelken and I and a group of other students kind of mind-melded and came up with 22807 as a culture publication,” said senior media arts and design major Griffin Harrington.

“We worked a lot on who would be right for each role,” Harrington said about the magazine. “It wasn’t as much as a line of advice for him, but a mindset that he gave me that I’m not going to be able to do it all on my own and that I need to find the right people and bring in the right talent.”

Wendleken also makes it a point to have a relationship with his students outside the classroom. In the fall of 2014, Harrington photographed the wedding of Wendelken’s daughter.

“We had a glass of champagne together…it was cute,” Harrington said.  “He’s been really cool about having me be a part of his outside life too, not just inside the walls of Harrison [Hall].”

wendelken teaching - Version 2Wendelken has a knack for guiding students and helping them discover their hidden talents. Jenkins remembers that when he took Feature Writing, he was more interested in hard-news stories and didn’t think he’d be able to write features. But Wendelken saw and developed his potential.

“He sort of encouraged me that I could do it,” Jenkins said. “He recognized the talent in me and told me I should do it [feature writing]. And now if I had to pick something, it would be that over anything else.”

Wendelken has given his students countless pieces of advice over the years to help them pursue their dreams, whether in journalism or some other field.

“He always told me to take it slow,” JMU alum Spencer Dukoff said. “That’s been some powerful advice in a world where you’re always hurrying and fudging the details.”

Harrington calls Wendelken a “real father-figure to everyone at JMU.”

“His office is where I go when I need some help,” Harrington said. “He’s one of the most important heads I bounce ideas off of [for projects].”

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 11.27.47 AMThe “king of publications,” Wendelken has left his mark all around the world.

“When I think about his mark on Madison, I think about all the journalists who are carrying his lessons, his mentorship and all those things into the business…I’m sure all those people are like me passing along his lessons, so it’s kind of like this ripple effect of mentoring,” Jenkins said.

Students and faculty say they will miss his wise words, wry sense of humor and, of course, the animal lover’s stories about his adopted cats and his adventures taking birding photos all over the world.

“I’ll miss just having his perspective on things,” Jenkins said. “I’ll miss learning from him as I watched him teach and interact with students.”

Although he will not be returning to JMU in the fall, Wendelken will continue to carry his love for journalism and photography with him throughout his life.

“He’s talked about all these bird adventures he’s going to go on: traveling to the Mediterranean, to the south of America,” Harrington said. “He’s going to take his wife and his camera and just look for birds.”

Gabrielle Foster ('15)

Gabrielle Foster (’15)

Gabrielle Foster, from Yorktown, Va., graduates next week with a degree in Media Arts and Design with a journalism concentration and a minor in Sports Communications. She hopes to land a position as a sports or news reporter for a local TV stations.




Riley Alexander ('15)

Riley Alexander (’15)

Senior Riley Alexander will also graduate from the School of Media Arts and Design with a concentration in journalism. The Richmond, Va., native plans to move to New York City to pursue a career in advertising, working on the account management side of the business.




Many thanks to Breeze adviser Brad Jenkins for sharing this story and photos with us.
To read more about the career and influence of David Wendelken, check out this story by Patrick Butters (’83) written for Madison magazine’s popular series, “Professors You Love.”

Saving 25

Save a little, save a lot. It could be Daniel Hill’s motto. This intrepid JMU alumnus is changing the way small businesses think about and use energy. Here’s his story written by JMU Public Affairs student assistant Josh Kelly.

Twenty minutes can save small businesses 25 percent on energy costs

By Josh Kelly (’15), JMU Public Affairs

A quick Google search of “How to save energy” yields plenty of short lists, tips and tricks, but finding information tailored specifically for small businesses is a different story. That’s why JMU alumnus Daniel Hill started the Green Impact Campaign.

The business model for the nonprofit company is simple: Empower college students looking for resume-building experience to do energy audits for small businesses that, in many cases, have no idea how much money they could be saving with some simple changes or how to get started.

Daniel Hill ('09) speaks to an energy group

Daniel Hill (’09) speaks to an energy group

“Our program streamlined the traditional energy audit, which is still primarily a pen and paper service. We consolidated it into a simple cloud-based tool that will actually train the volunteer as they walk through a business’s building,” Hill said. “It cuts out all of the wasteful man-hours spent on report writing, all of the calculations, and streamlines it to deliver the report as soon as the student walks out the door.” On average, the audit takes a student 20 minutes to complete and has identified 25 percent in energy savings for business owners.

Hill came to JMU for the integrated science and technology program because of his interest in renewable energy. He became interested in bio-fuels and ended up doing his thesis on switchgrass derived cellulosic ethanol. “I was really interested in figuring out the next alternative fuel, but I soon realized the industry wasn’t mature to the point for me to get a job in it right out of college,” he said.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 11.54.18 AMWhen he graduated in 2009, Hill took an internship with an energy solutions company and was assigned to work on energy audits, something he knew nothing about. “That was when I realized this is what I want to do, work on energy efficiency in buildings. It was such an immediate method to mitigate climate change and I became fascinated by it.” After working in energy consulting for a while, Hill decided to get his graduate degree. He enrolled in the JMU MBA program, where he met his co-founder, Dave Hussey.

“Dave kept seeing this neglect of small businesses getting any type of help for their business, and I kept seeing a total neglect of small businesses in the energy efficiency space and climate change discussion,” said Hill.

They spent their time during class breaks further discussing the issue and began forming an idea on how they could help small businesses take the first step in becoming more sustainable businesses. Eventually, they created the Green Energy Management System (GEMS), a cloud-based energy auditing tool that prompts the user with a series of simple yes or no questions about energy use in the business.

JMU students volunteered to conduct the initial surveys with Harrisonburg businesses. Students were given access to GEMS and walked through the businesses answering each of the questions. After the survey was complete, a report of recommendations and cost and savings estimates was sent to the business owners. The Green Impact Campaign was born.

“Starting up my own nonprofit was never a thought I had. It all happened rather sudden and unexpected to be honest,” said Hill. “We went from JMU and then George Washington University in D.C. A couple months later, we had students from 35 universities wanting to join.”

Students conducting energy audits using GEMS

Students conducting energy audits using GEMS

Since its start, 150 students have volunteered to do audits from more than 90 universities. Those students have conducted energy audits for 300 small businesses, which have identified nearly $300,000 in cumulative savings every year.

The benefits of the campaign go beyond energy savings for businesses. “Helping small businesses save on energy is just one side of our mission. The bigger picture is really the concept of empowering this upcoming generation of future climate leaders. It’s been amazing to see the students that have run with it and tell us that after the second or third one, ‘I can walk into any business now and look around and find five things without looking at the tool.’ It’s really that simple, but it’s raising an awareness on the education side of things,” said Hill.

This spring, Hill is running a citywide competition in D.C. called Power to Save. “We are having students from five major universities in D.C. compete against each other to see who can conduct the most energy audits in a month period,” said Hill. Students who complete the most energy audits can win prizes, including paid summer internships at sustainability firms, cash prizes, and other professional development opportunities. The competition is already on track to help a hundred DC businesses identify a million kWh in energy savings.

In summer 2014, Hill became the first JMU graduate to receive an Echoing Green Fellowship. Echoing Green is a non-profit organization that provides seed-stage funding and strategic support to social entrepreneurs. Echoing Green Fellows include the founders of Teach for America, City Year, College Summit, Citizen Schools and One Acre Fund.

“For me, the Echoing Green Fellowship was a huge accomplishment for us to get that type of support and to be part of that type of network, but also totally humbling,” said Hill.

To learn more about the Green Impact Campaign, go to

Green Energy Management System

To learn more about Power to Save, visit

And for more information on JMU’s innovative integrated science and technology major, check out their website here

Josh Kelly is a public affairs assistant at James Madison University. He graduates in a few weeks with a degree in communications and plans to travel west. When not writing, he enjoys exploring the worlds of audio post-production and cooking.




A pocketful of quarters

Today we feature not a student, alumnus, or faculty member but a James Madison University parent who is Being the Change…..

Unknown-3It’s mid-morning in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Sunlight shimmers through the trees. The air is warm, and parents and children are milling around the local farmers’ market when a car pulls up to the curb and a woman steps out. A little buzz rustles through the crowd. She’s here! The woman carries a brightly colored quilt and pulls a cart overflowing with books. Soon, like the Pied Piper, she gathers an audience of children who jockey for spots on and around her quilt.

They have come to hear her stories…

1507adfTwelve years ago, after a career in marketing and software development, Nicolette Nordin Heavey enrolled in a storytelling class at a local community college. “It sounded fun,” she says.

It was a natural fit for a mom of three who grew up surrounded by a culture that valued the art of storytelling. Nicolette, whose English mother and Swedish father provided her with a childhood spent partly in Belgium, England, and Saudi Arabia, was greatly influenced by diverse cultures and by the strong aural tradition of storytelling. Europeans, more than Americans, she says, preserve their history and culture through telling stories. It became a part of her — a part she shared with her three children, including her daughter, Devon, who is a freshman at JMU.

“I would be the mom in the back of the bus telling stories during school field trips,” she says.

After finishing the storytelling class, Nicolette tried out her newly-honed skills at preschools and day care centers, where she discovered that her passion for storytelling was also a tremendous opportunity.

She received a call from a social services agency in Lawrence, Mass., asking for her help in developing a literacy outreach program. The project was a family and community engagement initiative, funded by a grant from the national program Race to the Top.

Unknown-4Stories in the Street, a grant funded literacy initiative, was born out of this association, and Nicolette Nordin Heavey had serendipitously embarked on a second career that would change lives.

The choice of Lawrence was strategic, she says. With a poverty rate exceeding 60 percent, it is the poorest city in Massachusetts. And there is a clear — and negative — correlation between poverty and literacy.

Nationwide studies indicate that children from lower socioeconomic status homes lag significantly behind their peers in language skills. Much of the disparity stems from the fact that these children simply hear fewer words during the critical birth to age 4 period.

The disparity is startling.

Researchers estimate that by age 3 children from impoverished communities have heard 30 million fewer words than children from higher-income homes. Experts call it the 30-million word gap, and it is a serious problem because children do not catch up.

Nicolette knows that early language exposure is not just a nicety; it’s a lifeline to success. But because not all children are similarly blessed, she says: “You have to go to them, and storytelling is a perfect means for that. All you need is a portable mic and a colorful quilt.”

“When I first began storytelling on the street, people looked at me like I was on Candid Camera,” she says. “But soon, they began to expect me. By the end of the summer, people were waiting for me to show up.”

To offer Stories in the Street, Nicolette (and now four other storytellers who work with her) fan out throughout Lawrence. In a normal week, Nicolette will visit and “tell” at two regular spots, like a park or a farmers market, and she’ll choose a third, random location. It might be a basketball court or playground — anywhere that children gather.

UnknownOne story Nicolette likes to tell is about a lion and and a mosquito.

“I get to introduce words like ‘Serengeti,’” she says. At more-affluent schools, children who are asked where lions live might shout out “Africa!” or even “the Serengeti!” she says. Students with broader experiences and more exposure to literature know this.

But ask the same question in Lawrence or any socioeconomically disadvantaged community, she says, and children are more likely to say: “In the zoo.”

Nicolette introduces and defines new words by association. She explains: “In telling my story about the lion and the mosquito, I use the word ‘thirsty’ three times. Children understand this. The fourth time, I might say, ‘And the lion was thirsty. He was so thirsty, he was parched,’ exposing them to a new word.”

While storytelling infuses lower-income communities with literacy tools, it also benefits children in another way.

In the Hart/Risley study, which identified the 30-million word gap, researchers found a disparity in encouraging feedback — positing, perhaps, yet another benefit to storytelling: hope. Without dreams, no child succeeds…and storytelling — that simple and comfortable conveyance of stories — seeds dreams.

Stories on the Street, which is entirely grant-funded and became a nonprofit this year, has seen its funding increase four-fold over the past five years, one clear indication of both success and need.

Stories in the Street and similar programs also create a sense of community, so it’s not only the children who are eager to see Nicolette arrive. One elderly man, an employee of the city’s public works department, helped her load and unload her car at a farmers’ market.

Unknown-3 - Version 2“He also helped me with my cart filled with books,” she says. When she asked him why, his reply was affirming: “We need people like you.”

For the rest of the summer, he manned Nicolette’s parked car, feeding the meter with a pocketful of quarters to make sure she didn’t get a ticket. And the children left each storytelling session with new words, a book of their own from Nicolette’s cart, and dreams inspired by stories they heard in the street.



To read more about the 30-million word gap, go to the American Educator’s story, “The Early Catastrophe” by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley.

To learn more about Stories in the Street, visit Nicolette’s website:

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