The class of 2012, part 3

Every day this week, we’re showcasing seniors we’ve met through the Be the Change blog.  As a group they represent the more than 4,000 students who will receive their degrees on Saturday. We asked them about their Madison Experience, how it has changed them and the best and worst parts of graduating from JMU.

Peter Epley and Matt Burton

“When I came here I was slightly insecure…..” 

Matt Burton of Chesapeake, Va., is a physics major with a math minor and one of the three co-creators of the Lisanby iPad application. He writes: “In my time at JMU I have grown in maturity tremendously. When I came here I was slightly insecure and over the years I have transitioned into leading research projects for the physics department, making the art iPad app, and becoming a leader in my Christian organization on campus.”

As vice president of ministry for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM), formerly Christian student union (CSU), Matt oversees all small groups and leads the men’s group, social events and intramurals for the organization.

 After graduation, Matt will enter a Ph.D. program in nuclear physics at the College of William and Mary. “The best part of graduating,” he writes, “is beginning my life out in the real world and starting to make my mark in my field, while the worst part is leaving all that has become a home to me and leaving my friends here who have become like a family to me.”

The robotics team (l to r) Joey Lang, McHarg, Peter Epley, Jed Caldwell

“More or less, sleep is what I don’t get …”

Peter Epley, an engineering major from Springfield, Va.,  helped develop the Lisanby iPad app with Matt Burton and Josh Smead.

Peter has also been one of my go-to guys this year as JMU communications has covered JMU’s first graduating class of student engineers. All year, I’ve relied on Peter and many of his fellow engineers to answer questions, pose for photos and answer engineering questions. For two years, Peter and his team have worked to develop and build a firefighting robot. Given that he’s an engineering student and he worked on the iPad app, I was amazed to learn that Peter has also been a member of the Marching Royal Dukes. How does he fit all this into 24 hours?

“I was a member of the MRDs and the JMU Pep Band for all four years here at JMU,” Peter writes. “I am an alto saxophone player and served as a drill instructor my junior and senior years. More or less, sleep is what I don’t get, but honestly, it’s what I do for fun to get away from classes and homework.”

Not surprisingly, the best part of graduating, says Peter, is “I feel like I can finally sleep more than eight hours and not regret it. I can finally take everything that I have learned and use it to make a lasting difference.” The worst part is “leaving a family of some of the most caring and innovative students, friends and faculty I have ever had,” he writes.

“JMU has helped me really see how I can make a difference and what I am capable of doing, even if it is simply on a small scale. Working through the  engineering program has been challenging, especially since we are the first class, but I think it is exciting that my class will serve a crucial role in defining what JMU engineers can do. Beyond engineering, JMU has allowed me to explore different opportunities (such as the iPad app) that I never could have thought up and executed alone. Music has also been an important aspect in my life and JMU was one of the few schools that really gave me the opportunity to still pursue a technical major without having to sacrifice my love of saxophone. For that I am truly thankful, as I have truly met some of the best people I have ever met and am glad to call many of them my friends for the rest of my life.”

During Saturday’s graduation, Peter  will receive a bachelor’s of science in engineering with minors in math and computer information systems. He will join KPMG as an IT attestation associate doing information systems consulting for federal government clients.

Coming tomorrow: Dave Stevens and Jessie Taylor….

(photo of Matt and Peter by Mike Miriello)

The penchant for nicknames

Maybe we’re lazy. Maybe we’re just efficient or too busy. Or maybe it’s something else.

Whatever the reason, we all have a tendency to shorten names. Take Rhode Island. The official name is (take a deep breath) The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Really.  And then of course, there’s Wolf Trap — officially known as Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. Imagine answering their phone.

Most people shorten names of people they know well. How many Roberts, Williams, Jennifers or Elizabeths do you know as Bob, Bill, Jenny or Beth?

Institutions do the same thing. At JMU, Gibbons Dining Hall is D-Hall. East Campus Library is ECL. And the newly dubbed Montpelier Hall has already been shortened to Monty Hall. Nicknames are efficient. They also imply some kind of familiarity, comfort and fondness. In fact, an old Chinese proverb says that a child with many names is loved.

It made me wonder what JMU’s recently re-named Skyline Museum will become. Officially, it is to be named in honor of Gladys Kemp Lisanby (’49) and retired Rear Admiral James W. Lisanby, the patrons who enabled the university to acquire the life’s work of famed and influential artist and set designer Charles A. Lisanby.

When I attended the opening on Monday and talked to Madison Art Collection Director Kate Stevens, she had a great idea. “What about The Lisanby?” she wondered. Immediately, I could see the comfortable words floating from student to student.

“Have you see what’s on display at The Lisanby?” or “I’ll meet you at The Lisanby?” Or maybe an enticing notice in mad4U that says, “Bring your favorite poem to read  by moonlight at this month’s Lunar Cafe at The Lisanby.”

The Lisanby.

Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? It will be fun to see what the museum is nicknamed. Whatever name it takes, though, this new Madison location will definitely be loved.

The Lisanby

If you’re not convinced, then take a look at some of the photos from the opening, including the moment that Mrs. Lisanby learned of the honor. Stunning.

Or better yet, go take in The Lisanby. I promise you’re in for a treat.

The moment she heard....

And tell us, have you visited JMU’s newest museum?

You can learn much more on at these links:
(You can find even more photos of the opening on JMU’s Flickr site. Just click photos on the right side of the blog site.)
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