JMUSB Wins “A Major Award” at Madison Alumni Conference
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
When Faulkner wrote those words, I’m pretty sure he meant it in some grand, haunting, melancholic way. But I’ve always enjoyed associating the quote with wonderful things too. And that’s the only quote that comes to mind after my experience last weekend at the Madison Alumni Conference 2016 (“MAC”) back on campus. (Well, that or maybe “Once it hits your lips, it just tastes so good. Gimme another!” from Frank the Tank). In either case, I’m warning you now that this post is full of a dangerous amount of earnestness that’s going to sound a lot like being an apologist. If that annoys you, stop reading now. It’s also largely a photo essay because there is simply no way for me to accurately put all the feels from this weekend into words.
In this case though, you really can go home again, and I never imagined the weekend would be such an adrenaline shot of pure, unadulterated, old-school Dukes-ness that I’d end up overwhelmed by the pressure of even attempting to recapture it in writing for you all (and the three-day tiredness that only comes from an old-man watching the sun come up).
First, a brief note on what the MAC is. It’s the Alumni Association’s annual conference where they train up local chapter leaders and Duke Club volunteers. For example, the leaders of my “local” alumni chapter, the fantastic NC Triangle Dukes (our boss is in the last picture in this post and is getting things done!), go to MAC to learn how to host events, grow the chapter, and generally spread the gospel of JMU. You’ve got regional chapters, activity-specific groups like MRD’s or Cheerleading, and of course the Duke Club. And that’s where we come in. For years, we’ve watched from afar as friends-of-JMUSB have attended the conference and generally geeked out on all things JMU. We confess at times we’ve even been a bit skeptical and snarky about the level of purple kool-aid consumption required to attend this conference. But this year for reasons still largely unfathomable to us, the Duke Club buttered us up and convinced me to attend by giving us “a major award.” Ok, maybe it wasn’t exactly a major award, but it was way better than a leg lamp. And being named All Iron Dukes for our efforts to assist the Duke Club with this year’s home-run event, the inaugural JMU Giving Day, and for generally promoting JMU Athletics in a “mostly” positive manner, was truly a humbling and pretty damned cool thing after years of assuming we were writing this for an audience 80% made up of family members. To see our names up on the screen with Arthur Moats and a guy we now call a friend and “staffer,” but was honestly one of our very first fans when we started this project, Justin Partlow, made it even better!
But first things first, and we started Friday evening with a guided tour of the new UREC. It’s so ridiculously glorious that it’ll get it’s own post Friday complete with video of the lazy river and video of the “dorm” we stayed in but I should say our tour itself was led by an expert trio of JMU football players, in this case TE Jonathan Kloosterman, DE Jordan Brooks, and DB Justin Wellons. Then we went to a picnic at Festival, which was sort of barely open my senior year, but was nothing like what it’s ended up today. Reunions with some fellow ’99 clowns, a little networking, a hot dog or three, and of course, corn hole and group shots! I must confess following the picnic I broke away to go downtown to the fantastic Capital Ale House to meet up with a couple non-MAC friends in town and spend the evening with them.
In true JMU fashion I stayed up too late, slept in and missed a couple sessions, grabbed some Mr. J’s with friends instead, and barely rolled into the Duke Club breakout session Saturday morning at 11. Now that’s going home again!
Saturday was a great day, where I’d like to think I positively contributed to the discussion in both the Duke Club and Giving Day sessions, and thoroughly enjoyed the plenary session on Admissions, which laid out both just how different (in the best way) JMU is today from a demographics standpoint and the enormous challenges facing all schools, but especially regional publics, in today’s higher education world.
Finally, after all the learning and stuff, they sent us back to the dorms to
preparty, er, get ready for the Alumni Association Awards Dinner and Extravaganza. And wouldn’t you know it, they shuttled us right to the old building that used to be the center of student life when I was there. Check box anyone? And the show itself was exactly where I dreamed it would be – The Steakhouse! Needless to say, a steak dinner and an open bar complete with local craft beers led to dancing, carousing, and general shenanigans. And of course to a crazy bus-ride home filled with fight-song renditions and discussions of how to turn a study lounge into a fraternity basement for a few more hours. This was of course accomplished by clearing out unnecessary furniture and someone being willing to give up the fridge from their apartment for the cause and another person providing a slick speaker setup. To protect the innocent, the guilty, and the gainfully employed, I end my story here, but let’s just say I was happily reminded of one thing by Mr. JMU himself, that sometimes a terrible decision to give up a couple of hours sleep, stay up all night, and engage in some harmless trespassing will hurt on Sunday, but provide a happy memory for years to come. In fact, making that exact decision is what separates Dukes from muggles and provides the reason why if you want to reconnect with your alma mater, you really should find a way to get involved in your chapter so you can get back to MAC next year!
Before I forget, some acknowledgments and thank-yous. An absolutely bottom-of-my-purple-heart thank you to Meredith Crawford of the Duke Club for taking a chance that Rob and I wouldn’t embarrass you (too much) if you brought us into the mix this year and to Aaron Epstein for listening to her and for hanging out all weekend! Also a huge shout-out to Ashley Privott and her team for making this such a special event. In all of our hand-wringing and admin-questioning, sometimes we forget just how lucky JMU is to have the people it does working on the good side! To my roommates, Tim Emry, Chris Levey, and Matt Sarge – let’s run it back next year, though I may be at the hotel. And to the late-night trespass crew, you know who you are and that’s good work people!
Oh yeah, on Sunday they opened the bookstore for us so they could earn back the junket we all thought was free. Of course we were more than happy to repay the favor!