HARRISONBURG, Va. - James Madison University Athletics has launched a new program within the Duke Club that focuses on recognizing and re-connecting with former student-athletes, coaches and athletic staff with the Letterwinner Chapter of the Duke Club. Launched on January 1, 2011, the chapter will be an important focus in the years ahead, as currently only three percent of former student-athletes stay connected to JMU.

The new Letterwinner Chapter will fall under the guidelines and benefit levels of the Duke Club but will feature a unique and innovative means of revenue sharing. Ten percent of a member's gift can be directed to their respective sport's general operating budget while still receiving full Duke Club benefits. For example, a former JMU baseball alum joins the Letterwinner Chapter at the $500 level. Of that gift, $50 can be designated to the baseball restricted budget while the member gets Duke Club benefits for the full $500 investment.

A restricted gift is one that is specific to one designated sport's operating budget through the Foundation, in which Priority Points are not recognized. An unrestricted gift goes to help support student-athlete scholarships and all sport operating budgets and provides for accumulation of Priority Points. The Duke Club also assists individual sports with their restricted fundraising efforts.

Although the Chapter will be under the Duke Club administrative umbrella, it will have a distinctive logo and there are plans for specific chapter events.

"The goal of this new program is to get more of our former student-athletes reconnected with the University that provided them with the opportunity to be a collegiate athlete and to receive a first class education," Jeff H. Hill '79, Executive Director of Outreach and former JMU student-athlete and coach stated. "A large number of universities were researched, with most featuring separate organizations for their student-athlete alum. Only a few incorporated them into their existing fundraising infrastructure. But to our knowledge we have found no other institutions featuring the revenue sharing."

The Letterwinner Chapter programs offers the opportunity to collaborate with coaches and work together with the Duke Club to raise awareness, grow our mutual databases of former student-athletes and most importantly get that group of alumni re-engaged. It also provides for better cooperation and collaboration with each individual sport with the Letterwinner Chapter's efforts to organize events, develop more effective and efficient communications and support each program in its own fundraising efforts.

Some of the key steps to the new program are the ongoing development of former student-athlete names and contact info for the database. This is being maximized by working with the University's database of alumni, each sports list of former players and information from networking previous alumni.

"It is only through our own administrative teamwork that we can maximize the chances of reaching our respective and collective goals of getting our athletic alum reconnected and to be counted as members of the Letterwinner Chapter," Hill concluded. "James Madison University has always been, and will continue to be, a very progressive institution. We will continue to strive for innovative thinking in an effort to make the most of our opportunities to enhance the student-athlete experience at JMU."

What They're Saying about the Duke Club's Letterwinner Chapter

Head Football Coach Mickey Matthews - "What a great idea! This allows our football alumni to invest in our athletic and football programs and be allowed to build their priority ranking in the Duke Club. It is truly a positive, innovative idea."

Head Volleyball Coach and 2010 State Coach of the Year Lauren Steinbrecher -"I am very excited to partner with the Duke Club to get our former athletes involved with and excited about what we are building here at JMU. For most of our student-athletes, JMU was four of the best years of their life. This opportunity presents a great way to bring those memories and loyalties back to the forefront as we give our current student-athletes the same opportunities to walk away with a tremendous amount of Duke Dog Pride. I can't wait to see the Letterwinner Chapter take off."

Head Men's Golf Coach Jeff Forbes '90, - "I think this is a great way to bring new members into the Duke Club with the added benefit of helping their specific sports program."

Head Men's Soccer Coach Dr. Tom Martin, - "I would encourage every former student-athlete to commit to this new program. This is a win-win situation."

Head Women's Golf Coach Paul Gooden - "College student-athletes have the rare privilege to compete at a high level of athletics while being provided a first class education. It's imperative that we continue to find methods to get student-athlete alumni to understand this and to stand up and be counted by giving back. The new Letterwinner Chapter provides that new approach. I encourage each student-athlete to donate to our outstanding athletic department and support the terrific athletes that will follow in your footsteps."