from The Bridge: Fall 2012/Winter 2013 issue
The family and friends of Tom McJunkin '70, '74L knew him as a champion for education and community building in his hometown of Charleston, W.Va. Those passions compose a legacy he also wanted to leave his beloved alma mater. Shortly before his death in October 2011, he established the McJunkin Endowment for Student Engagement. The initiative will involve W&L students from across campus and from different programs in addressing the greatest social and policy issues of their time, in the hopes of developing graduates with a heart for serving others.
"W&L had such a special place in his heart," says his daughter Jennifer McJunkin '04. "He felt that the quality of teaching was unparalleled, and he revered W&L's commitment to developing the character of its stu- dents. He wanted to leave a gift that would promote character development as well as attract innovative thinkers with a devotion to making the world a better place."
McJunkin was a member of W&L's Board of Trustees and the Alumni Board of Directors. His interest in and support of the Shepherd Poverty Program was a springboard for the endowment gift, explains his wife, Callen. The coursework and internships engaged and inspired Tom, who served on the program's Advisory Committee. He hoped that these endeavors would cultivate greater understanding and compassion among W&L graduates.
"Tom felt that as future leaders, W&L graduates should be aware of the roots of poverty, understand its intractable nature and foster human capability within their communities to resolve it," Callen says. "He hoped this gift would encourage more independent thinkers and more diversity and counteract the perception of W&L as elitist. He hoped it would be a small contribution to an al- ready stellar community of thinkers."
Five years ago, McJunkin created the JK Education Elevators Program (JKEEP), a volunteer program that matched attorneys and staff at his law firm, Jackson Kelly P.L.L.C., with at-risk elementary school children for one-on-one mentoring, friendship and academic support. Tom's oldest daughter, Allison McJunkin '04L, now directs the program. She hopes to expand it to involve other law firms and W&L alumni to combine her father's passions for W&L and JKEEP.
"Tom was compassionate. He exercised civic leadership, and he demanded rigorous thinking about difficult issues," says Prof. Harlan Beckley, the director of the Shepherd Program. "Those are all qualities that are important to us at the Shepherd Program." McJunkin's family, which includes son Jameson, believes the endowment is a fitting legacy to commemorate Tom's lifelong dedication to service, honor and integrity.
Shortly after her father's death, Allison came across his worn, dog-eared copy of a book about Robert E. Lee's philosophy on leadership. She realized that some of Lee's quotes--describing a true leader as someone who puts others before himself or herself, follows conscience and doesn't expect reward or recognition--described her father.
Many of the quotes "seemed as if they informed my dad's views on life, leadership and service," Allison says. "I think Lee's words really resonated with my father. W&L's mission talks about the importance of responsible leadership and service to others, and I think that through this endowment, my dad was seeking to foster more of those values in W&L students."
Indeed, in establishing the endowment in 2010, McJunkin said he believed that "a Washington and Lee education is about more than one's self, that it is also about having concern for and serving others; that the goal of Washington and Lee University is to educate exceptionally capable, thoughtful and humane men and women who will strive to make their communities--be they big or small--better."