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Fostering A Culture Of Innovation With JMU’s Jeff & Mary Lou Bourne

Guest Jeff and Mary Lou Bourne, James Madison University
22:39 min watch


Former James Madison Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne and his wife Mary Lou, former Technology Innovation and Economic Development Director at JMU, sit down with ADU’s Tai M. Brown at the 2024 NACDA Convention to discuss the experience of raising a family within the college athletics ecosystem and the ways in which they influenced JMU’s culture of innovation and competitive excellence, both as the first couple of Dukes Athletics and in their separate roles within the university’s leadership structure. Jeff and Mary Lou discuss how the politics of a university setting impacts the pace of change, reflecting on the ways in which Jeff set up the department for success at the FBS level and the challenge of cutting 10 sports in 2006. The couple also shares insight into starting and raising a family within an athletic department, including how it influenced Jeff’s career trajectory. Jeff: “One of the reasons I stayed in Harrisonburg [was that] I knew I could grow up [as an administrator] and I’d be able to see my kids… I’ve had tremendous support from Mary Lou. She’s the real boss of our family.”

The conversation is indexed below for efficient viewing (click the time stamp to jump to a specific question/topic).

  • - College athletics is not a 9-5 job so the perspective of family is an interesting one. Mary Lou, tell me how you handled that throughout the years of Jeff's career.
  • - Jeff, coming up in college athletics, did you feel any guilt about having to incorporate your family into your career and ultimately into your department?
  • - How did you strategically make sure you were staying relevant as a department? How did you ensure that whatever conversation was going on in college athletics, JMU was a part of it?
  • - Tell me about the experiences when Jeff would come home wanting to have conversations about strategy, looking for your input and critique.
  • - Mary Lou, tell me about the role you played for the university.
  • - Let's get specific about your role. Does the commercialization of an innovation come back to the school or do you sell the patent to an organization?
  • - Were you part of the team that helped the innovator decide how they wanted to move forward?
  • - Have you seen some super interesting innovations that you can talk about?
  • - So Jeff, you're coming home and thinking about the student-athlete experience; Mary Lou is coming home thinking about someone who might have a multi-million dollar product. You're probably in awe of her forever.
  • - JMU has lost two stalwarts of stability - tell me about that decision for both of you to leave and how the school received it.
  • - If you could tell the story of the legacy you hope you left at JMU - what do you think that legacy is for you?
  • - What about the legacy you left there Mary Lou?
  • - Will you continue to think about college athletics?
  • - Mary Lou, how will you utilize Jeff's experience and perspective now that you have his full attention?