Remarks at Institute Society Dinner 2011
11 November 2011
Ladies and gentlemen of the Institute Society, faculty and staff, and representatives of the Corps of Cadets ----
I look forward each year to this celebration for the opportunity it gives me to thank you most warmly on behalf of the Corps of Cadets, the faculty, and the staff for all that you do for the Institute. Over the years, the generous support of members of the Institute Society has been key to keeping the Institute strong and moving forward, and that support has never been more crucial or appreciated than at present.
Virginia, like so many states, continues to face downward pressure on its finances. The result has been across-the-board cuts to state services and to higher education. VMI receives the same treatment as other state colleges and universities in the Commonwealth, which means that this year is the 9th straight year of cuts in funding that support basic operations. Commencing with the FY 2013 Budget, state support of our annual operating budget will be 16%. To continue our work, we have had to depend on other sources of funding, including increased tuition and fees. While VMI’s tuition and fees (on balance) have increased…, compared with every other public school in the state, ours have increased less. The assistance that comes from alumni, and especially from members of the Institute Society, makes the difference between “just getting by” and advancing with energy and determination. By your generosity, it is clear that you do not accept the idea of “just getting by.” VMI’s hard-earned reputation and contributions to the state and to the nation, of which we are justly proud, are too important to compromise or slow down. “Just getting by” is foreign to “the Spirit of VMI.”
This evening we also gather to renew old friendships, to renew our ties to the Institute, and to enjoy the company of a very special group of individuals. In this sense, the Institute Society is a kind of reunion, not of two or three classes alone but of classes from across the years and across the generations. Look around you tonight… You will see the living heritage of the Institute: men and women who have carried the flame… the VMI Spirit… down life’s long journey… and those who are just beginning the journey. Young and old, we are as one: men and women devoted to the Institute.
Today is Founders Day – VMI’s 172nd anniversary – and as such the day has very special meaning to everyone in this hall. On this day we remember and honor our Founders. This morning we honored the memory and achievements of Colonel Claudius Crozet by the dedication of a Point – Crozet Point and monument to him, located directly across the street from Crozet Hall’s main center entrance. In addition, we specially remember Colonel J. T. L. Preston and General Francis H. Smith as this academic year 2011-2012 marks the 200th anniversary of their births. Through such ceremonies, we rededicate ourselves and the Institute to the high ideals and guiding principles of the men who conceived this college, gave it life, guided it through the dark days of war, and rebuilt it from the ashes. What exemplary and memorable lives they lived!
I am happy to report to you that this bold experiment of the Founders continues to flourish and to grow from strength to strength. For example, since the last gathering of the Institute Society, we have enrolled an entering class of 509 New Cadets, the largest new class ever to matriculate at the Institute. Applications for this class were 25.3% above the previous year and compared most favorably against a national average of 5% growth. Similarly, applications for next Augusts' entering Class (Class 2016) are running greater than 15% above this year’s historic Rat Class. Our Academic reputation continues to receive exceedingly high marks in Forbes, the Washington Monthly, and in U.S. News and World Report. And when the Class of 2012 graduates next May, more than 50% (in time of war) will have taken the commissioning oath the previous day. In athletics, we are fielding competitive teams that are dedicated to winning “the VMI way” … with honor, discipline, and good sportsmanship. Our Class and Regimental systems are strong with lowest indiscipline and highest commitment to civility in a decade, and our Honor System is clearly an example nationally for all to emulate.
These have been difficult financial times, but we should recognize that despite the challenges, over the last five years we have accomplished well over $200 million in construction achieved through private and state support. We have just completed work on an exciting transformational $20 million North Post project -- the VMI Military Leadership Field Training Grounds -- that add substantially to our Corps and military leadership training and NCAA and Club Sports facilities. This year we will commence a $21 million renovation of our Science Building (Maury Brooke Hall), a $6 million renovation of the VMI Post Hospital, and the creation of a much-needed $3 million new parking lot (South Institute Hill) along Main Street.
I remain confident in our vision and plans; we are conservative in our processes and guardedly optimistic about the future…and we could not have “navigated” through this financially challenging past decade without you. Through it all, I remain immensely proud of the accomplishments of our Corps of Cadets, Staff and Faculty, and our Alumni…and I’m very, very upbeat and passionate about the future of the Institute and its graduates.
You have heard me say that, “VMI is a national treasure”, and to great measure that is because of you. I thank all of you for your generous support of the Institute, and for your decision to become and remain a partner in the on-going effort to secure VMI the extraordinary place it has in American higher education…and in the leadership of our nation.
It now gives me great pleasure to introduce as this evening’s speaker… a good friend and highly accomplished graduate of the Institute, Lieutenant General Carl A. Strock, VMI class of 1970.
Carl, who recently retired from active duty, (in his last assignment) was Chief of Engineers and the Commanding General of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He is now a Principal Vice-President of the highly regarded Bechtel Group.
After graduating from VMI with a Degree in Civil Engineering, General Strock attended Officer Candidate School and received his commission as an Infantry Second Lieutenant. He completed ranger and special forces training and served with infantry and special forces units before transferring to the U.S. Army’s Engineer Branch in 1983. Along the way, he earned a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Mississippi State University and qualified as a Registered Professional Engineer. In his career, General Strock commanded many units including a special forces operational detachment, a rifle company, an engineer battalion, an engineer brigade, and two Corps of Engineer Divisions.
Before being selected as Chief of the Corps of Engineers, he served in the politically and challenging role as Director of Civil Works in the Headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served “in combat” during Operation Just Cause in Panama, in 1990-91 during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and in our latest conflict in Iraq.
General Strock and his wife, Julie, who also is with us this evening, have two sons, Chris and John, who graduated from VMI in 1997 and 1998 respectively.
Ladies and gentlemen… please welcome back to the Institute and The Society… General Carl Strock….