Superintendent’s Remarks at Commencement
16 May 2010
Congressman Goodlatte, Mr. Slater, Members of the VMI Board of Visitors, Members of the Academic Board, Faculty and Staff, families and friends of today’s graduating cadets, and member of the Corps of Cadets. Welcome to this Commencement Ceremony…the climax of four years of diligent study and hard work by the Class of 2010.
I have the great pleasure as we begin this morning’s ceremony to welcome Congressman Bob Goodlatte, who will address the graduating class. Congressman Goodlatte will be “formally” introduced in a few moments by the First Class President; however, I want to take this opportunity to extend my personal welcome to the Goodlattes and express, on the part of the entire VMI community, our sincere appreciation for being with us today. Congressman Goodlatte, the fourth Virginia member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1900 to address a VMI graduating class, has represented Virginia’s 6th Congressional District since 1993. His career has exemplified the traits of leadership and the spirit of public service that we take pride in imparting to our cadets and celebrating in our graduates. I also welcome him “home”, in a sense, recalling that he earned his law degree at Washington and Lee University. For this reason and many others, Congressman Goodlatte is known and respected in this community, and we thank you, Sir, for your presence at the Institute today…and for your untiring duty and patriotic service to our nation.
Graduation from VMI is a great personal achievement, but it is an achievement that cannot be reached alone. Many others have contributed to the success of today’s graduates: parents and grandparents, guardians, brothers and sisters, friends, Brother Rats, faculty, staff, coaches, and host families, to name but a few. VMI is “particularly” grateful to parents and grandparents for encouraging and sustaining their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, throughout these cadet years. May I ask parents & grandparents to please stand and receive our thanks…. This is certainly a proud day for you.
Universities and colleges are many things to many people, but at heart of any great institution of higher education is its faculty. They are the ones who teach, guide, counsel, and encourage young people on a day-to-day basis. I include in this group our military staff and those who coach our athletes…, for at VMI we believe that the academic and physical aspects make for a “full and complete” education. Please join me in expressing thanks to the Institute’s faculty.
The Class of 2010 matriculated on 19 August 2006 with a strength of 442…and today graduates 247 cadets.
Ninety-nine (99) members of the Class of 2010 took their commissioning oath yesterday and received the rank of second lieutenant or ensign. And 19 others will soon, after graduation, be commissioned through our nation’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) program. That percentage, is especially commendable and reinforces VMI’s historic mission of producing Citizen-Soldiers. Many VMI cadets, staff, and faculty have been called to active duty in support of the current war on terror, thus placing their lives and cadetships temporarily on hold. In addition, there are parents and family members – and others in the audience this morning – who have served. Would all of you – “patriots” – please stand and receive our appreciation for your service.
I want (now) to thank the Class of 2010 for your leadership and all that you have accomplished this year. Matriculation of the Rat Class of 2013 in August 2009, and the weeks that followed, were a grand success, thanks to the professionalism of your cadre and your class. It was the best Cadre and administration of the Ratline that I have witnessed in my seven years at the Institute. The New Cadets learned in 9 days what it normally takes the armed services weeks to teach. The Ratline was appropriately challenging, and stringent standards were enforced. The Regimental XO (Cadet Barker Squires) and the RDC (under Cadet Mike Hutchings) did a superb job administering Rat training and the Ratline. You set a high standard for others to emulate.
In addition, this year’s Breakout – an event that will go down in VMI history as the “Blizzard Breakout” -- was especially well executed…, despite a bitter cold and snowy day. It was tough, memorable, safe, and very professionally executed. Involving all the upper classes was a splendid sign of leadership. Mr. Burns and Regimental Commander Bloomstrom worked “closely” together to provide strong and effective cadet leadership and worked together towards common goals. And Cadet Wes Whitcomb and the Honor Court did a superb job of educating the Corps and reinforcing the idea that being honorable isn’t just a question of complying with rules, but a lifestyle. Your slogan was “Honor is a lifestyle,” and it resonated with the Corps, and with all of us. Surveys support the high levels of respect for the Court and the system.
And, finally, I salute you for your actions over four years, while living in a construction zone…, as you witnessed and lived with the construction of Third Barracks and the renovation of Old and New Barracks. I commend you for your “patience and perspective”…and as soon to be members of the Old Corps, you can state that “only” your class has endured such change. Finally, the performance of the corps, under your leadership, at the New Market Parade yesterday was superlative.
I close this quick panoramic by congratulating you on your important academic achievements: scholar athletes, leaders nationally in undergraduate research, impressive graduate school attendance, impressive Commissioning awards, and a large number of top-tier academic awards. These accomplishments add to the luster of your class and to the reputation of the Institute.
Commencement marks and celebrates the end of a period of intense and concentrated formation and the beginning of a long period in which you will apply what you have learned. The lessons you have learned at VMI and the habits you have developed will remain with you and guide you throughout your life. Remain true to them. Hold onto the concept of honor that is the foundation stone – the very bedrock – of VMI. Seek ways to serve your community and your nation. And, as you enter into the next phase of your life, I encourage you to pursue as your life’s work something that you feel “passionately” about, something that will use your special talents and abilities, something that will help you to grow mentally and spiritually, and something that will help you to realize your dreams. Use your talents to their utmost… and strive to develop new talents, new knowledge, and new directions.
People will hold you to a higher standard because you are a VMI graduate. This high expectation cannot be avoided… it comes with the ring and the diploma… Embrace it as the heritage that has been passed on to you by former graduating classes, and strive always to preserve and enhance it.
On behalf of the Institute and its Alumni, I extend to you our sincerest congratulations on your many accomplishments and offer best wishes on the new adventures you are about to begin.
It is now my honor to introduce the Valedictorian for the Class of 2010… Cadet Alexander P. Houser, a Distinguished Graduate with Institute Honors, a Biology Major with concentration in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, from Gainesville, Virginia. Cadet Houser wears Academic Stars and has a 3.855 GPA. He placed first in the science 2010 Undergraduate Research Symposium oral presentations, and he was awarded early acceptance to medical school. He will attend medical school at the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, VA and has been commissioned in the United States Army as a combat physician.