Lori Parrent
Secretary to Gen. Peay

P: (540) 464-7311
F: (540) 464-7660
E: parrentlr@vmi.edu

201 Smith Hall
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, VA 24450

Superintendent’s Remarks at Commencement 2012


Superintendent’s Remarks at Commencement
16 May 2012

Senator Norment, Mayor Fraim, 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 2012.

I have the great pleasure as we begin this morning’s ceremony to welcome State Senator Thomas K. Norment, VMI Class of 1968, who will address the graduating class. Senator Norment 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 him and express, on the part of the entire VMI community, our sincere appreciation for being with us today. Service to our Commonwealth and to VMI have been hallmarks of Senator Norment’s impressive career, a career that includes lengthy, dedicated public service, and currently serving as the Majority Leader of the Senate of Virginia. Sir, thank you for your friendship and loyalty to the Institute.

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 2012 matriculated in August 2008 with a strength of 446… and today will graduate 217 cadets. Adding graduates from other classes, today’s ceremony will see 244 cross the stage.

By the end of this summer, a total of 107 members of the Class of 2012 (approximately 50%) are projected to be commissioned into the Armed Forces. Some took their commissioning oath yesterday and received the rank of second lieutenant or ensign; others will soon be commissioned upon completion of summer training or the Officer Candidate School (OCS) program. Those numbers are especially commendable and reinforce 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 thank the Class of 2012 for your leadership and all that you have accomplished over your four years. Your class has the distinction of having led the largest Old Corps in VMI’s history, a total of 1,637 cadets. This year you trained and dyked the largest matriculating class of 508 New Cadets. You brought the Corps together and, above all, you maintained a strong regimental, class, and honor system, and now pass these traditions on to future classes. I congratulate 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.

As cadets, you have witnessed many changes at VMI, in programs and procedures, and in the Physical Plant. Taking a larger view, however, in four short years you have also witnessed monumental events and developments that have changed the world, including natural disasters of epic proportions, revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, a major economic recession, the development of such technological advances as Facebook and Twitter that have fundamentally changed how we communicate, and challenges to our national security to name but a few. Change will continue and will accelerate. I am confident that VMI has prepared you well to adapt to the changes that will come, and you will flourish and succeed.

Commencement has many meanings. It marks and celebrates the end of a period of intense and concentrated formation. It also ushers in a long period in which you will apply what you have learned. But there is another aspect to this ceremony that is often overlooked…. Look around you to your Brother Rats, your instructors and coaches, your friends and mentors. This is the last time all will be assembled in one place. This is the last time the Class of 2012 will be “physically” unified. Commencement is the last Institute ceremony at which the unity, solidarity, and shared purpose of the class is fully expressed and realized. Class spirit, the “Brother Rat spirit” will continue through the years, and there will be reunions of your Class in the future. For many reasons, not all will be present for those future roll-calls…. This is the final roll-call of the Class of 2012.

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. 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. (LEAD APPLAUSE)

It is now my honor to introduce the Valedictorian for the Class of 2012… Cadet John Edward Alerding, IV, a mechanical engineering major with a concentration in aerospace engineering from Lexington, VA. The holder of an Air Force ROTC scholarship, he has been named the Southeast Region recipient of the 2012 Southeast Air Force ROTC Cadet of the Year Award. He has also been named the VMI Air Force ROTC Detachment’s Distinguished Graduate…and…yesterday, he received his commission and has been selected for pilot training. Within the Corps of Cadets, he served as the Second Battalion Commander. Mr. Alerding.