Superintendent’s Remarks at Institute Society Dinner
10 November 2008
Ladies and gentlemen of the Institute Society… On behalf of the faculty, staff, and cadets of the Institute, I take great pleasure in welcoming you this evening. This gathering of faithful friends of the Institute is always a highlight on the Institute’s calendar. We look forward to it eagerly each year as an opportunity to express our warmest thanks for your generous support and to assure you of the critical importance that the Institute Society plays in the life of the Institute.
Tonight, on the eve of VMI’s 169th anniversary, we acknowledge and celebrate your role in assuring that VMI remains strong, vibrant, and at the forefront of American institutions of higher education. Just think for a moment where VMI would be today, particularly in this period of economic distress, if wise and forward-looking men and women had not, years ago, created the VMI Foundation and this special association that we call “The Institute Society.”
Just seeing so many of you collected here tonight.., the largest attendance in our history…sharing a meal, renewing friendships, expressing your thoughts on the progress and development of the Institute is heartwarming and encouraging to me. I believe strongly in our alumni. You are the Institute’s credentials…we often say that VMI is a “community.” Events like this gathering of the Institute Society leave no doubt that that claim is valid and true.
I also want to mirror Walt Perrin’s comments and recognition of Jim Adams…and his wife Donna. His devoted service to advancing the Institute as the chief executive of its fund-raising arm has been a record of efficiency, effectiveness, and success in a period of rising and falling expectations in our nation. Eleven years doesn’t begin to encompass Jim’s record of service to the Institute. You may remember that he also served as VMI’s Public Information Officer from 1978 to 1981. In all, Jim and Donna have devoted 15 years to promoting and securing the future of VMI…”thanks Jim and Donna”.
The present are trying times for our nation, and for all colleges and universities, but I can say with pride that the Institute is strong and confident. Academically, we continue to receive impressive ratings by U.S. News and World Report, the Princeton Review, and Forbes Magazine. We have just completed very successfully our 10 year reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges. Our core curriculum has been reviewed and strengthened. We have added a mandatory leadership theory and practice course in the 3rd Class year, a culture and civilization requirement, and a capstone experience in the 1st Class year….among other changes. Ninety-seven percent (97%) of our faculty hold the Ph.D. degree, and they all teach, with a faculty/student ratio of 1 to 12. Fifty percent (50%) of this Rat Class are majoring in Math, Science, and Engineering…a long term Vision 2039 objective. And, admissions are up for the 5th straight year with current applications for the Class of 2013.
I am especially proud of the fact that the number of graduates earning commissions in the Armed Forces, in this time of war, continues to rise. Fifty-three percent (52.8%) of the Class of 2008 received commissions at graduation last May, which is up from 34 percent just five years ago. I could not be more proud of these cadets who will serve their country before going on to their chosen professions upon completion of their obligation. But should we be surprised? Whenever the nation has sent out the call, VMI men, and now women, have answered it.
We can also be proud of our cadet-athletes. I am confident that VMI is on the edge of a “decade of success” in the athletic arena. We have talented athletes and excellent coaches. Our athletic facilities, owing to the generosity of many of you, are now of excellent quality and invite the very best from our teams. And we win the VMI way…with integrity, high standards, and the best of sportsmanship.
And, as you look around the Post today, you see that improvements in the infrastructure of the Institute have not been limited to athletic facilities. This evening we are completing over $200 million of construction in a few short years. All academic buildings have been modernized, with the exception of New Science, which is in the planning process today. We reoccupied a new Kilbourne Hall a month ago after a major expansion and modernization and it is the finest ROTC Building in the nation. And, in a short few months, we will sign for our new Leadership and Ethics Center Building located behind Smith hall. Tomorrow we will turn a page in the history of VMI by dedicating the most ambitious of these new projects: the Third Barracks. I hope you are proud with the appearance of the Post, that you concur with the improvements and you are satisfied that the additions fit well with the architectural style of our history. What General Smith and the Founders conceived so long ago continues to inspire and guide us today … and into the future.
I am especially proud of the young men and women of our Corps of Cadets. You will hear from some of them shortly when the VMI Glee Club, under the direction of Colonel John Brodie, entertains us with a few selections. Our cadets have recently won national recognition thru the award of the most prestigious national scholarships and post-graduate study; they have led the nation in ROTC individual rankings; 97% have jobs at graduation; attrition and indiscipline in the Corps is at an all time low, and many are being recognized for their work in undergraduate research…to mention a few accomplishments…and I felt that the Corps performed superbly “on parade” honoring Vice President Cheney Saturday morning.
As I conclude, let me emphasize “once again” the importance of what you do for the Institute. Where would we be today without you? Thank you for your loyalty and continuing support.