Cadets Put a Face on VMI
LEXINGTON, Va., Feb. 21, 2014 – Approximately 30 cadets recently helped to put a face on higher education in Virginia when they traveled to Richmond to meet with their legislators in the General Assembly.
The trip is a VMI tradition, ongoing for at least 15 years. Selected cadets, all Virginians, go to the state capital while the legislature is in session, and, if possible, meet with both their delegates and their senators, along with VMI alumni who serve in the General Assembly.
This year, the cadets’ trip began on Monday, Feb. 17, when they boarded a bus for Richmond. After spending the night in a hotel, and eating an early breakfast, they were briefed by Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, VMI superintendent, before heading to the General Assembly and then the state capitol buildings.
There, they met with a number of key legislators and alumni, including Sen. Tommy Norment ’68, Republican majority leader of the Senate; Del. Bill Howell, speaker of the House of Delegates; Del. Kirk Cox, majority leader of the House of Delegates; and Del. Scott Lingamfelter ’73.
The cadets also had the chance to meet Dr. Ralph Northam ’81, who is Virginia’s newly inaugurated lieutenant governor.
“[Northam is] a great speaker,” said Cadet Kyle Reavis ’14. “He talked to us about his time as a cadet – basically, he said he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in today if he hadn’t gone through VMI.”
Echoing that sentiment was Cadet Mark “Rennie” Merhige ’14, who, along with Reavis, served as cadet-in-charge of the trip.
“I thought [Northam] was great,” said Merhige. “He actually reached out to a cadet who’s applying to Eastern Virginia Medical School and told him he’d be willing to help him out. ... That speaks worlds of VMI’s alumni and their willingness to help out cadets. So it’s pretty great to see someone in the position he’s in reach out and be willing to help a cadet he’s met just moments prior.”
Merhige also got to meet with the delegate from his home town, Del. Peter Farrell of the 56th District, who happens to be one of the producers of the soon-to-be-released film Field of Lost Shoes, which tells the story of the VMI cadets who fought and died at the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864, during the Civil War,.
“Delegate Farrell is a fairly young guy,” said Merhige. “He’s very relaxed and welcoming. He’s pretty aware of VMI’s situation and how they need to be worked into the budget, because it’s obvious that VMI has some expenses that normal schools don’t have.”
Reavis added, “All of the cadets were very good about approaching their delegates and their senators. They put a great face on VMI. Overall it was a very positive experience.”
That evening, the cadets attended the legislative reception, held at the Library of Virginia, an event that draws together VMI alumni and supporters, along with the Institute’s leadership, faculty, and staff, to gather socially with members of the legislature. The reception is sponsored by the VMI Alumni Association.
The reception, said Lt. Col. Dallas Clark ’99, Institute planning officer, is “strictly a thank-you.”
Not surprisingly, the reception proved to be a great venue for networking. “It’s just a great chance to connect with the alumni and [help them] put a face to the modern cadet,” said Merhige, who said he enjoyed talking with Matt Erwin ’02 and Bruce Gottwald Jr. ’81.
“It’s just a really great experience,” Merhige continued. “It’s nice to be able to go down there to speak with the people who represent you. Helping out VMI is always important.”
Reavis concurred, saying, “I love politics, and I love following politics. This is a really cool experience.”– Mary Price