VMI Celebrates Founders Day

LEXINGTON, Va., November 11, 2021—Virginia Military Institute celebrated the 182nd anniversary of the Institute’s founding on a mild Nov. 11. The day was filled with pageantry, athleticism, and gratitude.

In the morning, 4th Class cadets participated in Rat Olympics. This event, held in the Corps Physical Training Facility, is a culmination of a 10-week physical education program known as Rat Challenge. The activities, which include tug-of-war, relays, and rock climbing, offer cadets a chance to compete for the Stockwell Cup, which is awarded to the company that works the hardest and displays the best attitude, named for the late Col. Bill Stockwell.

Collage of VMI rats competing in the 2021 Rat Olympics—VMI Photos by H. Lockwood McLaughlin and Malia Mantz ’23
—VMI Photos by H. Lockwood McLaughlin and Malia Mantz ’23

Later in the day, the Corps, along with faculty, staff, and special guests, joined together in Cameron Hall for a Founders Day convocation honoring two alumni whose dedication to VMI over the years has impacted thousands of cadets. 

Receiving the 2021 Distinguished Service Awards were Dr. Charles F. Bryan Jr. ’69 and William A. Paulette ’69. Thomas H. Zarges ’70, president of the VMI Foundation, presented the awards. This is the first time this award has been presented since 2015, and it began in 1969, the year Bryan and Paulette wrapped up their cadetship. This is the first time since 1988 that two brother rats received the award on the same day.

Zarges says this award “is presented so rarely because it is reserved for alumni and friends whose lives have been characterized by significant professional achievement, selfless service to their professions and their communities, and an unshakable devotion to the Institute.”

One of the country’s most distinguished public historians, Bryan is the former president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Historical Society (VHS), a post he held from 1988 to 2008. After retiring from the VHS, Bryan was a founding partner of Bryan & Jordan Consulting, LLC, which specializes in strategic planning, fundraising, board and staff relations, and executive searches for nonprofit institutions and higher education. A leader in service in his field, Bryan was on the board of the National Museum of American History, served as the president of the American Association for State and Local History and the Independent Research Libraries Association. He is a lecturer for the Organization of American Historians' Distinguished Lecture Series and was named by the Virginia General Assembly as the Outstanding Virginian of 2009. He has served VMI faithfully including eight years as a trustee of the VMI Foundation and has been instrumental in the recent restructuring of the VMI Alumni Agencies. A history major, Bryan was a Distinguished Military Student and a member of the Bomb Staff.

Paulette is the chairman and chief executive officer of KBS, a construction firm he founded in 1975. During the past 46 years, under his leadership, the company has become one of the top-rated construction firms in the Mid-Atlantic area. KBS constructed the VMI facility that houses locker rooms for baseball, men’s and women’s soccer, and lacrosse, which was dedicated as Paulette Hall in 2007. He was a member of the governing board of the VMI Keydet Club, which is dedicated to raising support for VMI’s intercollegiate sports program and its cadet-athletes, from 1997 to 2002 and again from 2010 to 2019. He was the Keydet Club’s president from 2011 to 2016 and, in that role, was an ex-officio member of the governing boards of the VMI Alumni Association and the VMI Foundation. He was appointed to VMI’s Board of Visitors in 2002 and served in that role until 2010. He was the board’s vice president and chairman of the athletic and external affairs committees. In 2017, the VMI Keydet Club recognized his service to VMI athletics with the Spirit of VMI Award. Paulette also served on the board of the Virginia State Board for Contractors and Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia and was the chairman of the Henrico County Community Services Board and a former board member of the Make-A-Wish Greater Virginia. A civil engineering major, Paulette was a two-sport athlete, competing in both football and baseball.

Bryan and Paulette joined Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85 to take review of the Founders Day parade held in the afternoon. Cadet Battery fired a rousing salute with the howitzers to honor the occasion.  

Bryan and Paulette joined Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85 to take review of the Founders Day parade held in the afternoon. Cadet Battery fired a rousing salute with the howitzers to honor the occasion. —VMI Photos by Kelly Nye and H. Lockwood McLaughlin.
—VMI Photos by Kelly Nye and H. Lockwood McLaughlin.

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