The Institute Society Dinner—the VMI Foundation’s annual celebration of those alumni and friends who are leaders in support of the Institute and the Corps of Cadets—took place in the Hall of Valor in Marshall Hall Nov. 10, 2023. In Fiscal Year 2023, these 839 men and women provided tens of millions of dollars of gifts and commitments to VMI—philanthropic support that will improve the experience of every current and future cadet in the classroom, the barracks, and the playing fields.
After a greeting from Meade B. King ’85, the chief operating officer of the VMI Foundation, the VMI Herald Trumpets played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That was followed by the evening’s invocation by Col. John P. Casper ’04, the John M. Camp Class of 1905 Chaplain to the Corps of Cadets. After the invocation, Thomas G. Slater Jr. ’66, who received the VMI Foundation Distinguished Service Award in 2012, proposed a toast to Conrad M. Hall ’65, who received the DSA at the Founders Day convocation earlier in the day.
After dinner, the VMI Glee Club entertained the attendees with a series of VMI-themed songs, including “The VMI Blues” and “Shenandoah,” which Col. John Brodie (Hon), VMI’s director of music, described as the Institute’s “informal alma mater.”
Ernesto V. Sampson ’98, VMI Foundation president, then addressed the guests. He noted that, as a cadet, he had been a waiter at previous dinners. He also noted that because he became the Foundation president in July 2023, this was his first time addressing the Institute Society Dinner. He said it “was a distinct honor to be the president of the VMI Foundation” and then shared, “another feeling is even stronger, and that is a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude to have the time and energy to serve the Institute, to make a difference in the life of this school which made such a profound difference in my life, and to work with … my fellow trustees and the alumni and friends who so generously support the Institute.”
He also thanked the guests for their philanthropy, saying, “Without your exceptionally generous support VMI would not be the VMI we expect it to be now and in the future. Your partnership with our VMI’s leaders, faculty, staff, and coaches will ensure they can go about their important work of preparing our cadets to lead exemplary lives of success and service.”
Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, followed Sampson. In his remarks, he thanked the members of the Institute Society for their philanthropy. “Your generous gifts continually help our cadets and provide the educational programs that maintain the value of the VMI degree. And by doing so, everyone in this room and those before you leave a legacy that is not only realized annually but for generations to come. What it boils down to is every one of you influence, transform, and change the lives of young men and women, which will ripple into the lives of future generations.”
He then laid out the broad parameters of the Institute’s new strategic plan, “Forging Leaders for the 21st Century.” The plan, the first since Vision 2039, was developed, because while VMI “is on an excellent trajectory,” it “must stay focused and remain nimble in a world that is constantly changing and faced with new challenges. We need to remain rooted in our core values but also make adjustments as higher education continues to evolve. Our new strategic plan is designed to make sure VMI stays on a firm footing and remains a top choice for obtaining a high-quality college education.”
As VMI moves forward, however, Wins said, it will remain “firmly rooted in our values. Those values have endured for decades and include honor, excellence, self-discipline, courage, esprit de corps, selfless service, and resilience. As the years have gone by and generations have graduated, these values have remained our guiding principles. It is the foundation that we should never forget and never compromise.”
According to Wins, “‘Forging 21st Century Leaders’ will build upon our past success with five initiatives intended to deliver on the five outcomes for the Institute: Our commitment to honor, a diverse and inclusive Institute, VMI’s brand reflected in the high quality, high character men and women of the Corps and our alumni, competing to win in all that we do, and recognition that we are One Corps—One VMI forged in the unique bonds of brotherhood.”
The superintendent’s remarks were followed by a short video that told the story of the Institute Society. Using vintage film footage and featuring interviews with cadets and alumni, it described its establishment in the early 1970s, its early successes in terms of fundraising for the Institute, and the impact it has had—and is having—on post, especially in enriching the extraordinary education VMI offers its cadets. It closed with an invitation for members of the VMI family to join the society and to attend the 50th anniversary dinner Nov. 8, 2024.
The evening closed with the usual spirited performance of “The VMI Spirit” and “The VMI Doxology” by the Glee Club, but not before King recognized Brodie—who is retiring at the end of the current academic year—for his service to VMI. “Under John’s leadership, VMI’s music program has earned national and international recognition for its excellence,” King said, “and our cadet-musicians have become some of our best ambassadors.”
Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects
The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.
Christian Heilman Director of Digital Content
The director of digital content is responsible for creating original video and multimedia materials, as well as developing and editing web and digital content. The director is responsible for platform coordination and troubleshooting, to include the VMI Alumni Agencies’ primary websites, digital newsletter and other digital platforms.