Updates

A Message from the Interim Superintendent



Published: April 9, 2021

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85

Interim Superintendent

April 9, 2021

Virginia Military Institute

VMI Community:

The Board of Visitors’ Commemorations and Memorials Naming and Review Committee met this morning to discuss a number of issues that support the concept of ensuring the grounds of VMI present an inspiring and inclusive landscape and its memorials properly reflect VMI’s core values.

The committee has spent several months developing its charter and creating an inventory of iconography on post related to the Confederacy, as well as criteria by which to review these items. Today, committee members focused on three areas for recommendations to the Board of Visitors: the Virginia Mourning Her Dead monument, the New Market Battle mural, and tributes to Stonewall Jackson’s legacy.

Virginia Mourning Her Dead
The Virginia Mourning Her Dead monument was a gift from its sculptor, Sir Moses Ezekiel, a New Market cadet, Class of 1866, as a memorial to those VMI cadets who died in the Battle of New Market.

The committee has forwarded the following recommendations to the Board of Visitors for their review and approval:

  • Virginia Mourning Her Dead should remain and its symbolism should be expanded to honor all former cadets who have died in the wars and military conflicts from 1839 to present day; and
  • The bronze placards on the base of Virginia Mourning Her Dead should be replaced with plaques that, in some way, memorialize all former cadets who have died in military service.

These recommendations are in line with the decision by the superintendent to conduct a memorial parade to honor all alumni who have died in service to the country in place of the New Market Parade.

New Market Battle Mural
The New Market Battle mural, located in Jackson Memorial Hall, was painted by Benjamin West Clinedinst, Class of 1880. It depicts the charge of the Corps of Cadets during the Battle of New Market.

The committee determined it is appropriate for the mural to be preserved. The most appropriate location for the mural on post was not decided. The committee’s work going forward will include determining the feasibility of moving the mural to another location on post. If it is determined that the mural can be moved, the committee will continue to discuss the most appropriate location on post. In the meantime, VMI Museum staff will work to provide proper context for visitors to the mural’s current site.

Jackson Tributes
Prof. Thomas Jackson, an 1846 graduate of West Point, veteran of the Mexican War, and a major in the Virginia Militia, was a teacher at VMI for ten years prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. In May 1861, he went to Richmond and soon became a household name of the Civil War. He never returned to VMI. In considering the prominent locations of the Jackson tributes on post in the light of the committee’s criteria document, which had been approved by the Board of Visitors for the review of those items, it was determined by the committee that certain venerations to the “Stonewall” persona were overstated within the context of his contributions to VMI and should be resolved.

Accordingly, the committee will present the following recommendations to the Board of Visitors for approval:

  • The quotation, “You may be whatever you resolve to be,” on the second stoop inside of Jackson Arch should remain but shall be properly attributed to Professor Thomas J. Jackson. A plaque in the archway will provide co-attribution to William Alcott and the Rev. Joel Hawes, who included the quotation in publications in 1834 and 1851, respectively.
  • The embossed “Stonewall Jackson” inscription above Jackson Arch should be removed. The committee recommended further discussion about the future name of the arch;
  • The name “Jackson” should be removed from Jackson Memorial Hall. The committee will consider new names for the building with the intent to make a recommendation to the Board of Visitors prior to their September 2021 meeting;

All of the above recommendations must be reviewed for approval by the full Board of Visitors before they can be implemented. The Board of Visitors will consider the recommendations at their next meeting which is scheduled for 30 April – 1 May. Comments on the committee’s recommendations can be sent to Lt. Col. Sean Harrington, secretary of the Board of Visitors, at harringtonsp@vmi.edu.

I am grateful for the work the committee has begun on these difficult issues. VMI has a long and proud tradition of developing leaders who rise to the challenges of their time. The Commemorations and Memorials Naming and Review Committee’s work is an important step in the process of ensuring that all cadets and alumni are included in our rich tradition.

Respectfully,

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85
U.S. Army (Retired)
Interim Superintendent
Virginia Military Institute