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A Tribute to the Class of 2020

A Tribute to the Class of 2020


To the Class of 2020: 

Every cadet has similar experiences, but every cadetship is not the same. This is a truth you have experienced personally in the past months. Though past VMI classes have experienced the hardships of both disease and war, your class will be one of the most recognized classes for decades to come. No one is likely to forget spring 2020 anytime soon. 

Some of you are commissioning and will go on to serve your country through the structure and organization of the military. 

Some of you are leaving military uniforms behind and going to work in civilian clothes. 

Some of you will very literally live out the civilian-soldier concept, serving in the reserve or National Guard while also pursuing civilian careers. 

No matter the path you have chosen, as you go forward to forge your new experiences, know that all VMI alumni are rooting for you. The VMI Alumni Association is here to assist you with job hunting, career advice and networking. To help you, we are working with career services on a weekly webinar series beginning May 20 

VMI alumni everywhere did not anticipate this ending for you and encourage you to think of it not as the ending of cadetship, but as the beginning of a new chapter. 

What you do with this chapter is up to you. 

Rah Virginia Mil. 

Class of 2020 Profiles

The class of 2020 is extraordinary, and some were recently featured in the most recent issue of the Alumni Review.

Celentano ’20: Love for the Lab

Cadet Frankie Celentano ’20 is a bright young man who moves easily between VMI’s academics and his leadership role in the Corps. The recipient of the inaugural First Dominion Citizen-Soldier Scholarship, he’s studying electrical engineering but seems equally comfortable in other realms.

The undergraduate project that takes much of his time and energy is a radio-controlled robot aimed at controlling urban tick populations. The small robot lures ticks in and kills them with insecticide. With this project, Celentano crosses into both the coding aspect of computer science and the building aspect of mechanical engineering. He “fell in love” with his major. “I really enjoy what I’m doing, so it’s no problem to go into the lab for three, four hours at a time,” he said. The day before Thanksgiving break, he was so engrossed in his work that he spent nine straight hours in the lab. “I just really enjoy what I’m doing,” he explained.

Cadet Frankie Celentano ’20 is the recipient of the inaugural First Dominion Citizen-Soldier Scholarship. The electrical engineering major spent much of his cadet time and energy working on a radio-controlled robot aimed at controlling urban tick populations.

As an Institute Honors Scholar, Celentano takes varied classes – not necessarily related to his major – and is taking a Shakespeare course this semester. “That’s great, because it gets me back into reading,” he said, noting that electrical engineers often don’t have much time for reading.

Celentano enjoys “logical discussions” with his fellow honors cadets. The Institute Honors Program exposes cadets to current, worldwide events through semester-long seminars. More than keeping them up to date, it allows for dialogues among people with “a pretty decent mix of opinions – which I enjoy,” Celentano said.

On the military side, Celentano has been part of cadre since his 3rd Class year. He started out as a company clerk, was a company first sergeant last year and is now the company executive officer. While he spent plenty of time training rats, he feels that 2nd Class cadets also need mentorship. “It’s their first time in a leadership position in front of rats and also their first time having leadership over other cadets,” he said. “I think its more important than to just train the rats.”
The news that his education would be fully funded was “phenomenal,” remembered Celentano, who has two younger sisters. Without the scholarship, he likely would be graduating with a large amount of debt; this way, his parents’ resources can go to help with his sisters’ education.

When he came to VMI, Celentano was initially drawn toward military service. As he learned more about electrical engineering and grew to love the discipline, he felt he could provide significant service to the country as a civilian. He would like to serve by developing weapons and control systems; he’ll be doing just that. He was recently hired by Boeing and will be working at the company’s St. Louis, Missouri, operation.

Franklin ’20: “Astonishing” Support

Cadet Samantha “Sam” Franklin ’20 had a busy 1st Class year: She was the captain of the women’s soccer team, the Corps’ S7 captain, worked toward her Air Force commission and was awarded the Three-Legged Stool. Franklin’s Keydet Club scholarship is from the George J. Collins ’62 Scholar-Athlete Program. Photo courtesy VMI Keydets.

Cadet Samantha “Sam” Franklin ’20 is passionate about organization, being part of a team and working out. Four years ago, a Keydet soccer coach approached Franklin about attending VMI. She visited the Institute and “fell in love” – so much that she didn’t apply to any other college.

Being part of a close-knit group is important to Franklin, who was the captain of the women’s soccer team this year. She is exuberant about her time at VMI but refuses to take personal credit for any of her accomplishments. In January, she was surprised to receive the Keydet Club’s Three-Legged Stool award.

“I don’t think I deserve that award for my own merit,” she said, crediting her family, friends, teammates and God. “The amount of support I’ve had is absolutely astonishing.”

Franklin, who receives athletic scholarship support through the Keydet Club, was able to meet her benefactor this year. The meeting was “awesome,” she recalled. The two had a personal connection: Her benefactor used to eat at the local crab shack in Franklin’s rural Maryland hometown. The scholarship support she received through VMI “has been a huge blessing” to not just Franklin, but her entire family. She has two younger sisters – one is also in college, with plans to attend medical school, and another who is in still in high school.
Aside from soccer, she’s the cadet S7 this year – meaning she heads the group of cadets who plan events for the Corps, including hops and concerts. Though she’s been part of a sports team for much of her life, working on and heading the S7 staff exposed Franklin to a new type of teamwork. “I love it,” she said, noting that being part of a team “is my favorite thing.”

Franklin is majoring in both Arabic and international studies, with a minor in Middle Eastern studies. The challenges of learning Arabic, plus its poetic nature, appealed to Franklin. During her cadetship, she’s been able to travel to both Morocco and Qatar. In Morocco, she stayed with a host family and keeps in regular contact with her host mother and sister.

When Franklin becomes an Air Force intelligence officer this May, it will be a first for her family. Her family was “shocked” when she decided to join the Air Force, which also gives her scholarship support. “I believe it was a pleasant shock,” she smiled. “Like, ‘Oh, we’ve never had that before.’ They’re super supportive.”