From his very first night on post, Bob Wilkinson ’65 knew he was in the right place.
“It was a very emotional moment,” he recalled. “Because, you know, I was finally in a military unit, standing retreat. [With] a big lump in my throat, I thought, ‘I’ll never leave.’”
The challenge called him to VMI, though Wilkinson admits, “I had no doubt in my mind that I would be able to meet it. I knew I was where I wanted to be.”
He says he did not go to VMI to develop the characteristics so frequently attributed to the Institute’s graduates: Honor, integrity, trustworthiness, and loyalty. Wilkinson says he grew up being taught those, but what VMI taught him was just as important.
“What it does is it confirms to yourself that you can live like that and other people can live like that,” he said.
In the U.S. Army, he came across other VMI graduates frequently and knew he could immediately trust those people. For seven months, he commanded an artillery firing battery, and during that time, he saw how his VMI experience prepared him well. “VMI helps you develop confidence in the ability to lead,” he said.
As an alumnus, he says it’s the responsibility of all alumni to sell the VMI experience to the rest of the world. That way, everyone knows when a VMI resume comes across their desk, they’re looking at a quality candidate. He said, “You can’t find 100% of applicants for jobs that are going to be dependable. When you see a VMI person is qualified, you know that.”
Looking back at his time at the Institute, he appreciates that the previous generation paved the way for him to attend. “When I went to school, and when my brother went to school [at VMI], we both had scholarships that helped us go,” he recalled. “We really didn’t have a lot of resources growing up.”
He encourages others to start giving, saying, “The easiest way is if you’re going to give cash or check is to have it deducted from your checking account, sent to VMI each month.”
Wilkinson continues to give back to the Institute for the next cadet who stands in retreat and knows the Institute is the right place for him or her.
Christian Heilman Digital Content Manager
The digital content manager is responsible for creating original video and multimedia materials, as well as developing and editing web and digital content. The manager is responsible for platform coordination and troubleshooting, to include the VMI Alumni Agencies’ primary websites, digital newsletter and other digital platforms.