In fall 1987, Daniel Robinson ’91 left his Northern Virginia home, headed to VMI and a new life as a cadet. It was a surprising path: Robinson had lacked direction throughout high school, and he’d never planned on attending a military school. He wasn’t even sure where life would take him after VMI. He was, in his own words, “sort of a wayward soul.”
But the wayward soul had a friend a few years older who attended VMI, and one year over Christmas furlough, the friend convinced Robinson that VMI was the place for him. Robinson applied, was accepted, and then told his parents that he’d be matriculating in August. After the initial surprise wore off, they were accepting, and Robinson’s cadetship began.
Four years later, Robinson graduated from VMI with distinction, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies—a major established during Robinson’s cadetship. He later earned a Master of Arts degree in national security from Georgetown University.
Today, Robinson is vice president of intelligence services at SOS International LLC, an aerospace and defense contracting company—and he’s a consistent supporter of the Institute. He’d be the first to tell you that VMI laid the foundations for his professional success.
“I remember very distinctly, from my time at VMI, the excellent quality of the professors that I had in the classroom,” Robinson stated. “I was blown away.” In particular, he recalls rat English with Chester “Chet” Burgess Jr., Ph.D., whom Robinson described as “a legend in the English department.” There was also the late Patrick Mayerchak, Ph.D., professor of international studies and an expert on Southeast Asia.
“The education that I received at VMI ultimately made it very easy for me to get into graduate school,” Robinson noted. “… And frankly, the critical thinking and the analysis that I learned just from four years in the classroom at VMI has held me over very well in my entire career.”
VMI, of course, is about much more than academics—and Robinson is grateful for those out-of-the-classroom lessons as well.
“When I came to VMI, as an 18-year-old kid, in 1987, I had long hair and no idea what I was going to do with my life,” he said. “And I was just sort of all over the map. And when I left there, four years later, I was really much more of a man than I was when I arrived there. I had focus. I had discipline, and I understood about accountability.”
About a decade after graduating, Robinson began to support VMI financially. “As time went on, it became more and more apparent to me that as I got more financially successful in my career, had more responsibility and accountability in terms of the roles and the positions that I held within the industry that I’m in, it became more and more apparent to me that VMI had really made a lot of that possible,” he stated. “And so, I increased my giving to the Institute proportionally.”
On the cusp of attending his 20th Reunion in 2011, Robinson heard about a class giving challenge and felt the urge to participate more deeply. “I really stepped up my giving at that point,” he commented. He’s also made a point of attending VMI football games and making himself available to talk to high schoolers considering the Institute. There, he notes, there’s an “intensity and focus” that’s not often found at other schools.
“At VMI, from basically day one, what you’re there to do, you’re there to get an education,” Robinson said. “You’re there to be in the top physical condition that you can be. And you’re there to learn about military bearing, discipline, and accountability; whether or not you choose to go into the military, as an officer, or as an enlisted troop afterward is really immaterial.”
And, of course, there’s the fun of running into another alum—anywhere, anytime, anyplace—recognizing the ring, and jumping into a conversation with immediate ease. Not long ago, Robinson saw a member of the Class of 1989 Rat Disciplinary Committee on an airplane, and the two sat and talked for the entire flight.
“As soon as you self-identify or they self-identify, and you’re able to figure it out, there’s instantaneous camaraderie, there’s instantaneous bonds, there’s an instantaneous level of comfort and trust that you don’t have with people that didn’t go there,” Robinson commented. “I find that to be very comforting in many ways. It’s one of the best things about having graduated from VMI.”
Victoria Ferris Social Media and Communications Strategist
The social media and communications strategist is responsible for creating compelling, audience-appropriate, multi-channel content for social media, and for monitoring the VMI Alumni Agencies' social media accounts. The strategist supports all communications efforts, including email marketing deployment and training, website updating, and video editing.
Mary Price Development Writer/Communications Specialist
The development writer plays a key role in producing advancement communications. This role imagines, creates, and produces a variety of written communication to inspire donors to make gifts benefiting VMI. Utilizing journalistic features and storytelling, the development writer will produce content for areas such as Annual Giving, stewardship, and gift planning.