Tailgates before football games are a cherished tradition at many colleges and universities—and VMI is no exception. Last fall, though, members of the Class of 1996 held a tailgate party that was much more than a social occasion: It was a gathering specially organized to honor a fallen brother rat, his family, and the power of generosity to deepen the bonds among the VMI family.
The November 2022 gathering was held in memory of U.S. Marine Corps Capt. James C. “Jamie” Edge ’96, who was killed April 14, 2005, while conducting combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq, and also in honor of Cadet Benjamin Schreher ’25, the inaugural recipient of the Capt. Jamie Edge 1996 VMI Spirit Scholarship.
The idea of establishing a scholarship in Edge’s memory began with 25th Reunion planning for the Class of 1996, much of which took place over Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were also dealing with extraordinary headwinds at VMI at the time,” said Tom Danielsen ’96. “We wanted to drown out the noise and find something really simple that everyone in the class could get behind.”
The life and legacy of Edge, who matriculated from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies from VMI, proved to be the ideal catalyst for their efforts.
“[Edge] was the spirit of the Corps for a long time,” said Nick Latsios ’96. “He touched a lot of people.”
No doubt because of this, the Edge scholarship was funded within six months, with high participation from the class. “We were able to bring in people who hadn’t donated ever,” said Latsios.
“Jamie was larger than life at VMI, and a natural leader in our class,” Danielsen noted. “He was a goofball, coming up with crazy schemes to rally the Corps.”
One such stunt was climbing the inside of the smokestack behind barracks—a feat that Edge accomplished in the middle of the night during his rat year. Once he reached the top, he planted a Class of 1993+3 banner—which remained there until Ring Figure weekend two years later, at which time he made the climb again, this time replacing the banner with one that read Class of 1996. Incredibly, that banner, or its remnants, remained in place until 2019.
Today, remnants of the long-remembered smokestack banner are in the possession of the Class of 1996, thanks to the help of Brig. Gen. Dallas Clark ’99, deputy superintendent for finance and support, and plans are underway to donate them to the VMI Museum.
Because of Edge’s larger-than-life personality, his brother rats sought to craft a scholarship that reflected his unique contributions to their class and to the Institute. Rather than a purely academic or need-based award, the scholarship is to be awarded to a rising 3rd Class cadet “exemplifying a similar spirit and embodiment of VMI, as exhibited by Capt. Edge,” according to the memorandum of understanding establishing the scholarship.
“[Edge] was the spirit of the Corps for a long time. He touched a lot of people.”Nick Latsios ’96
Joining Danielsen, his brother rats, and Schreher on post last fall were members of the Edge family, including Jamie’s mother, Janice Edge; his daughters, Helena and Rachel, who were visiting VMI for the first time; and brothers, Tommy and Will.
“Being the first to receive this scholarship is an honor, and it was wonderful to meet the Edge family,” said Schreher. “I especially enjoyed talking with Jamie’s mother and brother. Talking with everyone that knew Jamie helped me to see how special he was in all their lives and why they had started this scholarship in his memory.”
Opening the door to bringing Edge’s family to VMI was John Adams ’96, who ran for attorney general of Virginia in 2017. One night in the fall of that year, Adams made a campaign stop in Tidewater Virginia. As is usual at such events, there was a line of people waiting to speak with Adams after he’d addressed the group. He was working his way through the line when a woman stunned him with three words: “I’m Jamie’s mom.”
With those words, a routine campaign stop turned into a joyous moment of instant connection.
“We both started crying,” said Adams. “My campaign staff is sitting there thinking, ‘what in the heck is happening?’”
After that night, Adams kept in touch with Janice Edge, who now lives in Chesapeake, Virginia, and members of the class worked with her to find a weekend when all could return to post.
With the help of Clark and Jon Dano ’96, the Edges were able to tour post, watch the VMI versus The Citadel football game from the superintendent’s box, and take an after-hours tour of the VMI Museum, where they viewed Edge’s shadow box. The tailgate party, which was attended not only by dozens of brother rats but also by Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, was held in Clark’s backyard.
The night before, members of the class and the Edges had dinner with Schreher, an electrical and computer engineering major from Cascade, Montana.
The weekend “put it all together,” Danielsen noted. “Jamie’s legacy is living on.”
In April, Danielsen and Latsios traveled to Lexington to join Schreher in attending the VMI Foundation Scholarship Banquet. “He’s appreciative,” said Latsios. “He’s an amazing cadet.”
Donations to the Capt. Jamie Edge 1996 VMI Spirit Scholarship are welcome. Checks should be made out to the VMI Foundation, with “Edge Scholarship” on the memo line. Checks should be mailed to the VMI Alumni Agencies, P.O. Box 932, Lexington VA 24450.
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.