25 Years of Women at VMI

Guiterman ’04: Focused
Under Pressure

alumna and cadet smile and hold up class rings

Emma Zhang ’22 and Bree Adams Guiterman ’04 at the 2021 Institute Society Dinner.—Photo courtesy Zhang.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Bree Adams Guiterman ’04 still uses what she learned at VMI in her daily life. She’s a Navy veteran who spent 10 years on active duty and still serves in the Navy Reserve and is a small business owner. She is also a wife and mother of two who is heavily involved in her home community—Gainesville, Florida—and with the Institute on the Foundation Board of Trustees.

The VMI experience isn’t “peaches and cream,” she said. VMI is always challenging, and being one of such a small minority was difficult. If she did something wrong, it wasn’t just Rat Adams who made a mistake. It was Rat Adams—a female rat. Early female cadets held each other to a higher standard, she remembered. “If one of the females faltered, it reflected badly on all of us.”

Parents Weekend of her rat year was particularly hard. She seriously considered going home and leaving VMI behind when her parents visited. “My dad said to me, ‘You need to finish what you start,’” she recalled. Her dad told her to finish her rat year and then make a decision. He ended with, “But don’t let them beat you.”

Guiterman listened. After persevering through the Rat Line, she decided to get as involved as possible. She became an NCAA swimmer—initially with the men’s team, as the women’s team didn’t exist yet—and she served as Corps regimental adjutant, S1 captain, during her 1st Class year.

When she began her Naval service, “things did not faze me; after VMI, what did I have to prove?” she said. “The toughness and grit VMI gave me was very good for me in the Navy.” She deployed to the Northern Arabian Gulf in 2007 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “That was a high-stress environment, and I remember feeling on pins and needles and keenly alert while over there. Being able to stay calm and collected and focused under pressure was a skill I attribute to my time at the Institute.”

What VMI taught her serves her well in the civilian world. Honesty, integrity, and clear communication dictate how she does business—in normal times and when uncertainty reigns. “Those are the fundamentals of VMI, the fundamentals of my business,” she said.

Guiterman runs a property management business, overseeing about 550 properties. During coronavirus closures, she found herself communicating more than she ever had. She had to explain COVID-19 measures to tenants, work with community organizations to help people with rent, and keep in contact with property owners—“all with our front door closed,” she said. Her efforts kept 99% of tenants in their homes, and she did not lay off any employees.

In her business, Guiterman works with many young people. She notices a big difference between these young adults and VMI cadets. At the Institute, cadets “make eye contact, shake your hand … that confidence is really lacking in a lot of other young people today.”

The clear quality and difference VMI graduates bring to the world is why she serves the Institute on the VMI Foundation Board of Trustees. “I think it is important to give back and foster this product that is the VMI graduate: A person with strong character, integrity, and confidence.”

  • Molly Rolon

    Molly Rolon Editorial Specialist