“I don’t look at my gifts as philanthropic. I look at my gifts as an investment, and I want to keep a good thing going.” Those are the words of G. Gilmer “Gil” Minor III ’63, a tireless champion and advocate of VMI who received the Distinguished Service Award, the VMI Foundation’s highest honor, in 2008. Minor died May 4, 2023, at the age of 82. He made significant and lasting contributions all across post for many decades, often working quietly behind the scenes on behalf of the Institute and the Corps of Cadets.
A native of Richmond, Virginia, and the son of an alumnus, G. Gilmer Minor Jr., Class of 1934, Minor grew up as many children of alumni do—with visits to post centered around parades and athletic competition. “Growing up, I thought VMI was all about parades and football games,” he recounted in a 2014 interview.
After graduating from St. Christopher’s School, where he served as co-captain of the football, basketball, and baseball teams, Minor matriculated to VMI in fall 1959.
“The moment of reality came about pretty quickly,” he recalled. He could even remember the moment he had the thought so many cadets and alumni have had: “What the heck am I doing here?”
Like many others, Minor wrestled with moments of stress and unhappiness during his cadet years. “I fought the system, and the system won in the end—which is the good thing,” Minor noted in a 2008 interview. “After I graduated … it didn’t take me long to realize that VMI was the best four years of my life, and I am grateful for that.”
During his cadetship, Minor took advantage of much that VMI had to offer, co-founding the Pioneer Investment Club and becoming a member of the Political Science Club. A natural athlete, Minor served as co-captain of the 1962 football team that won the Southern Conference championship and co-captain of the 1963 baseball team. At the time, VMI maintained a strong rivalry in football with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Minor played on the 1961 and 1962 teams that defeated Tech by scores of 6-0 and 14-9, respectively.
Later, he was inducted into the VMI Sports Hall of Fame for both football and baseball. The year before, Minor became one of only a small handful of alumni to receive the Three-Legged Stool, which is given by the VMI Keydet Club to recognize cadets and alumni who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the three pillars of a VMI education: Academics, military training, and athletics.
After graduating from VMI with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Minor continued his studies at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, where he received a Master of Business Administration degree in 1966.
While those looking at Minor’s life in retrospect might assume that his path after VMI was seamless, Minor was quick to note that it was not. Then as now, the Darden School was highly selective in its admissions, and Minor’s test scores weren’t as high as those of other applicants. The admissions committee knew, though, that a degree from VMI showed tenacity, and Minor was thus admitted to the state’s most prestigious business school.
Minor’s life’s work was with his family’s multigenerational business, Owens & Minor, Inc. Founded in 1882 by Minor’s great-grandfather as a drug wholesale company, Owens & Minor is now a global healthcare logistics company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The company employs more than 20,000 teammates.
At Owens & Minor, Minor served in numerous sales, management, and operations roles before becoming its president in 1981, its chief executive officer in 1984, and in May 1994, chairman of the board.
Under Minor’s leadership, the company had extraordinary growth, going from sales of approximately $200-300 million in the 1980s to projected sales of $10.1-$10.5 billion in 2023. In 1988, Minor took the company public. At the time of his death, he held the title of chairman emeritus.
Even as head of a large publicly traded corporation, though, Minor never forgot the human touch. Employees at Owens & Minor recounted that each Easter, Minor would dress as the Easter bunny and go around the office handing out candy while singing, Here Comes Peter Cottontail.
“If you met him on the street, you’d never know he was head of a Fortune 500 company … he was the most humble, caring man,” Hugh Gouldthorpe Jr. ’61 told the Richmond Times-Dispatch shortly after Minor’s death. Christmas saw Minor dressed as Santa Claus, and he maintained an open-door policy with employees. “He didn’t talk at you; he always talked with you,” Gouldthorpe noted.
Over the years, Minor would see the value of VMI not only in his own life but in those of others. Cadet interns at Owens & Minor, he commented, were “a cut above the others.” VMI’s emphasis on honor and service, Minor noted, plus the ability to deal with adversity, produces men and women ready to serve.
“The tool kit starts with integrity,” he stated in 2014, “being able to put your head on the pillow at night and go to sleep and know you’ve done the right thing. … VMI teaches you don’t give up. You’re going to falter. You’re going to fail. But get up and keep moving forward.”
That tool kit produces men and women ready to serve and lead. “We put out very well-grounded graduates today who can take their places immediately in society,” Minor noted.
“He provided wise counsel, steadiness under pressure, and the very best of leadership to the Institute and the greater VMI family.”Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, Superintendent Emeritus
In recognition and thankfulness for all that VMI had done for him, Minor held several leadership positions at the Institute, including terms on the Keydet Club Board of Governors and the Foundation Board of Trustees, serving as president of the latter board from 1997–2000. In 2000, Virginia Governor James “Jim” Gilmore appointed Minor to the VMI Board of Visitors, where he would serve until 2008. From 2005–08, Minor served as president of the Board of Visitors.
Under his leadership, and that of Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, then-superintendent, construction began on Third Barracks and Marshall Hall, and a renovation of Kilbourne Hall took place as well. Athletics, too, received renewed attention with the renovation and renaming of Foster Stadium. In 2007, Minor was recognized for his exceptional generosity to VMI athletics with the renaming of the baseball stadium to honor himself and Elmon T. Gray ’46, former state senator and former president of the VMI Board of Visitors. That day—March 27, 2007—Gray stood at bat as Bill Paulette ’69 threw out the first pitch, and Minor acted as catcher.
Always seeking to create opportunities for cadets, Minor was also a scholarship donor whose generosity benefited many over the past decades.
In addition to his service at VMI, Minor was also heavily involved in supporting education on the statewide level, serving as chairman of the board of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and the Virginia Business Higher Education Council. He also served as a member of Gov. Robert “Bob” McDonnell’s Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation, and Investment.
He was inducted into the Junior Achievement Greater Richmond Business Hall of Fame and received the United Negro College Fund’s Flame Bearer of Education Award, as well as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Award of Excellence. In addition, he received the B’Nai B’rith National Healthcare Award and was recognized as the Virginia Industrialist of the Year, among many other honors.
Those who worked with Minor closely spoke of his dedication to all he undertook—and some admired his leadership over many decades.
Thomas “Tom” Slater ’66 first met Minor when Minor was captain of the football team, and Slater was a rat. Slater also played football, but because NCAA regulations didn’t allow freshmen to play varsity sports at the time, Slater played on the rat football team his first year at VMI.
On scrimmage days, the varsity team, which at the time was playing schools such as Virginia Tech, would play the rat team. “I always tell Gil the only reason he played so well and did so well against Virginia Tech was because we got him ready,” said Slater.
Neither knew it at the time, but Minor and Slater would go on to work together in many capacities—and by working alongside Minor, Slater would see his exceptional leadership continue both in business and the community. Slater, an attorney now practicing with Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, did antitrust legal work for Owens & Minor. “He truly was a wonderful human being who inspired and led other human beings to do good work,” said Slater of Minor.
Peay, who also knew Minor over the course of many decades and worked closely with him, likewise praised his dedication and devotion to the Institute and the Corps of Cadets.
“In 2005, Gil Minor ascended to the prestigious position of president of the VMI Board of Visitors and served for the next three years in the face of many challenges with distinction,” said Peay, now superintendent emeritus. “He provided wise counsel, steadiness under pressure, and the very best of leadership to the Institute and the greater VMI family. We have lost a caring graduate who passionately loved our school and worked tirelessly on its behalf. His was a remarkable and historic contribution.”
On Feb. 13, 2023, in a ceremony held in Richmond on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates, Minor was presented with the Outstanding Virginian Award. This award, considered to be the highest in the Commonwealth of Virginia, was established by the General Assembly to honor recipients whose distinguished contributions, outstanding achievements, and dedicated leadership serve as an inspiration to all civic-minded citizens.
“Throughout his remarkable life, this amazing man has led, contributed to, and inspired the citizens of our Commonwealth through his work and his presence,” said Betsy B. Carr, the Virginia delegate who presented Minor with the award.
Minor’s recognition was an acknowledgment of “everything he’d done, both in Richmond and at VMI,” noted John B. “Jay” Adams Jr. ’66, longtime chair of the Outstanding Virginian Committee, which selects recipients of the award. “A lot of [cadets] might not have been able to come to VMI if it weren’t for him. … He was just a very modest, wonderful person.”
With the bestowal of the Outstanding Virginia Award, Minor became the fourth VMI alumnus to receive this honor. U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Jr., a member of the Class of 1935, was the first recipient of the Outstanding Virginian Award in 1983. The second and third alumni recipients, Bruce C. Gottwald ’54 and Floyd T. Gottwald Jr. ’43, were honored jointly in 2017. Other recipients have included several former Virginia governors, two former U.S. senators, and Hon. John O. Marsh Jr. (Hon), former chair of the VMI Board of Visitors and former secretary of the Army.
Minor is survived by his wife, Charlotte Major Minor; daughter, Cameron Minor Cummings (Jack); son, G. Gilmer Minor IV ’93; grandchildren, Christopher Watkins Raquet, Adeline Margaret Raquet, and Bryson Robert Raquet; and brother, Claiborne Watkins Minor ’67.
He was preceded in death by his father, who died Nov. 13, 1995.
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.