Karin and Lane Toomey ’74

Lane Toomey standing with his arm around Karin Toomey.

Karin and Lane Toomey ’74 established the Karin and Lane Toomey ’74 Engineering Scholarship. The couple have steadily supported the VMI Foundation Fund for years.—Photo courtesy Lane Toomey ’74.

Charles Lane Toomey ’74 takes service seriously. Inspired by his father, who was an airborne engineer officer in the Mediterranean theater in the Second World War and the film The Longest Day, he served 26 years as an officer in the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers. This career took him to places like Germany and Saudi Arabia and presented him with many rewarding command and staff assignments with 12 years in Airborne units.

One memorable tour was as a planning officer for the XVIII Airborne Corps from 1990-92. In the aftermath of Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait in August 1990, Toomey was among the first American troops to deploy to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield. He later helped plan the unit’s participation in Operation Desert Storm, during which it was part of the “end sweep” that prevented the reinforcement of Iraqi forces in Kuwait and their escape.

Determined that the campaign’s lessons should not be lost to future generations of soldiers, after his retirement, Toomey continued his service by writing XVIII Airborne Corps in Desert Storm: From Planning to Victory. It was described as an “insightful, detailed account” by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After five years of retirement, the call to serve remained strong. As Toomey puts it, “I was enticed to return to the XVIII Airborne Corps and ‘help out.’” He now focuses on “how the corps contributes to the development of joint and Army doctrine and concepts, which eventually may lead to new systems, new units, and new or updated doctrines.”

As with many others who are committed to serve, Toomey doesn’t focus on just one thing. For many years, he also has served the Institute, giving generously of his time and talent. He was a member of the VMI Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2005-11. He served for 11 years as the Association’s liaison to the VMI Board of Visitors, working with the BOV’s military affairs committee.

He also has been involved with new cadet recruiting efforts in his native North Carolina. In a sense, he is returning a favor done for him by an alumnus back in the early 1960s. “Our next-door neighbor in Cary from 1960 to 1963 was an Air Force officer who taught Air Force ROTC at North Carolina State,” he recalled. “He also was a VMI alumnus from the Class of 1947, and he introduced me to VMI.”

In 2017, he joined the VMI Foundation’s Board of Trustees. He currently serves on its Finance Committee and Major Gifts/Planned Giving subcommittee.

“The Institute knows best when and how to apply unrestricted gifts ... for optimal benefit to cadets and faculty. My service on the Foundation Board of Trustees has reinforced our conviction on that point.”

Charles Lane Toomey ’74, VMI Foundation Board of Trustees member

Asked why he has served the Institute in this manner, he replied, “I believe strongly in VMI’s mission, and that VMI is a national treasure.” He also enjoys the work. “It has been a pleasure to meet and work with other like-minded alumni and non-alumni. Every time I meet with these men and women, I always learn something new about the Institute and governance of an educational institution.”

For Toomey and his wife, Karin, philanthropy is a team effort, and they have been consistent donors. Their reasons for giving are simple. “Our nation needs what VMI produces: Well-rounded, educated, and honorable young men and women who have learned to be a part of something that is greater than themselves.”

Initially, the Toomeys often gave to the Foundation Fund, which generates unrestricted money for academic and co-curricular programs. Toomey explained, “The Institute knows best when and how to apply unrestricted gifts from us and other alumni, parents, and friends for optimal benefit to cadets and faculty. My service on the Foundation Board of Trustees has reinforced our conviction on that point.”

More recently, however, the Toomeys decided to establish a scholarship at VMI that supports cadets from North Carolina who study civil engineering—which is what Toomey was a few decades ago. “Of course, being from North Carolina, my tuition and fees were higher than that of cadets from Virginia. Fortunately, I had a four-year Army scholarship, but that won’t be the case for every cadet from North Carolina.

“Karin and I know that the cost of providing a VMI education has increased significantly, and so the cost of attending VMI, especially as an out-of-state cadet, has increased significantly, as well. So, we established the Karin and Lane Toomey ’74 Engineering Scholarship.”

What do the Toomeys see as the scholarship’s purpose? “We’re still building the endowment, so right now, it will offset some of the tuition and fees. Eventually, Karin and I want to build our scholarship’s endowment so it can provide a cadet a full ride.” There’s also another purpose, according to Toomey: Peace of mind. “I do not want future cadets worrying about tuition costs if, like I did, they are struggling with something like differential equations.”

In the same team spirit that characterizes their philanthropy to VMI, Karin and Lane also give to Karin’s alma mater. “We both value higher education,” said Toomey. “Karin has established a scholarship at Ohio University for undergraduate women in science, and we are building that endowment, too.”

Besides giving a young man or woman from North Carolina the chance to receive one of the country’s best civil engineering educations, the Toomeys hope the scholarship encourages future philanthropy. “We anticipate that, when recipients have achieved professional success and have the financial ability, they’ll remember how someone helped them and decide to help future cadets in the same way.”

Which brought Toomey to a final thought: “Every graduate should weigh how much of his or her success—professionally and personally—stems from their VMI experience. If they are honest with themselves, they’ll credit a lot of it to VMI. Furthermore, they also will realize that the Institute is most deserving of their financial support.”

  • Scott Belliveau

    Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects

    The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.