Held in the Hall of Valor in Marshall Hall Sunday, Oct. 23, the Keydet Club Scholarship Banquet was an occasion for cadet-athletes to meet and thank the donors who make their educations possible and for donors to meet and get to know the cadets they are supporting. This year, approximately 120 donors and their guests joined 250 cadet-athletes for a luncheon; the presentation of the Three-Legged Stool Award; and remarks by Greg Cavallaro ’84, senior major gift officer, whose 38 years of employment with VMI include nearly two decades as Keydet Club chief operating officer.
Welcoming the large crowd was Andrew Deal ’12, Keydet Club chief operating officer. Thanks to the generosity of alumni and other members of the VMI family, he noted, the Keydet Club is providing almost $7 million in scholarship support to more than 300 cadet-athletes this year.
Next, Jim Miller, VMI intercollegiate athletic director, recognized the many coaches and assistant coaches in attendance and offered some words specifically for the cadet-athletes in attendance. He noted that he and Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, are working on a new strategic plan for VMI’s future direction in athletics, and because of this, there’s a focus on outcomes for cadet-athletes.
“We want you to be better prepared for life because you were a VMI cadet-athlete,” said Miller.
After lunch, Deal introduced the candidates for this year’s Three-Legged Stool Award, which has been awarded annually since 2001 by the Keydet Club to the cadet-athlete who best embodies excellence in academics, leadership, and athletics. Receiving the award for the 2022–23 academic year was Scout Ripley ’23, a lacrosse team captain from Annapolis, Maryland.
At the end of the 2021–22 season, Ripley was ranked ninth in the Southern Conference in goals per game and second in the league in shots per game. Academically, he’s a member of the Institute Honors program with a double major in history and English. After VMI, he plans to commission into the Marine Corps.
As he accepted the award, Ripley noted that VMI has offered him a wealth of opportunities. “It’s exposed me to so many things I wouldn’t have gotten at other schools,” he stated. “There’s so many opportunities to lead academically, on the hill, and in sports.”
Praising Ripley’s commitment to both academics and athletics was James Purpura, VMI head lacrosse coach. “Scout’s had academic stars every semester, and he always pulls his team around him,” the coach said.
“As cadet-athletes, we all stand on the shoulders of giants,” Ripley declared. “All of our accomplishments are thanks to the donors and people who allow them to happen.”
“As cadet-athletes, we all stand on the shoulders of giants. All of our accomplishments are thanks to the donors and people who allow them to happen.”Scout Ripley ’23 2022 Three-Legged Stool Award Recipient
In his remarks, Cavallaro shared his reminisces of VMI, the Keydet Club, and the scholarship banquet over the years, with an emphasis on how his decision to matriculate at the Institute changed his life.
“I chose VMI because of the reputation of the VMI alumni body, the network, the relationships that are forged through the brother rat spirit, and the fact that VMI was the road less traveled,” Cavallaro stated.
Cavallaro also shared something that isn’t in his official biography: He graduated last in the Class of 1984. “One of my roommates was First Jackson Hope, and I was just hoping to graduate!” Cavallaro remarked, to laughter from the audience.
Despite his academic struggles, Cavallaro chose to stay at VMI—largely because of the relationships he’d formed with brother rats, professors, coaches, and other members of the VMI family. Clark King, who was coaching boxing when Cavallaro was a cadet, played an outsize role in supporting Cavallaro, as did Col. William “Buck” Buchanan ’50B, who was Cavallaro’s boss when he was hired to work in the VMI Office of Admissions in June 1984.
Through the help, friendship, and support of these men and many others, Cavallaro was able to build a successful career—and he told the cadet-athletes in the audience that if they stayed the course at VMI, the same could happen for them.
“You are part of a special fraternity of brother rats,” Cavallaro stated. “Your brother rats will be there for you through thick and thin … Life is made up of a series of Rat Lines that you will have to endure and overcome.”
But on the hardest days, it’s easy to lose perspective. Cavallaro told his listeners about a time early in his cadetship when he called home to complain about how poorly things were going, and his mother replied calmly that she and Cavallaro’s father could come to pick him up the next day. Faced with a clear choice—to leave the Institute or to stay—Cavallaro chose to stay.
With this story as background, Cavallaro urged the cadets in the audience to remember their “Why I VMI”—their reasons for choosing the Institute. He shared lines from Robert Frost’s well-known poem, “The Road Not Taken”: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by … And that has made all the difference.”
After Cavallaro finished speaking, Bland Massie ’77, Keydet Club president, surprised Cavallaro and his wife, Marlene, by presenting Cavallaro with the Three-Legged Stool Award in recognition for his nearly four decades of service and commitment to VMI athletics. It was only the fourth time in the award’s 22-year history that it had been presented to an alumnus. Previous alumni recipients have been Gil Minor ’63; Giles Miller, Class of 1924; and Elmon Gray ’46.
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.