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Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins ’85:
Why I VMI

Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins '85: Why I VMI

6:46

With a 34-year career in the military, a brief time in the corporate world, and now just over one year of leading Virginia Military Institute, Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, created a career out of exploration. “I probably got on a path that I would not have predicted for myself,” he said. “I just got on the journey.”

In fall 2020, the journey that led Wins back to VMI came by way of a push notification on his phone.

“When I was first approached about the possibility of coming down to lead VMI, it started off as a text message from one of my former coaches,” Wins recalled. “He said, ‘Hey, I think, and I’ve told a couple of people that I believe you would make a great superintendent down at VMI.’”

After thanking his former coach for the compliment, Wins said he was busy, but he would consider the position. That led to multiple phone calls with VMI Board of Visitors members, including then-board president Bill Boland ’73. “And so I think, in a matter of speaking, folks kind of laid the groundwork to gauge my interests,” he said.

Before he knew it, he was coming back to Lexington to lead the Institute. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to be one day asked to come back and be the leader of this college,” he said.

The full-circle moment was more than 40 years in the making, but one not apparent to him as teenager growing up in Maryland. “I was determined to go to college because I wanted to be the first in my family to get a college education,” he said.

Wins had his eyes on VMI because they were “definitely committed to giving me an opportunity to play Division I basketball.” He had turned down an offer to play at the Naval Academy—a choice that caught his father off guard.

“[He] did sit me down,” said Wins. “And he did tell me how stunned he was that I would turn down an opportunity to go to the Naval Academy. But he gave me some words of wisdom about the persistence that the coaches down at VMI had shown and said, ‘You know, if you want to play basketball, I think this school has plans for you.’”

When he came to the Institute, Wins looked at the experience as a challenge that he was determined to get through. “I was always an ultra-competitive guy,” he recalled. “And I was never going to let someone outwork me.” Relying on his friends and teammates helped him get through the challenges of the Rat Line and a VMI education.

That common thread—challenge—is one that Wins strongly identifies with today’s cadet experience. He said, “I fundamentally believe that all the things that you’re challenged with here at Virginia Military Institute really are about self. And it’s about your self-discovery of who you are and what you’re capable of. And that’s why I tell the cadets, particularly the new cadets, that, you know, we didn’t bring you here to fail.”

"A critical component of executing the VMI mission is ensuring there's enough private support from people like you. Your gifts to the Foundation Fund, the Keydet Club Scholarship Fund, ensure cadets will continue to experience the same rigors that have made a VMI education unique for more than 180 years."

Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins '85, VMI superintendent

When Wins arrived on post in late 2020, he initially faced two challenges as interim superintendent: The state’s equity audit and COVID-19. “A lot of schools sent their students home,” he said, “[But] we made a decision that … the best we would be able to do was get the most out of this academic year, and it would require us to bring our student body back.”

There was a rough period where numbers of COVID-19-positive cases, isolations, and quarantines were up, but he applauded the work of everyone on post to work through that time. “I thought the staff did a phenomenal job.”

Simultaneously, the Institute was walking through the equity audit, which Wins says he approached the same way as COVID-19: “Focus on the young men and women and make sure they were taken care of,” he said.

His goal was to give the investigative team every opportunity to talk to cadets and encourage them to share what it means to be a VMI cadet.

As he looks forward, Wins thinks VMI has a “huge opportunity” in front of itself. “Now’s the opportunity to think about how we can move forward at VMI and make it a better school, a more inclusive place … where young men and women can come here and find their place.”

Wins said VMI will always have a place in our nation, “because it really is a school like no other in the quality of the young men and women we graduate.

“I think the belief that they have in themselves … [and] the fact that they’re prepared to go out and meet the challenges of the world, I think those are the things that are most important about why a school like VMI is necessary.”

While he may not have been able to predict his own career as a newly minted graduate, he wants current cadets to understand the value of exploration. “The important part is not so much, in my view, knowing what you want to be,” he said. “It’s the willingness to step out there and get on a journey.”

His experience at VMI was built on the foundation of private support, and he asks that all alumni, family, and friends of the Institute consider supporting the work at VMI. “A critical component of executing the VMI mission is ensuring there’s enough private support from people like you,” said Wins. “Your gifts to the Foundation Fund, the Keydet Club Scholarship Fund, ensure cadets will continue to experience the same rigors that have made a VMI education unique for more than 180 years.”

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  • Christian Heilman

    Christian Heilman Digital Content Manager

    The digital content manager is responsible for creating original video and multimedia materials, as well as developing and editing web and digital content. The manager is responsible for platform coordination and troubleshooting, to include the VMI Alumni Agencies’ primary websites, digital newsletter and other digital platforms.