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Massie ’77: “A Lifelong Joy”

Bland Massie '77

Bland Massie Jr. ’77, D.M.D., will complete his service as VMI Keydet Club Board of Governors president June 30, 2023. Although he has two more years of service on the board of governors remaining in his current term and will serve on the Keydet Club Executive Committee as the immediate past president, he agreed to reflect on his extensive service to the Institute and the broader VMI family.

Characterizing Massie’s service as “extensive” risks understatement. Not only has he served on the Keydet Club Board of Governors for 18 years, starting in 2005, but he also served for nine years as a member of the board of VMI Research Laboratories and was on the VMI Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2009–16, making him one of the few alumni who have served on both boards simultaneously. On the latter, he represented Region VII, which covers Southwestern Virginia, as well as the Lynchburg and Roanoke areas. He also served his brother rats as class agent from 2008–12 and organized his class’ 35th Reunion. Asked why he has given so much of his time to the VMI family, Massie explained, “I like to be involved, and if people ask you to serve VMI, I think you can only say, ‘Yes,’ if you love VMI as I do.”

In the past 18 years, Massie has seen many changes at the Institute and the VMI Alumni Agencies. Asked which at the Agencies stand out, Massie cited the recent organizational changes. “Having served on three boards associated with VMI, I had a rare and amazing perspective on the workings of the Institute and the Alumni Agencies. It gave me an opportunity to see things from three different perspectives.

“Now, the staffs of the VMI Alumni Association, the VMI Foundation, and the Keydet Club are led by one CEO, and the Agencies’ senior leaders are on the combined VMI Alumni Agencies board. It has worked well,” Massie continued. “Everyone gets a good idea of what works, and it is easier for the different agencies to figure out how they can help the other—and the Institute.”

"It’s about helping young people receive a good education that develops them into leaders of strong character who go out and do the right thing. That’s what we expect VMI graduates to do—and make our country stronger.”

Bland Massie Jr. ’77, D.M.D.

Although always interested in VMI, Massie admits to being surprised by a few things when he joined the Keydet Club board. Two had to do with money. “The amount of private money VMI needs every year to maintain the high quality of its programs staggered me, as did the proportion of VMI’s budget—now almost a quarter—that comes from private [support].” He was equally surprised by the amount the Keydet Club needed to raise annually. “It is not just scholarship aid to cadets that costs a lot but operations, as well, because there is no state aid for intercollegiate athletics.” VMI’s relatively small size and location away from major metropolitan areas mean there are limited opportunities for advertising and corporate partnerships, Massie explained. “So, it falls to the Keydet Club to help make up the difference.”

But it is a challenge he has welcomed. “I was never on a board to say I was on it,” he says. “I was on it because I wanted to be engaged.” More importantly, he understands the value of being a cadet-athlete. Massie was a cadet-athlete himself, although, he admits, not a particularly accomplished one. He played baseball as a rat and tried soccer and swimming. “I soon realized that the other men on these teams were much more talented than me.” Eventually, Massie was the backup punter on the football team in his 2nd and 1st Class years. “I benefitted from that experience, even though I never started a game. Participating in sports reinforced what I was learning in barracks, such as the need for self-discipline and teamwork. And that is still the case for today’s cadet-athletes.”

VMI’s ability to give young people the chance to compete at the highest level of American college sports is something that Massie sees as “one of its great advantages.” He explained, “We can give young people a chance to compete at the highest level, NCAA Division I, and at a relatively early time at VMI. If they went to another, larger school, they might not ever get a chance to play until they’re junior or seniors.”

He realizes “some people want to divide the Corps in terms of athletes and non-athletes. To them, I make the point that the Keydet Club helps cadets who just happen to be athletes. Ultimately, what we do is not about winning and losing—although we certainly want to win. It’s about helping young people receive a good education that develops them into leaders of strong character who go out and do the right thing. That’s what we expect VMI graduates to do—and make our country stronger.”

Massie called for other alumni, young and not so young, to become volunteer leaders with the VMI Alumni Agencies. “Their work continues to make the cadet experience what it is. Basically, if it weren’t for the volunteer leaders—and those who donate money—VMI would not be what it is today, and it won’t become what we want it to be tomorrow.

“So, if your heart is in it, and you want to make a difference at VMI, do it. It’ll be a lifelong joy.”

  • 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.