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Max Hopkins ’97: Why I VMI

Max Hopkins ’97: Why I VMI


From his first step on post, Max Hopkins ’97 felt an inexplicable affinity for VMI that he knew—even then—would shape him into the individual he is today. And this connection never faded: Today, it extends to the alumni network and the common bond, experiences, and support he shares with VMI alumni of all ages.

Matriculating from Ridgefield, Connecticut, Hopkins competed in men’s swim and dive and graduated from VMI with a degree in history. When he visited the Institute for the first time, he was immediately pulled toward it.

“When I came down to visit VMI, it had something that I can’t quantify about it that really drew me to it,” said Hopkins. “What drew me to VMI was the discipline that it had, the structure that it had. The goals, the Honor Code, and everything that made VMI what I had read about, I saw in the cadets as they marched during the parades, as they marched down to their meals, the cadets that I spoke with. It was the camaraderie and the feeling that it had felt like it was the right fit for me to come to VMI and achieve the goals that I had set out for myself.”

VMI’s distinct camaraderie and alumni network took on new meaning when Hopkins experienced class reunions during his cadetship. “I remember the discussions that VMI had a very strong network, and I vividly remember the reunions of the classes coming in. You look at the individuals getting on the sentinel box, and I always remember thinking, ‘That’s going to be our class one of these days,’” said Hopkins.

In managing the demands of cadetship, Hopkins developed skills in prioritization and discipline that prepared him for the Marine Corps as well as his current career as program manager at Advanced Technology International. “What I took away from VMI and applied to my Marine Corps career and then also in my career now is the ability to look at the tasks that you have, prioritize those tasks, and execute them as efficiently as possible,” said Hopkins. “VMI taught efficiency from the start of the day when you got up and got out onto the bricks to formation, to getting done with swim practice, getting my homework done, and being ready for the night and the next academic day.”

Though he was ready to graduate and take his next step into the Marine Corps, Hopkins knew his link to VMI would compel him to return. “I was excited to graduate after four years. However, I knew I would come back. And I knew that VMI had set me up well for success.”

“What drew me to VMI was the discipline that it had, the structure that it had. The goals, the Honor Code, and everything that made VMI what I had read about, I saw in the cadets ... It was the camaraderie and the feeling that it had felt like it was the right fit for me to come to VMI and achieve the goals that I had set out for myself.”

Max Hopkins ’97

When Hopkins’ work took him to San Diego, he found a new way to connect to the Institute beyond returning to post by attending alumni chapter events and, eventually, becoming a chapter president. As chapter president, he witnessed how the VMI bond transcends generations.

“In 2010, I started to get involved and go to the alumni events that were being held in San Diego, so much so that I was approached to be the chapter president in San Diego,” said Hopkins. “What I enjoyed seeing in becoming a chapter president was the connections from classes in the ’60s, and we even had somebody from the Class of 1944, all the way up to new graduates that had just gotten out. The connection that was made between those individuals was absolutely amazing. The camaraderie and similarities we had, regardless of how many years between the alumni, we all had a common thread; we all felt the same way. And we could all sit and talk.”

These connections also fostered mentorship and a strong support system. “Those individuals helping each other, making those connections, trying to guide them in the right way and provide some of the lessons that we learned, was absolutely instrumental to me and was something that I really enjoyed watching and seeing bloom.”

Hopkins emphasized the importance of connecting with the VMI alumni network and the simple steps to do so. “Everything we talk about these days is networking, and how we network and how we can make that to our benefit and increase our goals and get to our goals. I think one of the biggest things that you need to do is reach out,” explained Hopkins.

“If you’re an alumni, and you’re thinking about attending something with the Alumni Association with your chapter, there’s plenty of ways to reach out,” Hopkins continued. “It’s as easy many times as just signing up and showing up—it might just be a happy hour that’s going on, or it might just be a sporting event. I think you’ll find that that’s something that you’ll enjoy.”

The network and the support for graduates remain strong, and Hopkins’ hope is that alumni will reach out and enjoy it. “You’ll find that it’s that first step that you take; once you take it, you’ll see how easy it is to reach out to that network, ask for help, and utilize that network. VMI graduates will always assist VMI graduates, and VMI will be there for you long after you hang up your coatee and you walk away from post.”

For Hopkins, his bonds to alumni extend even further as an obligation—one that touches on what first drew him to VMI. Hopkins remains connected to and supportive of VMI because of the individual the Institute shaped him to be. “We owe it to the Institute as graduates to go out there and champion our school that I feel personally has made me the person that I am today.”

  • Victoria Ferris

    Victoria Ferris Social Media and Communications Strategist

    The social media and communications strategist is responsible for creating compelling, audience-appropriate, multi-channel content for social media, and for monitoring the VMI Alumni Agencies' social media accounts. The strategist supports all communications efforts, including email marketing deployment and training, website updating, and video editing.

    Mattie Montgomery

    Mattie Montgomery Assistant Editor

    The assistant editor assists the editor-in-chief in various tasks relating to the production of quarterly and monthly publications, as well as prepares written materials for publication. The assistant editor serves as liaison between class agents and chapter presidents and the Agencies’ publications, as well as provides backup photography for events.