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Michael E. Rios ’06: Why I VMI

Michael E. Rios ’06: Why I VMI


Ever since his cadetship, Michael E. Rios ’06 has been industrious. Today, as founder and chief executive officer of a healthcare brokerage, Aptus Exchange, Rios reflects on how VMI influenced his career.

Two skills from VMI particularly impressed upon Rios’ heart and mind throughout his professional life. They are being “confident in the functions and attitudes of leadership and having an imbued love of learning,” he stated. “If you can put those two together, you’re going to step off with success wherever you go.”

Always looking ahead and challenging himself, Rios made a goal to graduate with an economics and business degree in only three years. To do so, Rios received special permission to take heavy course loads. Balancing academics and the grueling demands of cadetship required him to study year-round as he added 12 credit hours of classes each summer. In the fall semester of his 3rd Class year, Rios took a staggering 28.5 credits to complete his major requirements. His course load was so demanding that Rios recently learned from Brig. Gen. Robert Moreschi, Ph.D., dean of the faculty, that it is no longer allowed. “We’re sitting in General Moreschi, the dean of VMI’s, office, and he says, ‘You know, we changed the rules after you left. You can’t take that many credits,’” recalled Rios.

Despite the difficulties, the lessons Rios learned in achieving his three-year graduation goal would be foundational to his career. “I was there for a mission,” said Rios. “I graduated with academic stars, [and] these would all be the building blocks to what would be to come even today.”

“I know in my heart and mind that I would not have been able to get through the rigor and put forward work of excellence or of the highest accord had it not been for Virginia Military Institute."

Michael Rios ’06

Before he began his company, Rios served 11 years in the U.S. Army. Then, at 32, Rios found his faith and returned to his lessons learned at VMI as he established a healthcare brokerage. “I’m 32 years old, and I started my very first company and had no idea what I was doing,” said Rios. “I opened up a 1980s textbook by Dr. Shannon Pratt on how to value a business, specifically a dental business.” After reading the textbook, Rios decided to try appraising the economic value of a business as a business valuation specialist. “I wrote an appraisal on how to value a dental practice or a medical practice. [I] signed my name ‘valuation specialist,’ and within five years, had brokered over $100 million in deals,” said Rios.

Rios named his new company Aptus Exchange, derived from the Latin word “aptus,” meaning to fasten or join. “There’s a secret within Aptus,” explained Rios. “‘A’ is accountability. ‘P’ is perseverance. ‘T’ is trust, ‘U’ is unity. You put all four of those values together; how could you not achieve success?” Since its inception, Aptus has become a conglomerate of Main Street investments, including hotels, dental clinics, brand strategy firms, software companies, deal platform companies, and the traditional allocation of securities and bonds.

According to Rios, his VMI education underpins his successful company and career achievements. “I know in my heart and mind that I would not have been able to get through the rigor and put forward work of excellence or of the highest accord had it not been for Virginia Military Institute,” said Rios. “You won’t know why you’re there when you’re there or what you’re going through when you’re going through it. But it all makes sense the day after you graduate. You have all these building blocks to pursue a path of success.”

Because of the Institute’s impact on his life, Rios is giving back by funding a full-ride scholarship for a cadet in need. “It’s really cool to me, [when] somebody can go through the same process that I went through and not have to worry about how they’re going to pay for it or the burden of debt post-school,” said Rios.

From his heart for service and passion for leadership and learning, Rios now supports cadets in gaining a VMI education and becoming leaders, as well. “A lot of people helped me along the way. I’ve had great mentors,” Rios reflected. “I really think that our lives aren’t measured in years. They’re measured in the lives we touch around us. And so that’s really the driving force of who I am and in what each organization such as VMI has done for me.”

  • Christian Heilman

    Christian Heilman Director of Digital Content

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

    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.