On Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, families of Virginia Military Institute graduates celebrated at home as a virtual commencement ceremony was streamed to computers, tablets, and phones. The plan announced in the spring was for the winter commencement ceremony at VMI to be in person and celebrate the accomplishments of May, September, and December 2020 graduates, but due to stricter guidelines announced by the state, the in-person event could not be held.
Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, interim superintendent, provided a welcome and also gave the remarks during the ceremony. He emphasized to the graduating class who would cross the “virtual stage” to express their gratitude to those who helped them along the way. Some have already moved on to military training, graduate school, or their first job out of college.
Wins acknowledged the tremendous changes that the coronavirus pandemic brought to the Corps and reminded the audience that the world will always bring surprises and challenges. “While the world you graduate into … is novel to our generation, it is not unique to history,” he stated. “VMI cadets have graduated in times of war, natural disaster, social upheaval, economic uncertainty, and disease.”
Building trust, creating a foundation of integrity, and treating others with respect and civility are ways graduates will continue to grow as a leader, Wins stated. “Stay the course, pursue your dreams.”
Nearly 400 names were called by Brig. Gen. Robert “Bob” Moreschi, deputy superintendent for academics and dean of the faculty. Of those recognized, 198, or 51 percent of the graduating class, commissioned into the armed forces.
At VMI, the valedictorian of each class is not necessarily the cadet with the highest grade point average. Rather, the valedictorian is “peer elected” from among the top graduates to reflect not only academic excellence but also the esteem of brother rats.
Valedictorian of the Class of 2020, 2nd Lt. Patiphan Kaeosanit, described himself as “just a random kid from Thailand who was lucky enough to win a Thai Army scholarship to attend VMI.” Arriving in Lexington with limited English, Kaeosanit found himself warmly accepted by his roommates and brother rats, many of whom went out of their way to help him acclimate to American culture and make sure he had places to go during holiday breaks.
“We worked as a team and always pushed ourselves to a higher standard,” said Kaeosanit, who graduated with a computer science major after having held multiple ranks within the Corps and serving as a cadet EMT.
In his remarks, Kaeosanit praised VMI’s single-sanction honor system and counseled his brother rats to, “Protect our values, because without them, VMI can never produce leaders the world desperately needs.”
Kaeosanit is now serving in the Royal Thai Army.
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