Undeniably, the bonds between brother rats—initially forged in the common experience of the Rat Line and strengthened throughout their time in barracks—are enduring. That enduring relationship takes many forms and shapes friendships that last a lifetime. For example, brother rats can be counted on to appear at tailgates, reunions, road trips, golf outings, weddings, and other family events, and when the time comes, they’ll be sure to be there for each other at times of trouble and ultimately in the end. For the Class of 1985, brother rat spirit has been manifested in the relatively rare form of a new fund dedicated to generating unrestricted money that can be used by the superintendent—and their brother rat—Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85: The Class of 1985 Superintendent’s Discretionary Fund.
According to William M. “Bill” Wieners ’85, Class of 1985 class agent, the fund is rooted in the admiration that the class has for Wins. “Everyone thinks highly of Cedric and has since our time in barracks,” he said, “and as a retired Army major general, he is one of the more accomplished men in our class.” As superintendent, Wieners continued, “we believe in him, and we trust him to do what’s right for the Institute and our cadets.”
What Wieners was looking for, however, was a way to support Wins and what he was doing at VMI in a more tangible way. He heard about the development of a new strategic plan, “Forging 21st Century Leaders,” and that caught his attention. “Our best institutions—including VMI—are meant to be perpetuated by and for the future generations they are entrusted to. For that to happen, however, they must be valued by people outside of them, especially those they serve. All leaders, therefore, have the responsibility of ensuring their respective institutions are something people value—and that is what Cedric is doing with this plan.”
In summer 2023, Wieners met with two brother rats who worked at the VMI Foundation, Joseph M. Irby II ’85 and Meade B. King ’85, to discuss the best way to financially support the plan’s execution. “They told me about the tradition of classes coming forward in support of their brother rats who served as superintendent by providing them unrestricted discretionary funds. The last four superintendents who served before Cedric—Peay ’62, Bunting ’63, Knapp ’54, and Walker’45—all benefited from such efforts by their respective brother rats.”
The idea of an unrestricted fund appealed to Wieners. “Unrestricted money gives General Wins the flexibility to support the goals of the Institute’s new strategic plan at his discretion, whether it be by addressing immediate needs, supporting new initiatives, or enhancing existing programs.” So, Wieners, King, and Irby worked out the basics of the Class of 1985 Superintendent’s Discretionary Fund—i.e., “to provide [Wins] with financial resources to expend, at his sole discretion, for the welfare of the Institute and the execution of its 2023 strategic plan.” Wieners then consulted with other leaders in his class, most of whom made commitments to the fund, and then these dozen leaders issued an appeal to the rest of the class.
Unlike most unrestricted funds established by other classes, donations to this fund will not be placed in an endowment. Instead, they will be immediately available for expenditure. According to Wieners, this is to ensure all the money raised is used to support the new strategic plan. Furthermore, the fund will exist only as long as Wins is superintendent. But the fund will still have what Wieners describes as “a legacy of support and remembrance” because, at the end of his tenure, any remaining funds will be transferred to the Class of 1985 Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Although the fund was established by the Class of 1985 in honor of their brother rat, Wieners wants all members of the VMI family to support it. “We invite alumni, parents, and friends to join us in helping VMI realize the strategic vision that Cedric has set out for it in Forging 21st Century Leaders. Just as he collaborated with the faculty and staff, the VMI Board of Visitors, and other volunteer leaders to develop the plan, we need to collaborate to ensure the plan’s success.”
The Class of 1985 plays an additional role besides providing material support for the Institute, Wieners explained. “It’s also a testament to our confidence in the exceptional leadership of Major General Wins. When VMI needed him, he answered the call without hesitation, assuming the role of interim superintendent and, in April 2021, becoming the 15th superintendent. In the more than three years he has been back on post, he has shown exemplary leadership, a sense of fairness and decency, and a deep-seated commitment to ensuring the Institute’s future is as bright as its past. His actions have been the epitome of the dedication to service above self which has been inculcated by the VMI education and embraced by VMI alumni throughout its history.”
“You don’t have to be one of our brother rats to appreciate what he has done, to recognize his inspirational commitment to service and leadership, and to want to support him as he executes his ambitious plan to maintain VMI as an institution that graduates honorable and effective leaders,” Wieners concluded.
Any contribution, no matter the size, to the Class of 1985 Superintendent’s Discretionary Fund will make a tangible impact on the welfare of the Institute and help it realize its timeless mission well into this century. It also will demonstrate the VMI family’s collective commitment to excellence and honor and the enduring strength of the bonds within the entire VMI community.
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.