Paul A. Bouis ’67 and Lois W. Ford-Bouis: “It’s We Who Are Truly Blessed”
At a football game at VMI, the focus is properly on the players and the coaches. However, many people are essential to ensuring a proper game day experience: Those who prepare the field, stock the concession stands, ensure the team’s equipment is ready, and sell and collect tickets. And there are some who might not even be present but who play an important role in VMI athletics as a whole: Those who give so generously of their treasure, talents and that most precious commodity of time in support of VMI’s cadet-athletes.
Two such people are Paul Bouis ’67, Ph.D., and his wife, Lois W. Ford-Bouis. Both have been longtime donors to the Keydet Club. Bouis made his first gift to what was then the Alumni Educational Fund in 1967, and through graduate studies in chemistry and a long career in the chemical industry, he has given every year since then – with the sole exception of one when he served in Vietnam. He later honored his first wife who died in 2004 by establishing the Nancy Peterson Bouis Scholarship, which supports multiple sports teams because “it would keep her spirit – her memory – alive at a place of which she was a big fan.”
Ford-Bouis’s first gift in support of VMI athletics came in 2004, after she had retired to Lexington following a decadeslong career managing human resources for many large corporations. Greg Cavallaro ’84, then-Keydet Club chief executive officer, approached her to consider establishing a scholarship in honor of her brother, Robert L. Watson ’64, who had captained the basketball team that won the 1964 Southern Conference championship. In 1977, Watson, who was then the head coach of the University of Evansville basketball team, and his entire team died in a plane crash. She liked the idea of a scholarship, because as she recalls, “It is what [Bobby] would have done if he were alive.” However, rather than create the scholarship in his name alone, she decided to honor everyone who was on that VMI championship team. “Like Bobby, those teammates went on to do great things with their lives, and I wanted to recognize their accomplishments by giving other young men the same opportunity they had.” Thus, she established the 1964 Championship Team Basketball Scholarship.
Their support of VMI cadet-athletes doesn’t end there. Both have served several years as academic advisers for the Athletic Department, each helping approximately 10-15 cadets a year. In this role, they meet with cadets once a week and, as Ford-Bouis describes it, “help them with their study skills, help them learn time-management skills and, overall, keep them on track, which often isn’t easy considering the distractions that they encounter being a VMI cadet.” Bouis also tutors some of them in chemistry, applying the teaching skills he picked up as an adjunct professor at many schools and as a cadet. “During my 1st Class year, one of the assistant football coaches, Jim Sam Gillespie ’59, brought me three rat football players and told me they were in danger of flunking chemistry. We worked hard, and they all passed. And, I am happy to say, all three were instrumental in VMI’s victory against VPI in November 1967.”