Remarks of General J.H. Binford Peay III ’62 at 2022 Institute Society Dinner

Gen. Peay's Institute Society Dinner Remarks


Published: Nov. 14, 2022

Transcript of Gen. Peay’s Remarks

Thank you very much. And let me also thank Mr. Watjen and General Wins today. What a what a wonderful time it was for the Peay family, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did, because it was just great. I have no prepared remarks today. I went way too long this afternoon and I’m keenly aware of that, but I want is something put in archives, so that’s why we did it.

Seriously, Vision 2039 would never have happened without the support of the [Institute] Society. I thought I mentioned this afternoon, I didn’t want to be too blatant, but the facts of life are when you stepped up – this great group – the members of this society stepped up, things just took off.

And the facts of life are when you go into the legislature, which is very interesting, because I never had any problems with any of the legislature, despite all this stuff that’s happened here over these last couple years. The facts of life are when you roll in there and you sit down with a legislator that you may know, or you don’t know, and you just sit there and after a few minutes of kind talk, you roll it out and say, “Listen, I got $20 million from the members of the society of the Virginia Military Institute, and if you don’t give me another matching $20 million, those $20 million are going to go away. And that’s just the facts of life, how this business works.”

And if you don’t think what you did, Tommy Norment with all respect, you know, he talked about half a billion dollars and that’s true, but you know, what wasn’t mentioned were all the repair and maintenance and operational dollars that added to over a billion dollars in really about a decade because the time you get your plans in place, got kind of a 10 years there and then you sort of get ushered out the door. It really is that simplistic. The second word is trust and trust is built on the cadets that are around here today and the graduates that are in this room today.

You know, I’m a new guy out near Warrenton, Virginia, I don’t know anybody out there, I had to get a roof over my head, you know, to be honest about it. And I can’t tell you I was at the dentist here just two days ago. And this dentist didn’t know me. We had a little emergency kind of thing we had to take care of, but I had my black VMI vest on, you know, with a spider here on the side. And I couldn’t, I mean, I couldn’t get a word in and he’s talking about a VMI graduate that’s 90 years old, that lives in that community, and right away, I had the most incredible relationship with this dentist, it was built on nothing. And he’s not a VMI graduate, but his understanding of the wonderful men and women that comprise this society, and the Corps of Cadets today.

Now that I’m out there – and of course, a lot of you haven’t had the life I’ve had – I’ve been in the military all these years and traveling everywhere, and not being able to really understand what happens in these communities. At least where I’m living today, I cannot believe the respect that little – it’s not really farming, but you know, it’s at least an hour outside of Washington, DC. – and they are so proud and feel so good about the reputation of this Institute. So when you get to the legislature, that’s who you’re dealing with.

I’ve known VMI’s reputation was superb. But if you think in my time on watch. This 17 years that we had so much success, it is directly related to you, and I know you’re going to continue this now as the Institute goes on.

"This 17 years that we had so much success, it is directly related to you, and I know you're going to continue this now as the Institute goes on."

Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62 Superintendent Emeritus

And I want to close by saying, you know, what did we have? I took over with a year left on Reveille, you know, and George Phillips and I would get in the car and drive all around. I fell asleep half the time because that first year, you know, I could hardly stay awake. And we’d go around and see you, and we close dout that astounding year with Reveille. And then we started this thing called Jackson-Hope. George kind of had his hands in that, Mr. Gottwald was wonderful and others. And we built the fund that was directly related to innovation and academics, and if you don’t think that didn’t start this academic renewal – it was just incredible what happened there – and that carried forth for at least a decade, as we went forward. And then came Uncommon Purpose, which frankly, I think that can be corrected on this by the [VMI] Foundation, but I think it is by far the largest campaign in VMI has wonderful history that you supported.

And then we had some individual initiatives on athletics. And you know, we were in the red for a decade. My first 10 years at VMI, we were in the red. And we had a [number] review all that would just get us from year to year to year. We were all trying to improve athletics because improved athletics is great morale, and when you have great morale in that Corps of Cadets over there, everything else gets better, right? Discipline drops, morale goes up, fundraising takes place. And so we started a number of small initiatives at the Keydet Club had that tried to just fix certain things as we’re going along. And finally, we got that thing in the green.

And you know, we’re on a road I understand this year in football. Come on, I tried to say this afternoon, I don’t want to go back through all those remarks. We have to be realistic, and I know the superintendent is dedicated to make us more competitive, and that’s wonderful. But we have to be realistic, too. We’ve had really two great eras in VMI as long 180 years, with Blandy Clarkson’s name on that board over there, Ferebee and, and John McKenna. But what’s happened in between?

I mean, we’ve got a superintendent here who’s all-star basketball player who had losing game losing seasons, his first three years and his last year broke out. And we remember that particular period of that class. And that’s what’s going to happen here. Now, let’s don’t get down on athletics at VMI. We’re going be okay. We just got to work through some very tough issues. But at the end of the day, it’s you.

So I just want to close tonight by saying, I sort of been on the other side of this line, and I’m really looking forward next Founders Day to sort of be on the other side of that line. And, and I want you to know that Pam and I are so appreciative, we understand the friendship and the admiration that you’ve had, but I want you to know, it’s just the opposite, right? It’s really the opposite. It’s the admiration that we have had for you. We could not have done Vision 2039 without your support. You’re the greatest in the world. I thank you so much. Good luck.