On Post

The Cathcarts: Family Ties at VMI

Cheryl Cathcart (far left) standing with husband Charlie Cathcart (far right) and sons Trey and Cole Cathcart in their cadet uniforms (center)

The Cathcart family on the parade ground (from left) Cheryl, Cole, Trey, and Charlie. Every member of the family has direct ties to VMI, and they have served as a welcoming home-away-from-home host family to many young cadets over the years.—VMI Alumni Agencies photo by Cadet Christina Skaggs, Class of 2022, communications intern.

After exposure to COVID-19, Cadet Cole Cathcart ’21+3 and his roommates were quarantined in Third Barracks for 14 days. Late one quarantined evening, he began looking around on the VMI Archives website. To his surprise, he found a distant relative.

Though his trip into the Archives took him down an unexpected path, he already knew his family had strong connections to VMI. In fact, every member of his immediate family has direct ties to VMI.

His brother, Trey, Class of 2022, is also in barracks. His father, Charlie, is part of the Class of 1991. And his mother, Cheryl, is the director of human resources for the VMI Alumni Agencies. The family lives in Lexington, and the Cathcart brothers are both graduates of Rockbridge County High School.

“It’s wonderful having the kids so close to home. They’re my best buddies, so it’s nice to have my buddies close to home,” Charlie said.

Charlie and Cheryl met at Marion Senior High School in Marion, Virginia. The two dated in high school and continued to date after graduation. After graduating MSHS, Charlie attended VMI and Cheryl attended Virginia Tech.

When Charlie matriculated, he was a member of Company E and was a civil engineering major. He ran steeplechase for the VMI track and field team. After Charlie graduated in 1991, he commissioned as a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy.

After several years of long-distance dating, Charlie and Cheryl got married. They moved to Lexington in 1997, when Cheryl was hired as a human resources officer for Dana Inc. in Buena Vista, Virginia.

“Living in Lexington again is absolutely wonderful. When I was here as a cadet, we ran all over Rockbridge County for track, and I just fell in love with it,” Charlie said. “Obviously, I loved looking at House Mountain every time I walked across the parade deck, and so it was the one place that I hoped to live after graduating VMI. Living here now is a dream come true.”

In 2014, Cheryl was hired as the alumni coordinator for the VMI Alumni Association. Two years later, she was promoted to her current position.

Since the Cathcart family lives close to post, they’ve been able to serve as a host family for many cadets—particularly during the rat year. Years before Trey and Cole attended VMI, they gave a home away from home to many cadets. Their adopted VMI cadets include Keith Gabriel ’12, Nick Ortiz ’16, Murphy Kerner ’16, and Zach Webb ’21. They’re still in touch with most of their former cadets—Gabriel still refers to Cole and Trey as his “little brothers” and visits the Cathcarts whenever he visits VMI.

Little did Cheryl and Charlie know that their sons would choose VMI as their own alma mater. Growing up so close to post, the two attended various parades, Class of 1991 reunions, basketball games, and football games with their parents.

“Honestly, there was a time early on in high school when I wasn’t even considering VMI as a school of choice. Then I started to get down to apply to schools and knew I should consider VMI. I told myself if I had the slightest inclination of going into the military that VMI would be a great choice since you can choose the civilian or military path,” Trey said.

Trey matriculated Aug. 18, 2018, as a member of Company C. This year, he is one of two regimental S6 staff sergeants. The S6 staff oversees Corps athletic activities on post including NCAA sports, club sports, and the VMI Fitness Test.

“It’s been so key having my parents so close,” Trey said. “I always tell people that VMI is such a different world that I don’t even feel like I’m at home and then when I get off post, I pick right back up where I left off. Having the ability to go home as a rat did wonders for my morale.”

After seeing the camaraderie Trey and Charlie experienced with their brother rats, the youngest member of the Cathcart family decided he might like to try out the VMI experience. On Aug. 16, 2020, he matriculated into Company F, with an economics and business major.

“I love it here. I’ve heard it described as the biggest love-hate relationship that anybody’s had,” Cathcart said. “It’s crazy hearing the stories from not only my brother, but my dad, and not fully understanding them and now I understand what they’ve been through. Going through it myself is fascinating.”

Both brothers get to share part of their cadetship in barracks together, with Charlie and Cheryl close by.

“Having Cole here has been neat. Seeing him go through what my dad and I went through really helps him relate to what all is being talked about at the dinner table,” Trey said.

Charlie and Cheryl plan to continue living in Lexington after Trey and Cole graduate and after their retirement.

“We plan to stay here. We love Lexington, we love our friends, we love the mountains, and we love VMI. This is certainly home for us,” Cheryl said.

  • Cadet Christina Skaggs '22 Alumni Agencies Communications Intern