Benjamin Franklin, American statesman and polymath, once observed that “ready money” is one of life’s most “faithful friends.” Indeed, this applies to VMI – especially that which is received in the form of unrestricted funds.
Each year a segment of VMI alumni, family and friends step forward in a significant way to support VMI through unrestricted gifts. Their level of contribution distinguishes them as Institute Society members. This is no small deed.
“Unrestricted money is critically important for VMI,” explained Steve Maconi, VMI Alumni Agencies chief executive officer, “for a very simple reason: It can be used where it is needed most.” In the complex world of higher education, opportunities present themselves on a regular basis and with funds at the ready, VMI can optimize their return. “Truly, members of the Institute Society demonstrate their trust and confidence in the leadership of VMI every year. They want VMI to be positioned to take advantage of opportunities or be prepared for unforeseen issues.”
When individuals give to unrestricted funds, they have literally changed lives and bolstered the experience for cadets directly and indirectly. In the past, VMI used the unrestricted money given by members of the Institute Society to provide scholarship support to cadets, helping them move from simply wanting to take on the challenges of the rigorous VMI system to being able to make that happen financially. Over time, however, increased giving to endowed scholarships allowed the Institute to redirect unrestricted money to other pressing needs such as faculty support. “That is the beauty of unrestricted giving.’ said Maconi. “When one need is met, it can quickly translate to support in another area. It bridges gaps.”
Often, the Institute Society’s members get involved through their reunions and keep up their support annually. John J. Wranek III ’85, former VMI Alumni Association director of reunions – who served for many years as the VMI Foundation director of annual and reunion giving – was responsible for reunion campaigns and the Foundation Fund, which is the VMI Foundation’s annual effort to raise unrestricted money. “During reunion campaigns, we continually stress the importance of unrestricted funds to VMI. It is the same with major gifts, according to Warren J. Bryan ’71, VMI Foundation chief operating officer. “Our major gift officers make it a point to ask those alumni and friends who are planning to make a substantial gift to VMI to consider an additional gift of unrestricted funds. While the focus is on unrestricted operational support through the Foundation Fund, donors of restricted gifts – those designated for a specific purpose, such as scholarships – have been recognized as members of the Institute Society, as well.”
Each year members are recognized for their “above the ordinary, constant and generous” giving, and the Agencies encourage others to do the same. They also have been recognized in a special way – for 44 years – at the Institute Society Dinner. The first of what has been a popular annual event was held in November 1974. Bryan, who began working at the VMI Foundation in 1976, remembers the event when it was a small affair. “When it began, the attendees could fit into the activities room in Moody Hall. Now, we have hundreds of members and their guests who enjoy an amazing black-tie event that fills the Hall of Valor in Marshall Hall to capacity.”
Chad Correll ’94, part owner and executive vice president of the Chicago-area construction firm Executive Construction, is one of the hundreds of alumni and friends who are members of the Institute Society. Chad was inspired to become a cadet by his uncle, Mark Hall ’75. “I greatly admired his accomplishments and his commitment to VMI. So, when choosing a college, I knew VMI was the place for me.”
After graduation, Correll entered the construction business. There, as he expected, he found plenty of challenges and opportunities. He also found that his VMI education had prepared him to face them with confidence.