Unity Tree, Resolution Show Spirit of Class of ’73

Members of the Class of 1973 present the class resolution on the value of VMI’s education to Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, April 14, 2023.—Photo by Jenny David, VMI Alumni Agencies.

In gratitude for all that the Institute has done for them and recognition of the common bond that all VMI alumni share, members of the Class of 1973 gathered April 15, 2023, during their 50th Reunion to dedicate the Unity Tree, a gift to VMI from the class.

“Even if we VMI persons should disagree about some specific subject … we are united in that same sentiment—we love VMI, what it stands for, its history, and the transformative value of a VMI education,” said Jeff Minch ’73.

The tree, a 30-foot-tall water oak grown and planted by Grelen Nursery of Orange, Virginia, stands in the circle near Third Barracks.

The idea for planting a tree that would serve as a visual representation of the love for VMI that binds all alumni grew from a discussion on the class Facebook page in advance of the 50th Reunion, explained Tom Linn ’73.

Soon, online chat turned into real-life action when Scott Lingamfelter ’73 proposed planting a tree to replace “an emblem of VMI,” the Guard Tree. During 19th and early 20th century summers, the cadet guard slept in tents beneath a large tree on the Parade Ground, which is how the Guard Tree got its name. It was planted the year VMI was founded, 1839, and lived until 1951. Fittingly, 1951 is the year that many members of the Class of 1973 were born.

“We need an inclusive oak that can provide shade for all people,” said Bill Spencer ’73. The tree is believed to be the first planted on post by a class.

Many class members and members of the Rockbridge Chapter of the VMI Alumni Association attended the dedication, and Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, offered brief remarks.

The commemorative plaque near the tree reads, “This tree symbolizes the enduring bonds of all VMI classes, past, present, and future, and is planted in their memory and honor. May it remind passersby that the Institute is firmly rooted in the honorable tradition of the citizen-solder.”

In addition, at their 50th Reunion class dinner April 14, the Class of 1973 presented Wins with a resolution affirming their belief in the power of a VMI education.

The resolution, Tom Linn ’73 noted, grew out of the spirit of reflection that a milestone celebration often engenders. “As we prepared for our 50th Reunion, we reflected on the value of the VMI education—academic, leadership, and character development, and how it has positively impacted our lives,” he stated. “A resonant chord emerged: The value of the VMI education endures and is essential to the future we face.”

The resolution, signed by approximately 125 class members, affirmed the signatories’ belief that the Institute “stands as a bulwark against a chaotic world of mediocracy, educating for a world of accelerating change and intense challenges while providing a foundation of honor, service, and gentility that creates fair specimens of its graduates.”

With recent discussions about VMI foremost in their minds, members of the class offered the resolution in support of the Institute and the Corps of Cadets. “Members of the Class of 1973 felt compelled to demonstrate our unity and our unwavering support of our beloved Institute,” said Linn. “We felt an urgency to show that we stand united with the vast majority of VMI alumni in our support and belief in VMI.”

As such, the resolution concludes with a look to the future:

“The Class of 1973 believes a Virginia Military Institute education will continue to be synonymous with honor, duty, and excellence and that VMI-trained leadership is essential to our United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

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