Tom Jones ’69 came to VMI because his father went to VMI. “It was the only place I ever heard about,” he said. “There was no other place.”
What he took away from VMI reaches beyond family ties. The life lessons gained at the Institute remain with him.
“VMI led me on a path. It encouraged me to be courageous, to be truthful, and to stand up for the right causes,” Jones said.
Through volunteer work with the Keydet Club, Jones learned about Jonathan Daniels ’61, a civil rights worker who gave his life to protect a teenage girl in 1965. The Episcopal Church designated Daniels as a saint in 1991 and holds an annual pilgrimage in Hayneville, Alabama, where Daniels died.
“That has put me on a moral compass, too,” said Jones, who has been attending the pilgrimage for ten-plus years. He said the Institute influenced his character, remembering when he was at a restaurant with friends and realized the wait staff undercharged him. He spoke to the staff, they adjusted the bill, and he paid what he owed.
Afterward, his dinner companions told him, “Are you crazy? You could have gotten away with that.”
Jones’ immediate response was, “You don’t ‘get away with that’ when you go to VMI. That honor code is with you no matter where you are.”
He’s met many cadets in recent years and “has been so impressed.” He supports VMI because VMI has impacted his life, and he wants young men and women to have the same chance that he did.
“I want to give them a chance for the best education and the best experience to make them leaders—to change things and make life better for everyone.”