Col. Keith Gibson ’77, VMI Museum System executive director, gave this presentation, via video, to Washington Arch Society members in May 2021. The presentation is titled, “VMI: No Stranger to Adversity.”
VMI began as an experiment in higher education, Gibson said, and has seen adversity during its history. Before diving into the presentation, he took a moment to define adversity. His definition included times of challenge, but he pointed out that potential for opportunity is often revealed by challenges.
“VMI always seizes moments of adversity to capture the strength of those moments moving forward,” he said.
In the presentation, Gibson walks through the many challenges VMI has faced over the years. One of the first challenges came from Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), which protested that Lexington was too small to support more than the one existing college. Other challenges included sourcing uniforms, wars, an aging Physical Plant (the first upgrade came in the 1880s), food rationing, a 1928 report calling for VMI’s closure, and health issues.