Cadet Julia T. Ward, member of the Rat Mass of 2023+3, received the coveted Peay Merit Scholarship, which covers the full cost of tuition, room, board, and fees to attend VMI.
First presented in 2021, the Peay Merit Scholarship is awarded to cadets who possess the qualities of character associated with retired U.S. Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, the Institute’s 14th superintendent: Exceptional leadership, academic achievement, athletic commitment, and demonstrated interest in national service.
Candidates for the scholarship are evaluated upon four criteria—all of which Ward met:
- Athletic Commitment: For matriculants, evidence of athletic commitment involves consistent and meritorious participation in athletics at the preparatory level. Ward swam for her high school’s varsity swim team all four years. She also played water polo and was team captain her senior year. She was a state qualifier twice for both swimming and water polo, and she is her high school’s record holder for the 400 free relay. She will play on VMI’s water polo team.
- Academic Achievement: Eligible matriculants must have a minimum 3.75 high school GPA. Ward took honors and Advanced Placement classes throughout high school. Her weighted GPA was 4.5, and her unweighted GPA was 3.9.
- Exceptional Leadership: Matriculants must demonstrate leading through evidence of leadership experiences in scholastic, athletic, service, and/or other endeavors that clearly are noteworthy and distinguishing. These documented instances include successful leadership in the face of significant adversity or testament to truly outstanding mentorship and guidance in leadership roles. Ward was part of Air Force Junior ROTC all four years of high school and was captain of the Awareness Presentation team, which visited junior high schools and spoke to students about assault awareness, drug awareness, and AFJROTC recruitment. She attended weeklong summer camps for AFJROTC, similar to the Summer Transition Program at VMI.
- Commitment to National Service: Matriculants must demonstrate an unambiguous commitment to commission as an officer in the U.S. Armed Forces upon college graduation. Other demonstrated commitment to national service, such as service in Teach For America or in official support of local, state, or national government, also may be considered. Ward plans to commission into the Navy after graduation in 2026.
Ward never wanted to attend any college but VMI. “To me, education and learning [are] paramount,” said Ward. “VMI has excellent academics. It offers the major I am interested in. I can play in NCAA Division I sports, and there is ROTC. VMI checked all the boxes for me.”
She applied for both the Peay and Navy scholarships at the end of 2021. By January, she heard that she received the Navy scholarship, and in March, she was also awarded the Peay scholarship.
“I was ecstatic when I heard the news,” said Ward. “My parents were elated, as well. There were plenty of tears of joy and hugs all around when I received that call.”
Ward is a member of Band Company with plans to join the VMI Pipe Band. She played the saxophone in high school and hopes to join VMI’s jazz band.
Ward is from Frankfort, Illinois, where she attended Lincoln-Way East High School. She is the daughter of Richard and Susan Ward. She is an electrical and computer engineering major.
Marianne Hause VMI Communications & Marketing