Stories of Impact

Wolfe ’23: “A Good Foundation”

Samuel Wolfe ’23


“When I was younger, all I could think of was just playing basketball,” said Cadet Samuel Wolfe ’23. Now, thanks to the Institute, he understands “there’s more to life” than just basketball.

In high school, his focus was basketball. He didn’t receive a basketball scholarship to VMI, but his coaches guided him to apply for an Army ROTC scholarship. He also applied to be an Institute Scholar. He received both awards, which cover his educational costs. He remembers reading through his email and realizing his education would be paid for. “I remember sitting in the car, back home, and pulling all my emails and reading that, and I just smiled. I just sat there and smiled.” Having his post-secondary education paid for was a “huge opportunity and a blessing that very few people get,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe has been hearing about the VMI alumni network for years. Now, as a 1st Class cadet, the “special connection” between alumni is becoming clearer every day. “I can’t really put it into words,” he said. “If I meet another VMI grad outside of VMI, there’s an instant connection.”

He’s also impressed that one-quarter of VMI’s budget comes from alumni donations. He’s already felt the personal impact of alumni taking the time to help each other. Even before he matriculated, alumni reached out to him and gave him pointers about VMI, including the unique vocabulary. Before his first day as a cadet, VMI showed him opportunities, including academic and military, beyond the basketball court.

Wolfe’s schedule is packed. He’s on the basketball team, serves as Cadet-in-Charge of the Navigators Bible study, helps with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, is preparing for an Army commission, wears academic stars, and holds rank. As he’s completed each year, he’s learned personal discipline and how to balance myriad demanding priorities.

“It [VMI] teaches you how to be able to move from task to task to task.” Younger cadets sometimes find the demands overwhelming. “When you get older, you become a 2nd Class [cadet] and a 1st Class [cadet] … that stuff becomes normal,” he said. “You’re able to deal with changes in plans and things that don’t go your way a little bit better.”

The Institute’s camaraderie appealed to Wolfe from the beginning. VMI, he noted, is not the most beautiful place in the world. The lifestyle is not an attractive one. It’s the people who make it special, who make the Institute what it is. Here, he’s been able to interact with people from all over the country, from different backgrounds, and with diverse interests. Some of the people he respects the most in his life are also fellow cadets.

With graduation rapidly approaching, he feels extremely well-prepared for whatever the future brings. He’s learned to manage himself, and to lead others. “VMI throws you into the hardest type of leadership, which is peer leadership.”

At the Institute, “you have all these responsibilities already, you’re already being held to a certain standard. And I think that’s just the way it is … when you get in the real world.”

  • Christian Heilman

    Christian Heilman Director of Digital Content

    The director of digital content is responsible for creating original video and multimedia materials, as well as developing and editing web and digital content. The director is responsible for platform coordination and troubleshooting, to include the VMI Alumni Agencies’ primary websites, digital newsletter and other digital platforms.

    Molly Rolon

    Molly Rolon Editorial Specialist