Carmen Villani, Virginia Military Institute class of 1976, recently compiled a list of perspectives given by African-American alumni as well as actions taken by staff and professors that illuminate the military academy’s record on race. The narrative is far different from the one articulated by former Governor Ralph Northam, himself a VMI alumnus, who declared in October that VMI was guilty of “systemic racism” and then ordered an investigation to prove his point. He submitted the list to members of the VMI Board of Visitors and Superintendent Cedric Wins last week.
In introducing the comments, Villani recounts the words of David McCullough in a 1994 speech at in Charlottesville. Thomas Jefferson, said the noted author, “was an exceedingly gifted and very great man, but like the others of that exceptional handful of politicians we call the Founding Fathers, he could also be inconsistent, contradictory, human.”
We are all “human,” Villani says, and that makes all of us flawed but we strive to be better. That is what should be recognized about VMI. Flawed, yes, BUT it has been a great contribution to society.” The Institute does not deserve the slanders it has endured in recent months.
Messrs. Randolph And Gore, VMI Class Of 1972
“’We had bigger fish to fry in our minds,’ Randolph said. ‘We were dealing with something that everybody has trouble dealing with — not black people, not white people, everybody — and that was being a rat at VMI.’ ‘I just kind of had it,’ he said. ‘VMI’s a great school — it’s just not for everybody.’”
“. . . they were treated equally at VMI and the integration of the school was ‘uneventful.’”
“’We were no different,’ Gore said. ‘We all had the same hopes, fears and aspirations.’”
Dr. Mac Bowman, VMI Class Of 1973
“Bowman said he made some of ‘the best friends’ of his life at the Institute and received tremendous support from older alumni who had graduated during the 1930s and 1940s. These men impressed Bowman with their dedication to VMI and gave him ‘an appreciation of what a great school it is.’”
Mr. Gene Williams, VMI Class Of 1974
“You are not special… but you can be. If you want to truly be special, you need to take this wonderful academic, leadership and character education that you have received (emphasis added) and run towards the problems that you see in the world and work really hard to solve them.”
Mr. Ron Carter, VMI Class Of 1978
Carter was the first athlete in school history to have his jersey retired (#13). In 1989, he was inducted into the VMI Sports Hall of Fame.
The officers talked to VMI’s superintendent, and that summer the superintendent called Carter into his office and told him that he could have a shot at the NBA if he took air force and army ROTC during his senior year. He also said that if the NBA drafted Carter, he could do 120 days of active duty in the army and eight years in the reserves; if he didn’t get drafted or was drafted low he could go into the air force.
Retired USAF General Darren Mcdew, VMI Class Of 1982
“These men (Tuskegee Airmen) could tell stories of deprivation and racism … but they don’t. These airmen inspired me, they gave me the courage to succeed, and are one of the reasons I joined the Air Force. . . But I’m also a product of a society that has changed in remarkable ways and moved to a place where Dr. King’s self-evident truths are a reality, where just as I have, my daughter will be judged by the content of her character. . . In large part because of the Tuskegee Airmen, I’ve lived the American dream. A scholarship allowed me to attend the Virginia Military Institute, the oldest state-supported military college in the country and a school deeply rooted in the Old South. In 1981, I became VMI’s first African-American first captain and the regimental commander of the Corps of Cadets.”
“Next year, the Ratline will be much tougher.”
“I would do it all over again in a minute, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Every brick wall I hit was worth it. But remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. There are no barriers except the ones you put up for yourself.” Major General Darren McDew at the time these statements are made and emphasis added.
MG Wins, 15th Superintendent of VMI, doesn’t experience racism or racist acts – VMI Class of 1985
“During my time as a cadet, I personally have never experienced racism or racist acts inflicted upon me while I was at VMI.” MG Wins went on to further state that he was not “dismissive” of recent stories in the media pertaining to the issue of racism
Mr. Drew Jefferson, VMI Class Of 2021 “Recent”
“’When people come here, they have a lot of questions: An African American cadet, his name is Jefferson … and he’s at the Virginia Museum of the Civil War,’ Jefferson said. ‘This is a good way to bring a different perspective into the lessons and the truths of this battle, and of VMI as well. It’s critical that I take the right steps in discussing history and discussing how it relates to today, especially at VMI.’”
This job was the result of receiving the Shaara Scholar Internship, along with the awarding of $4,000. Source
Ms. Annika Tice, Fulbright Scholar, VMI Class of 2019 “Recent”
“David Hall ’83 Director of international programs: ‘Annika truly has a passion for working with kids and teaching young people’ . . . ‘I’d never had a student as enthusiastic about new ideas and new experiences as Annika,’ said (assistant professor of English Maj. Stephanie) Hodde,. . . As her cadetship wraps up, and her July departure date to the Ivory Coast draws near, Tice is grateful for the opportunities VMI has provided her.”
Dr. Michael Lokale, Rhodes Scholar, VMI Class of 2003
“Lokale was thankful for the persistence of the Superintendent Lieutenant General Josiah Bunting III, ’63, in preparing him for the Rhodes Scholarship application process. Bunting, also a Rhodes Scholar, had encouraged him to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship since his Third Class year. He also wanted to thank VMI for the opportunity to apply for the honor, and his coach, General Mike Bozeman, for believing in him and for giving him the scholarship to attend VML”
“. . . upon learning of Lokale’s selection, Bunting said, ‘Michael is the outstanding VMI cadet of my time here. He has a first class character, a first class mind, and a first class temperament.’”
Former State Delegate And Candidate For Governor Of VA Jennifer Carroll Foy, VMI Class Of 2003
“When I graduated, I felt more prepared than ever to do anything . . . I am proud to be a VMI alumna.”
How can you be “proud” and yet feed the false narrative of “systemic racism?”
Mr. Jason Conley, VMI Class Of 2004
“Now that he has proved he can play against the best, he has faced questions about whether he will transfer. Conley says he’s staying put because he has grand plans for himself and the school that gave him a chance (emphasis added).
Mr. Jamaal Walton, VMI Class Of 2007
“I’ve been able to reach a lot of milestones because VMI has helped me,”
Source: Wilson was class president and co-captain of football team.
Former Cadets Making Allegations Refuse Evidence To Be Presented – December 2020
“The article (Washington Post) may mention a possible honor court case and other details involving former cadets. By law, the Institute is restricted from discussing any details related to former cadets unless VMI secures signed permission from the individuals involved. VMI has requested written waivers which would allow VMI to comment on the details. VMI has not received those releases. Without the releases, the Institute cannot ensure that the facts of the article are complete.” Hard to verify allegations when you can’t review the evidence.
Letter To The Class Of ’92 From Then Superintendent General Walker 1988 (Inclusion?)
“Accept the high standards of VMI not as obstacles but as your personal goals. Participate, make the extra effort, become involved to the limit of your capabilities (emphasis added).”
Revived VMI Regulations In 2014
“The Cadet Equity Association (CEA) has the mission to provide oversight and education on equity to the Corps of Cadets, according to the guidelines established by the Superintendent’s Statement on Equity at VMI, and to maintain a postwide climate of respect and equitable treatment for all cadets.”
General Peay Commencement Speech 2016
“Hold onto the concept of honor that is the foundation stone – the very bedrock – of VMI. Be ‘on parade’ 24/7; care ‘bone deep’ about people; and lead from the front. Your role insuring strong families is terribly important. Use your talents to their utmost… (emphasis added) and strive to develop new talents, new knowledge, and new directions. People will hold you to a higher standard because you are a VMI graduate. This high expectation cannot be avoided… it comes with the ring and the diploma. Embrace it as the heritage that has now been passed on to you by former graduating classes, and strive always to preserve and enhance it.”
Accreditation Renewed In 2017 By The Southern Association Of Colleges And Schools Commission On Colleges
Standards For Accreditation
“Accreditation by SACSCOC signifies that the institution (1) has a mission appropriate to higher education (emphasis added), (2) has resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain that mission, and (3) maintains clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees its offers, and that indicate whether it is successful in achieving its stated objectives.”
“Key African-American Alumni Honored” 2018
“Darren McDew ‘82 – first regimental commander; Gene Williams ‘74 for ‘30-year mission of working with at-risk students’; Anthony Hamilton ’79 first general committee president; John C Gregory ’89 first honor court president.”
Statement By General Peay June 2020
“The most significant contribution we can make for our country is to prepare all of our graduates for that mantle of leadership to affect appropriate change in our communities, eradicate racism, defend our nation, and lead the best institutions of business, medicine, the law, politics, military, education and many others, while most importantly, providing principled leadership to our families.”
General Peay’s Five Pillar Plan 29 July 2020
“An avenue will be provided to learn more about how we can all be aware and treat each other with dignity and respect regardless of our beliefs and heritage. While this has always been our goal at VMI, the additional focus will serve as a reminder and provide practical training. Our engaged faculty and staff advisors are key mentors to this process and outcome.”
General Order #16 Discrimination & Sexual Assault August 2020
”The purpose of this policy is to establish clearly and unequivocally that VMI prohibits discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct by individuals subject to its control or supervision and to set forth procedures by which such allegations will be filed, investigated, and adjudicated.”
14 Areas Of Review To Include A Number Of Surveys To Determine The Pulse Of VMI