Amid the Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) fierce probe of racism in its ranks, last week VMI officials announced the interim appointment of Retired Army Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, the first Black leader to serve in its 181-year history, The Washington Post reports.
Maj. Gen. Wins — the 57-year-old two-star general — will serve as interim superintendent until the board can appoint a permanent chief to run the nation’s oldest state-funded military college in Lexington City, Virginia, BET shares.
Gov. Ralph Northam ordered an independent investigation on the Virginia Military Institute after several Black cadets stepped down over racial bias for what Northam and other officials describe as “the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism,” according to The Washington Post.
Amid the investigation, Maj. Gen. Wins is expected to take over for the school’s longtime superintendent, retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, who resigned from his position following those reports of systemic racism.
“We welcome the investigation, because it allows us to set the record straight on many fronts and to better understand the experiences of all cadets,” Wins wrote in an email to VMI alumni. “We will also have the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of VMI’s unique method of education that calls forth leaders in our nation. We remain committed to a challenging but equitable experience for all.”
According to several interviews from VMI alumni and cadets with The Washington Post, incidents of racism were reported on the institute’s campus. One included a Black student who alleged a business professor recalled her father’s Ku Klux Klan membership last year, as well as other instances where others have claimed to be targets of racist comments on an anonymous social media app called Jodel.
In light of these allegations, it is Maj. Gen. Wins’ intention to rectify the implicit and explicit racism on VMI’s campus through his leadership skills.
“It is my commitment to you,” he promised at the end of his email, “that we will change what is necessary and safeguard what is necessary to preserve.”
E. Sean Lanier — a Black 1994 VMI graduate recently announced as VMI’s fourth Black board member — shared his excitement about Win’s new appointment as interim superintendent with The Washington Post.
“He’s an example of the full package,” Lanier said. “I am ecstatic. The fact that in times of uncertainty, you can draw upon the strength of character of a person like Major General Wins shows why VMI will thrive in the years ahead.”
According to the school, VMI is expected to pick a permanent superintendent by next summer.