Virginia Military Institute Newsletter, Volume XLI, Number VIII, June 2013
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Graduates Admonished to Live Lives of Principle
Almost 300 graduates of Virginia
Military Institute were reminded
of their obligations to serve, to
lead, and to live lives of purpose
and honor in commencement
ceremonies held at VMI Thursday,
Addressing the graduates this
year was Virginia Gov. Robert F.
“Bob” McDonnell, who is wrapping
up a four-year term as head of
the commonwealth. He urged
the graduates to use their talents
in service of others. “That is the
true measure by which you will be
judged,” said McDonnell.
Also speaking was Valedictorian
Matthew Waalkes, a biology major
from Waynesboro, Va. Waalkes,
who also earned the First Jackson-Hope Medal for highest academic
achievement, has already had a paper on the use of soybeans as a biofuel
accepted for publication in a scientific journal. He also participated in
multiple service projects at VMI, including two trips to Bolivia and one to
“Essentially our world needs women
and men of principle who will stand
for values and beliefs despite the
costs, despite any ridicule or scorn,”
Waalkes told his fellow graduates.
“This challenge to persevere in
virtue undoubtedly dwarfs the trials
Members of the class of 2013 are
taking very different paths in life, as
would be expected, yet all say the
Institute gave them opportunities they
would not have had anywhere else.
Kim Gragg ’13, who transferred
to VMI from a school in her native
North Carolina, could have graduated
early – but she chose to stay at VMI
and use the time to double-major in
international studies and modern
languages and cultures (Arabic). She also earned VMI’s new national
In the summer of 2012, Gragg studied at the Arabic Language Institute
in Fez, Morocco. She then completed an internship at the Marine Corps
University at Quantico, Va., where she translated al-Qaeda documents found
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell delivers the
– VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.
More than 135 Cadets Commission
Joined by jubilant friends and family, more than 135 men and women
commissioned in four branches of the U.S. armed services in ceremonies
held at VMI May 15.
More than 80 cadets were commissioned into the U.S. Army, and almost
30 into the Marine Corps. Fourteen cadets commissioned in the Navy, and
12 into the Air Force. By the end of the summer, approximately 15 more
will meet the requirements for a commission in those four branches of
Col. William “Bill” Wanovich ’87, head of VMI’s Army ROTC unit,
remarked that this year’s group was the largest commissioned by any
Army ROTC unit in the nation. Wanovich also said that the number of Army
ROTC cadets commissioning this year was the largest since mandatory
commissioning ended at VMI in 1990.
Sungkuyn “Eddie” Chang ’13, one of those newly commissioned in the
U.S. Army, is following in the military tradition of his father and grandfather
– but he’s sworn allegiance to a different country. Chang, a native of South
Korea, obtained his U.S. citizenship while at VMI.
From the age of 9, Chang grew up in Port Washington, N.Y., where his
father ran an import/export business. As the end of his high school years
approached, Chang knew that a typical American college was not for him.
“I didn’t want a regular civilian life,” said Chang. “I wanted the
opportunity to do something exciting for myself and prove my worth in
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