Virginia Military Institute’s first black superintendent faces backlash from school alumni

By Nicole Chavez and Meron Moges-Gerbi, CNN

A Virginia Military Institute alumni group is publicly questioning why the college’s first black superintendent received a “more generous” bonus than last year.

Retired Major General Cedric T. Wins has been superintendent of the public military college since 2020. He first assumed the role as an interim after General JH Binford Peay III resigned, following allegations of a racist culture at the school. Wins officially took on the role last year.

Spirit of VMI, a political action committee made up of alumni, parents and friends of the school, issued a statement earlier this month questioning why the VMI Board of Visitors approved a $100,000 bonus for wins in September. The story was first reported by The Washington Post.

“SOVP wonders what performance metrics the BOV used to make such a generous award and surge,” the group said in a statement, adding that there was “great concern among alumni and friends about the direction of VMI and a decrease in the number of applications.

Bill Wyatt, director of communications and marketing at VMI, declined to comment specifically on the alumni group’s statement, instead speaking of Wins’ achievements.

Wins earns an annual salary of $625,000 and last year received a $25,000 bonus. Based on his performance during the 2021-2022 school year, the VMI Visitors Board awarded him a $100,000 bonus, Wyatt told CNN.

When asked about Wins’ achievements, Wyatt said the superintendent has guided the institute through the Covid-19 pandemic, guided the school through an investigation into its diversity and inclusion practices and a program for diversity, equality and inclusion.

Located in Lexington, Virginia, VMI is a public military college with an enrollment of approximately 1,700 students. Last year, VMI had 102 black students enrolled – about 6% of the student body.

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, investigative reports in The Roanoke Times and The Washington Post detailed allegations against the school by black students and alumni, including stories of a now-abandoned practice of requiring freshmen to give a salute now removed statue of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, the Confederate general and former VMI professor.

That reporting prompted Virginia officials to launch an investigation into the institute and led to the resignation of former Superintendent Peay.

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