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VMI Forfeits $900,000 Gift Over “Wokeness”

As more Americans become aware of the corrosiveness of so-called “wokeness,” opposition to it is stiffening, and a new front in that campaign has arisen among some university alumni upset about the direction many campuses are taking.

According to Bacon’s Rebellion, one notable incident occurred last November, when Governor Ralph Northam invited himself to speak at his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in the waning days of his administration.

On Nov. 14, 2021, a VMI alumnus sent the following email (boldface in the original) to VMI Superintendent Cedric Wins and others in VMI leadership.

Good evening. I am a 198- [date redacted] VMI graduate. Two requests, please:

1. Please immediately cancel Ralph Northam’s speech at VMI Monday, 15 November. He’s a disgrace and a woke buffoon. Don’t subject the Corps of Cadets to his lunacy.

2. If you won’t accommodate request number one above, then please make his talk optional and not mandatory for the Corps of Cadets. A few months ago, I made a $100,000 donation to the VMI [redacted]. I have also made some other modest donations to VMI this year totaling another $5,000 to $10,000. I intend to give another $900,000 to charity in the coming 36 to 60 months subject to putting some business matters in order. I have stayed loyal to VMI even though I vehemently disagree with these actions VMI has taken recently:

  • Firing [former Superintendent J.H. Binford] Peay
  • Removing the statue of General Jackson (versus relocating it to a different place on post / lower visibility area)
  • Hiring a Diversity / Equity / Inclusion officer (which is Latin for discriminating against better qualified white males for lesser qualified women and minorities)
    If you don’t accommodate either request number one or request number two above, then I will give the aforementioned $900,000 to the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Tower Foundation instead of the VMI [redacted]. (Stephen’s Story – Tunnel to Towers Foundation ( It is a well-run Christian charity without any of the political / woke nonsense associated with it. Thank you.


[Name redacted]
[A partner in a private equity firm]

VMI did not cancel the governor’s speech, and thus it is to be believed forfeited the $900,000 donation.

Journalist James Bacon received this email from a third party under the condition the author remain anonymous. VMI never announced the lost donation, and other colleges and universities would also be loath to admit forfeited gifts from alumni who are upset with the direction the colleges are going.

Since many college graduates who become wealthy do so by engaging in the free market, capitalist system, it is understandable such individuals would then be angered by their schools now promoting initiatives, classes, and speakers who are anti-capitalist, anti-free speech, etc.

Moreover, alumni for whom faith is important may stop giving to their schools if they sense the administration has become hostile to open expressions of religion and faith communities on campus. An example of this happened in 2007 when William and Mary President Gene Nichol stirred up a hornets’ nest by ordering the removal of the Wren Cross inside the historic Wren Building Chapel, and thus birthed an alumni movement to restore it.

A key metric of college rankings is the percentage of alumni who donate to their alma maters. Therefore, disaffected alumni who close their purse strings not only impact a school’s total budget, but also impact its overall ranking relative to other schools.

–Scott Dreyer

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