Dec 22, 2005

Goin' To School In Virginia

written while in North Carolina

Today, the parents and I loaded up my grandmother's car and headed North towards Virginia. We planned to take the day and visit two colleges that I am applying to: Virginia Tech and the Virginia Military Institute. Both offer an outstanding education and a chance to continue my football career, and it's all in a military environment, but I wanted to see the campuses. So there we went, off to do a little sightseeing. Unfortunately, there weren't going to be any cadets or staff around to talk to or provide a formal tour, as most had already left for the holidays. But at least, I could see the campuses and get a feel for what the university would be like.

So after a four hour drive, we finally arrived on the grounds of VMI, in beautiful Lexington. I was instantly struck with awe at the age of the place and its aethstetics. The buildings are designed like fortresses, like castles of ancient lore. I could see the history just looking at the buildings; from its days as an armory, to its destruction in the Civil War, to today, when it is ranked as one of the best Liberal Arts colleges in the nation.

Our first stop on campus was the admissions office, just to see if there was someone there to provide a tour or answer a few questions, but the building was completely empty. So we headed on over to the Marshall Museum and Library. The Marshall Museum houses many relics documenting the history of the Virginia Military Institute and its graduates, as well as memorabilia from one of its greatest alumni, General George C. Marshall. We didn't have enough time to wander around the museum, but my mother did find time to purchase a VMI Christmas-tree ornament.

After we left the Museum, my parents went off to retrieve the car while I marched across the vast parade grounds towards the barracks. As I did so, I could almost feel the uniform of a Keydet on my back and I envisioned myself as a cadet. One of the few and proud cadets, as VMI only has 1300 students and only 22,000 or so living alumni. I left that day with a sense of awe.

After leaving Lexington, my parents and I drove South down I85 for ninety minutes to Blacksburg, home of the Virginia Poltechnic Institute and State University, otherwise known as Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech has a program called the Corps of Cadets that is basically a school within a school, as it provides the miliatry academy experience but provides all of the advantages of a civilian university. As I lurked around the Corps barracks trying to see if anyone was home, I actually ran into the Commandant of Cadets who showed me around, including one of the rooms, and we chatted about the VTCC experience. And while it was interesting and impressive, I couldn't help think that it was missing something.

What that something is, I can't tell you. Maybe it's the lack of history or prestige. Maybe it's fact that it is not totally immersive. Whatever it is, it is the presence of that je ne sais ce qui at VMI that impresses me. Mybe it is the quality of alumni. While I'm sure that the alumni of VTCC are outstanding, it is that extra drive and ambition and loyalty of the VMI alums that left a mark on me. They are cut from a different cloth. They try and try and try some more until the accomplish their goals. They are unwaiverable and have a greater sense of honor and respect and integrity than I think anyone I have ever met. It is these qualities that set them apart and I dream everyday of being a man of that caliber.

So, it looks like I'm probably going to school in Virginia.

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