In his resignation letter to John Boland, president of the VMI Visitors’ Board, Pye said he had been told by the governor’s chief of staff that Northham and other state lawmakers had “lost confidence in my leadership” and “wanted my resignation. “
“It has been an honor in my life to be head of the VMI for over seventeen years,” the retired four-star general wrote. “I have always loved and will always love the Institute, all our cadets, alumni and the entire VMI family.”
During Peay’s tenure at VMI, numerous stories of racist incidents surfaced.
This month, The Washington Post documented how a black student filed a complaint against a white adjunct professor who recalled her father’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan last year in the middle of class. In 2018, a white sophomore told the freshman during Hell that he would “lynch” his body and use “his dead body as a punching bag” – but he was stopped, not expelled.
Following the publication of The Post’s story, Northam (D), a 1981 VMI graduate, ordered an independent investigation into the Lexington school, which received $ 19 million in state funding in fiscal 2020. In a letter announcing the investigation, Northam and other government officials said they had “deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of continuing structural racism” at the VMI.
Boland dismissed the description in response to the governor, saying “systemic racism does not exist here and an honest and independent review will establish that it is true.”
Last week, Pee also emailed the VMI community, saying he did not believe there was systemic racism at the school.
The VMI was the last public college in Virginia to integrate, admitting five black students in 1968. The 1996 Supreme Court decision – written by Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg – to end its resistance to allowing women to attend.
Announcing Peake’s resignation on Monday, Boland said he accepted it with “deep regret.” He said Pius was “a great American, a patriot and a hero.” It has profoundly changed our school for the better in every way. “
According to the Brig’s school website. General Robert Bob Moresky, who was deputy head of academia and dean of the faculty, was appointed acting supervisor. Moreshi began teaching at VMI in 2002 and became a full professor in 2008.
About 8% of the 1,700 VMI students are black. Many of them are athletes who said they were not fully aware of the school’s history or racial climate when they accepted scholarships.
The school, whose cadets fought and died for slavery in the south during the Civil War, has long honored its Confederate past. But the college is under increasing pressure from Black alumni and cadets to remove the statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, who taught at the VMI and enslaved six people.
In July, Pea defended the statue of Jackson, calling it a “military genius” and an “unwavering Christian.”
Pee, who was born in Richmond in 1940, graduated from VMI with a degree in civil engineering in 1962, according to his biography, which has now been removed from the school’s website. In college, he was a quarterback for the football team.
In the army, Pius served two rounds in the Vietnam War. He later became Senior Assistant to the Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served as Executive Director of the Army Chief of Staff, and then took command of the famous 101st Airborne Division, which he commanded during Desert Shield operations and Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf.
In the early 1990s, then a general, he was appointed the 24th Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army. His most recent role was as Commander-in-Chief of US Central Command in Florida from 1993 to 1997, helping oversee military operations in 20 countries in Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and South Asia.
Pius was highly decorated: He was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. He and his wife have two sons, both VMI graduates. His grandfather, JHN Peay Jr., has been a member of the class since 1929.
In a statement Monday, Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) condemned the VMI’s culture of racism and said Pee’s resignation would not only cure the school of its problems.
“We need to break with the past and outline a different future for the VMI and for all the Community institutions – a future that is finally free of racism and friendly to all,” he wrote. “The departure of a person does not solve a systemic problem that we have to deal with exhaustively.”
Fairfax rejected Boland’s argument that allegations of racism “have more to do with the reversal of an individual’s sentence than with the culture of the institution.”
Fairfax, a black descendant of a enslaved man who won his freedom, said Monday: “We cannot continue to pretend that racism targeting African-American cadets is an unusual incident separate from the culture of long-standing systemic racism. He added: “We need to tackle the challenges of systemic racism in an honest way to defeat the unjust past and create a new and inclusive future that is friendly to all. The VMI must prioritize this mission. “
Fairfax, which is running for governor next year, has threatened that school funding will disappear if it does not change. “We shouldn’t spend $ 19 million a year on a VMI that is adamantly refusing to change at a time when students on lower incomes and different communities are being denied free lunches and adequate educational opportunities.”
He said VMI statues dedicated to the Confederacy “should come down”.
The first VMI overseer was Francis H. Smith, a graduate of the American Military Academy who owned nine enslaved men on the eve of the Civil War. He believes that slavery must be abolished one day – and that “blacks must be relocated to Africa,” according to a retired VMI historian.
Laura Wozela also contributed to this story.