'The Wait is Over'
An incoming cadet signs the matriculation book. – VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.
LEXINGTON, Va., Aug. 23, 2014 – Tom Petty, he of the Heartbreakers and “Freefallin’” fame, once said, “The waiting is the hardest part.” He didn’t have the incoming rats in VMI’s Class of 2018 in mind when he penned those lyrics, but the 500 soon-to-be cadets sure could relate.
Matriculation Day 2014 was, as always, a case of “hurry up and wait.”
“It was a little nerve-racking,” said Kyle Leonard ’15 as he helped guide the new recruits around Cameron Hall and reminisced about his Matriculation and the long wait he endured. “To be honest, it was kind of a blur. Before they call you down, there is a bit of anticipation.”
Matriculation by the Numbers
STEM Major 59%
Liberal Arts Majors 41%
States Represented 37
Foreign Countries 7
When the new cadets’ numbers were called and they finally got to leave their seats high above the Cameron Hall floor, seats that grew harder and magically smaller as the minutes crept by, they were paraded by a series of tables. They took care of all the registration business and any last-minute financial problems that arose; they strolled by a wide array of stations occupied by various academic departments.
While the lines moved pretty quickly considering how many incoming cadets were passing through Cameron Hall, they were held up now and again by proud parents who needed to document the proceedings. The click-whirr of cameras could be heard over the din, and more than one family, often decked out in their newly purchased VMI gear, stopped their new rat at every table to snap a picture.
Leonard remembers that part well.
“My dad is an [alumnus],” he said. “He was proud, but anxious for me because he knew what was coming. My mom was nervous, sad that I was leaving home.” Leonard’s father, Scott Leonard, was a member of the Class of 1989.
Separation anxiety had not set in at that point. That came just after signing the Matriculation Book, a long-standing tradition at VMI that has always been part of the first-day experience. Once that name is recorded, the new cadets march up the stairs, where they are issued uniforms for physical training and briefly part ways with their families.
For many of them, the thought that they are genuine VMI rats, about to meet cadre for the first time, began to become reality. And after the superintendent gave his welcoming speech and the group marched to barracks as the newest rat mass, it all struck home.
“It really sinks in during march-up,” Leonard recalled. “It gives you goose bumps. It was impressive, very surreal.”
And for some of them, that sense of nervousness, the anxiety of leaving family and friends, the uneasy feeling of leaving the real world behind begins to fade away.
“I was nervous right up to march-up,” Leonard said, remember his matriculation in 2011. “That was when it hit, and I knew I should be here.”
For the VMI class of 2018, the wait is over.
– Chris Floyd