Valedictorian Hulburt Addresses Graduates
LEXINGTON, Va., May 25, 2022—Christopher M. Hulburt ’22, valedictorian of the Class of 2022 at Virginia Military Institute, spoke during commencement, of what brought his fellow cadets and himself to VMI, and what kept them at VMI, and the importance of attributes like honor, duty, excellence, and integrity. Without a doubt, his peers believe that Hulburt epitomizes those qualities, as each class elects their valedictorian based on those virtues.
Hulburt described being elected valedictorian as a humbling experience. “I know the other four candidates who were on that ballot, and they are all fine cadets. I was excited that my fellow cadets awarded me with the opportunity to address them and wish them well at commencement,” stated Hulburt.
Hulburt addressed his brother rats by talking about the values that brought them all to VMI, and the moments that kept them there. “Unique individuals come to VMI, those who are eager, confident, and ultimately naïve,” he said, followed by laughter from the audience. He stated that students are drawn to the Institute by words like honor, courage, and duty, but quickly learn that VMI is an unusual place that offers unique challenges. He acknowledged that their cadetship has been marked by vocal critics questioning the system that defines their daily lives at VMI. “In a time when several hundred of our peers in Colorado Springs, Annapolis, and West Point have collectively admitted to violating their honor, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to honesty, academic integrity and responsibility,” he declared, to a loud roar of applause and cheers.
Hulburt continued by sharing the short but meaningful moments that kept the class at VMI. Many were funny, and helped deal with the stress that comes with being a cadet. Some were poignant and awe inspiring. Some provided a sense of accomplishment, some a sense of fulfillment, and some provided small pits in their stomachs. He summarized, “We came to VMI for many reasons, but we stayed for one another. Let us meet society’s loudest critics with the decency, care and devotion that we have shown one another.”
In closing Hulburt shared that the last year has been challenging and grievous. He mourned the loss of his father. He revealed that he keeps a list on his phone of hundreds of names of those who have offered support to him throughout the year. “Whenever I feel the need for encouragement, I look at the names on the list and think of you. I take considerable pride in calling you my brother rats, and look forward to marveling at your accomplishments.”
Col. M. Houston Johnson V, Ph.D., professor and head of the history department said, “Chris exemplifies the ideals of a VMI cadet—his strength of character, academic excellence, and service to the Institute highlight his commitment to the core values for which the Institute stands. I have had the pleasure of serving on Chris’ honors committee, teaching him in class, and traveling with him to Serbia and Bosnia on the Olmsted Foundation cultural immersion trip during spring furlough. In all these interactions, Chris’ thoughtfulness and desire to make the most of his opportunities were manifest; he is an engaging young man who serves as a positive influence for those around him.”
Hulburt graduated as a distinguished graduate with institute honors, having sustained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 and completed a cross-disciplinary honors curriculum, including writing a research-based honors thesis, in addition to his major and minor requirements.
He majored in history and minored in literary studies and Spanish. He served as president of VMI’s Omicron Delta Kappa Circle, was a peer consultant at the Writing Center, was Company G executive officer, a member of Phi Alpha Theta and Sigma Delta Pi, parade announcer, and a prosecutor on the Honor Court, with which he is especially proud. “Being prosecutor is a meaningful and important task at VMI. It isn’t fun, but for VMI’s honor code to have meaning, to be able to trust my fellow cadets as well as the alumni, violators of the honor code must be prosecuted,” said Hulburt.
Hulburt graduated from Eastwood High School in El Paso, Texas. He is the son of the late Michael W. Hulburt Jr. and Shay L. Reed-Hulburt of El Paso. He is the grandson of the late retired Lt. Col. Don Travis Reed, USMC, who graduated from VMI in 1964 and Diane M. Reed, also of El Paso, and Michael W. and Kathleen Bradley Hulburt who reside in Baker City, Oregon.
After commencement, Hulburt will take a gap year to work in the private sector, then plans to enter law school at the University of Virginia. “UVA offers a dual program where I can earn my master’s degree in history and my juris doctor degree simultaneously,” said Hulburt. He wants to specialize in criminal or constitutional law and ultimately become a prosecutor.