LEXINGTON, Va. (AP) — Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins, who was named interim superintendent of Virginia Military Institute amid the controversy over the school’s Confederate ties and the removal of a statue of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, was voted unanimously Thursday to become the first Black man to lead the school.
Wins, a 1985 graduate of VMI, took over for retired Army Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, whose ouster followed publication of a story by The Washington Post that described an “atmosphere of hostility and cultural insensitivity" at the oldest state-supported military college in the U.S.
“Maj. Gen. Wins has distinguished himself as a leader whose dedication to the Institute’s mission and to the Corps of Cadets has endeared him to many during his brief time as interim superintendent,” said John William Boland, president of the VMI Board of Visitors.
The Post’s story, which detailed incidents such as lynching threats and a white professor reminiscing to students about her father’s Ku Klux Klan membership, led to Peay's resignation under pressure from Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam. The ouster also prompted state officials to commit to hiring an outside firm to investigate the students’ allegations.
Wins became the first Black leader to serve in that role, and the school’s board has committed to changes that include creating a permanent diversity office.
Last December, the statue of Jackson was removed. Before it was taken down, freshmen were once required to salute it.
The statue was the latest in a long list of Confederate statues and monuments to be dismantled across the U.S. in the aftermath of the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the racial justice movement that followed. VMI, which had resisted calls to remove the Jackson statue last summer, changed course after the Washington Post's story.
Prior to becoming interim superintendent, Wins spent 34 years as an officer in the U.S. Army. In his final command, Maj. Gen. Wins was the first Commanding General of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. He has received a number of awards and holds two master’s degrees from the Florida Institute of Technology and the National War College.
As a cadet, Wins was a standout basketball player who finished as one of the school's top five career scorers. In four years, he led VMI from last place in the Southern Conference to the league finals during his first-class year. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and commissioned into the Army as a field artillery officer.