Distinguished Service Award Presented to Thomas G. Slater, Jr. '66
November 9, 2012
LEXINGTON, Va., Nov. 9, 2012 – Earlier today, the VMI Foundation presented its Distinguished Service Award to prominent Richmond, Va., attorney Thomas G. Slater Jr. ’66. Slater received the award during the Founders Day Convocation at VMI’s Cameron Hall and addressed the VMI Corps of Cadets, offering them “simple words” embodying “important life lessons” drawn from his own experience at VMI and after.
Walton M. Jeffress Jr. ’68, president of the VMI Foundation, made the presentation and read the accompanying citation, which lauded Slater’s many accomplishments as a cadet, his long-time leadership in Virginia’s legal community, and his extensive involvement in civic affairs in Virginia, including his current position as president of the Virginia Historical Society.
In his remarks on receiving the award, Slater gave the much of the credit for these achievements to VMI, recalling the early days of his career. “I came to realize very quickly that a lawyer’s reputation is greatest asset; I learned that to gain the respect of my peers and the judges and juries I had the privilege of appearing before, I had to rely on what I had learned at VMI. I had to rely on keeping my word … and also to work tirelessly to serve my clients within the values of the legal system.”
What prompted the VMI Foundation’s Board of Trustees to present this award to Slater, however, were his many decades of service to VMI itself, service which began in 1969 when he joined the Richmond, Va., chapter of the VMI Alumni Association. Slater went on to become that chapter’s president from 1978 to 1979. He joined the VMI Alumni Association’s board in 1975, and, in his last two years as a member, 1985 to 1987, he was the Association’s president. He became a trustee of the VMI Foundation in 1991, and, from 1995 to 1997, he served as that organization’s president.
He also was a member of the Executive Committee of VMI’s most recent capital campaign, Reveille: A Call to Excel. In 2003, he was appointed to the VMI Board of Visitors. He served on many committees, and, in July 2008, he was appointed its president, a post he held through June 2011. “In all these positions, Mr. Slater was known for his steadfast commitment to the Institute and his sound judgment in all matters,” the citation stated.
In his remarks prior to presenting the DSA, Jeffress described Slater as someone who “exemplifies the traditions of service to and support of VMI.” He went on to say that, “For decades, Tom Slater has selflessly served the Institute. He has contributed much to its successes, and he has provided a superb example of leadership.”
In his remarks to the assembly, which included Mr. Slater’s wife, Scottie, and their five children, seven grandchildren, and hundreds of visitors, VMI’s faculty and staff, and the entire Corps of Cadets, Slater saluted the members of the Corps for choosing VMI, promising them that they will “see the benefits.” He also praised the faculty and staff for their work on behalf of cadets and Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, superintendent, for his leadership over the past eight years.
He focused, however, on the enduring value of the VMI education, saying that it “instills in its graduates honor, courage, duty, tenacity, and putting one’s responsibilities ahead of one’s personal gain.”
“You learn to do the right thing at VMI,” and there, he said, “You prepare to accept defeat, but not be defeated by your setbacks.”
He also observed that a VMI education imbues graduates with “a burning desire to succeed in life.”
“The VMI experience endows all of us with the resilience and the spirit that enables us to tackle the daily tasks and adversities of life with a brave heart and a never-say-die attitude,” he said.
He ended his remarks in a moving fashion, reading the names of the 11 Brother Rats of the Class of 1966 who were killed in action in Vietnam. These men, he asserted, “are the true Distinguished Service Award winners for the Class of 1966.”
After the ceremony, Jeffress commented on the award. “This is an exceptionally well-deserved honor for Tom. He has given so much of his time and talent to the task of ensuring that VMI keeps advancing as an academic institution while it remains true to its very best traditions. Furthermore, for more than four decades, Tom provided a stellar example of commitment and service to VMI for alumni and friends alike.
“I thank him, too, for delivering a memorable and stirring speech that, in a short time, spoke volumes about the efficacy of the VMI education and the enduring nature of the VMI spirit.”
First presented in 1969, the DSA recognizes alumni and friends of the Institute whose dedication to the Institute and to the mission of the VMI Foundation is exceptionally commendable.