May 28, 2015

No Ordinary School

It’s always blue skies at VMI.

That’s how Bob Clark paints his time as a cadet at the renowned military school in Lexington, Virginia.

When someone—anyone—starts talking about the historic post, he lights up. As Baskervill’s highly energetic president, Bob owes much of his success and leadership skills to Virginia Military Institute.

His time on post was exactly what you would expect from a military school: rigorous, regimented, and extremely rewarding.

“Between academics, athletics, and the military, we were awake until one in the morning and up at 6:30 the next day, every day,” Bob says. “But it’s that daily grind that forges friendships like nothing else can. You become a better version of yourself.”

When he graduated in 1988, those lessons became a springboard for his career in the United States Air Force, where he started as a Second Lieutenant and worked his way up to Captain. It makes sense, then, that he’d be so proud to lead the charge on two preservation projects on post: Cormack and Cocke halls.

“Working as a design professional, I’m getting to see parts of the school I never really saw as a cadet,” he says. “The joke was that you only spent time in Smith Hall if you were dealing with the brass. But that’s where I go most of the time when I get back on post, so I’m seeing everything through a new lens.”

Part of VMI’s appeal is its Spartan aesthetic, Bob says, as it gives cadets a clean slate on which to build character and grow into highly successful leaders.

“I never realized how beautiful the campus is until I walked away from it,” he says. “As a cadet, you’re stuck in the weeds, so you don’t appreciate it. But it’s truly something to behold.”

As construction wraps up at Cormack Hall, which will give the school space for exercise science classrooms as well as VMI’s NCAA wrestling team, Bob has been spending more time on post in preparation for the next phase of the project. This summer, we’ll start renovating Cocke Hall, the school’s main gym and strength training facility.

“It’s fulfilling to me now, as an engineer, to breathe life into these historic buildings,” he says. “They say it’s no ordinary school, and it’s absolutely true—there’s nowhere else like it.”

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