The Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL), the nation’s only all-female corps of cadets and the premier college-level leadership program for women in the United States, on Friday celebrated its 20th anniversary at Mary Baldwin.
Current VWIL students, members of the inaugural class, alumnae, community members and distinguished guests attended a special parade sequence, reception, and military ball Friday afternoon and evening in observance of the milestone.
“We are tremendously proud of VWIL and what its graduates have accomplished since its founding 20 years ago,” said President Pamela Fox. “As we look back on VWIL’s 20 years of service, we are also preparing for an exciting future that includes Mary Baldwin’s upcoming 175th anniversary and transition from a college into a university.”
“VWIL remains a one-of-a-kind, single-gender program offering military training and rigorous physical discipline for women in the United States,” said Brig. Gen.Terry Djuric, commandant of cadets. “Today we also pay special tribute to our pioneering first class of cadets who helped pave the way for the nearly 400 women who have graduated from this program since its founding.”
The parade sequence was followed by special remarks by Cynthia Haldenby Tyson, Mary Baldwin president emerita. Tyson, who served as Mary Baldwin’s president for 18 years and was instrumental in the establishment and success of VWIL said, “Our faculty created a curriculum for VWIL with extra math and science and set to meet demands of military leadership, for body, mind and character. VWIL prepares women in a rigorous way for any sphere of achievement they choose. And it has succeeded.”
Other honored guests in attendance include Virginia lawmakers Del. Richard Bell, Del. R. Steven Landes, and State Senator Emmett Hanger. The leadership program was established by a public-private partnership between Mary Baldwin and the Commonwealth of Virginia, with 20 years of bipartisan support in the Virginia General Assembly.
The 20th anniversary events are part of a yearlong observation of the founding of VWIL, which officially launched on August 22, 1995, with the matriculation of the first class of 42 cadets. Since then, 379 women have graduated from VWIL attaining leadership positions in all branches of the United States Armed Forces as well as in the public and private sectors.
In its early years, VWIL garnered national and international attention through its association with the constitutional legal case challenging single-sex education at the Virginia Military Institute. On this national stage, Tyson championed both VWIL and the cause of single-sex education for women.
In 20 years, the program has earned a reputation nationally as a premier leadership development program for women and has become a model of success for other programs with similar aims. Hundreds of corps alumnae have excelled in military and civilian leadership roles.