Crozet Point Dedicated on Founders Day
Col. Keith Gibson speaks during the dedication of Crozet Point -- VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.
LEXINGTON, Va., Nov. 11, 2011 – The first president of the VMI Board of Visitors and the architect of VMI’s academic program and military organization was honored today in a ceremony dedicating Crozet Point.
The remains of Col. Claudius Crozet are buried there, just across Letcher Avenue from Crozet Hall. The monument honoring Crozet was finished earlier this year, with the placement of a bronze medallion bearing his likeness on its pink granite surface and construction and landscaping of a small plaza around it.
As one of VMI’s three founders, Crozet drew on his experiences as a military student in Napoleonic France in shaping the “distinctive organization, early curriculum, and even the daily life of cadets at our Institute,” noted Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, VMI superintendent, in opening the ceremony.
The ceremony took place during VMI’s observation of its Founders Day, honoring with Crozet early faculty member J.T.L. Preston and first VMI superintendent Francis H. Smith.
“The early influence of the founders remains strong and immediate,” said Peay. “I believe that if Crozet, Smith, and Preston were to return this morning to the Institute, they would find much that they would recognize and appreciate.”
Remarks by Col. Keith E. Gibson ’77, executive director of VMI Museum Operations, told the story of Crozet’s life, his contributions to VMI in its early years, and his continuing career as Virginia’s state engineer. After setting the course for VMI at its opening, Crozet went on to create a new map of the state of Virginia and a railroad across the Blue Ridge Mountains requiring four tunnels, one of which was the longest in America at that time. The plaza at Crozet Point takes the shape of the parabolic curve of that tunnel’s opening.
Gibson’s remarks also told the story of Crozet’s remains, first buried in Richmond in a cast iron coffin, then moved to the area in front of Preston Library at VMI in 1939, with the construction of the monument there interrupted by World War II. In the completion of the memorial this year at Crozet Point, the original plan for Crozet’s interment at VMI has been fulfilled.
During the process of relocating the memorial, Gibson supervised a forensic examination of Crozet’s exhumed remains by the Smithsonian Institution.
“It might be said that Colonel Gibson has a special relationship with Colonel Crozet,” Peay had noted in his introduction. “I can safely say … that Colonel Gibson is one of only a few living individuals to have actually seen Colonel Crozet.”
Chuckles at the remark were heard in the audience, which included Col. And Mrs. Brice Houdet, military attaché at the French Embassy to the United States, and Dr. Battle Haslam ’61, a trustee of the VMI Foundation who sponsored the creation of the medallion for the monument.
It is thought, Gibson said, that each cadet will pass Crozet Point 7,600 times during his or her cadetship.
“Perhaps on one or two of those … occasions,” concluded Gibson, “the cadet will pause at this spot and reflect on the amazing circumstances that resulted in an officer of the Grand Armee of Napoleon to rest here with us.”
Click here to read Gibson's remarks.