Virginia Military Institute
|Motto||Latin: "In Pace Decus, In Bello Praesidium"|
Motto in English
|"In Peace a Glorious Asset, In War a Tower of Strength"|
|Type||Public senior military college|
|American Council on Education (ACE)|
Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
|Superintendent||General J. H. Binford Peay III, (U.S. Army, ret.)|
|Location||Lexington (Rockbridge County), Virginia, U.S.A.|
|Campus||Small town, 134 acres (0.54 km2)|
|Colors||Red, Yellow, White|
|National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA Division I) Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) – Southern Conference (SoCon)|
|Mascot||"Moe the Kangaroo"|
The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a state-supported military college in Lexington, Virginia, the oldest such institution in the United States. Unlike any other United States Senior Military College, and in keeping with its founding principles, VMI enrolls cadets (uniformed members of the Corps of Cadets) only and awards baccalaureate degrees exclusively. VMI offers its students, all of whom are cadets, strict military discipline combined with a spartan, physically and academically demanding environment. The Institute grants degrees in 14 disciplines in engineering, the sciences, and the liberal arts.
While VMI has been called "The West Point of The South", it differs from the federal military service academies in several respects. For example, VMI numbers approximately 1700 cadets and the living conditions are more austere. Also, while all cadets must participate in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) of the United States Armed Forces, VMI cadets are afforded the flexibility of pursuing civilian endeavors or accepting an officer's commission in any of the active or reserve components of any of the U.S. military branches upon graduation.
VMI's alumni include a Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, 7 Medal of Honor recipients, 13 Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, an Academy Award winner, an Emmy Award and Golden Globe winner, a martyr recognized by the Episcopal Church, Senators and Representatives, Governors, including the current Governor of Virginia, Lieutenant Governors, a Supreme Court Justice, numerous college and university presidents, many business leaders (presidents and CEOs) and over 270 general and flag officers. In addition to the accomplishments of its graduates in civilian endeavors, VMI is the only military college in the United States to graduate the highest ranking four-star generals across three of the four armed services.
- 1 Governance
- 2 History
- 3 Campus
- 4 Academic programs
- 5 Rankings
- 6 Military service
- 7 Students
- 8 Athletics
- 9 Alumni
- 10 Endowment
- 11 In popular culture
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The Board of Visitors is the supervisory board of the Virginia Military Institute. Although the Governor is ex officio the commander-in-chief of the Institute, and no one may be declared a graduate without his signature, he delegates to the Board the responsibility for developing the Institute's policy. The Board appoints the Superintendent and approves appointment of members of the faculty and staff on the recommendation of the Superintendent. The Board may make bylaws and regulations for their own government and the management of the affairs of the Institute, and while the Institute is exempt from the Administrative Process Act in accordance with Va. Code § 2.2-4002(A)(6) (which exempts educational institutions operated by the Commonwealth), some of its regulations are codified at 8VAC 100. The Executive Committee conducts the business of the Board during recesses.
The Board has 17 members, including ex officio the Adjutant General of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Regular members are appointed by the Governor for a four-year term and may be reappointed once. Of the sixteen appointed members, twelve must be alumni of the Institute, eight of whom must be residents of Virginia and four must be non-residents; and the remaining four members must be non-alumni Virginia residents. The Executive Committee consists of the Board's President, three Vice Presidents, and one non-alumnus at large, and is appointed by the Board at each annual meeting.
Under the militia bill (the Virginia Code of 1860) officers of the Institute were recognized as part of the military establishment of the state, and the Governor had authority to issue commissions to them in accordance with Institute regulations. Current law makes provision for officers of the Virginia Militia to be subject to orders of the Governor. The cadets are a military corps (the Corps of Cadets) under the command of the Superintendent and under the administration of the Commandant of Cadets, and constitute the guard of the Institute.
In the years after the War of 1812, the Commonwealth of Virginia built and maintained several arsenals to store weapons intended for use by the state militia in the event of invasion or slave revolt. In the 1830s Lexington attorney John Thomas Lewis Preston belonged to a debate club known as the Franklin Society. In 1836 he made the case to the society that the arsenal in Lexington could be put to better use as a normal school for providing education on practical subjects, as well as military training to individuals who could be expected to serve as officers in the militia if needed.
After debate and revision of the original proposal, the Franklin Society voted in favor of Preston's concept. After a public relations campaign that included Preston meeting in person with influential business, military and political figures, letters to editors of prominent news sources from Preston writing under a pen name, and many other open letters from prominent supporters, in 1836 the Virginia legislature passed a bill authorizing creation of a school at the Lexington arsenal, and the Governor signed the measure into law.
The organizers of the planned school formed a board of visitors, which included Preston, and the board selected Claudius Crozet, a prominent officer and engineer formerly under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, to serve as their President. Crozet was also the Chief Engineer of Virginia and someone whom Thomas Jefferson referred to as, "the smartest mathematician in the United States." The board delegated to Preston the task of deciding what to call the new school, and he created the name Virginia Military Institute.
Preston was also tasked with hiring VMI's first Superintendent. He was persuaded that West Point graduate and Army officer Francis Henney Smith, then on the faculty at Hampden–Sydney College, was the most suitable candidate. Preston successfully recruited Smith, and convinced him to become the first Superintendent and Professor of Tactics. In an endeavor unique to the United States, Preston, Crozet, and Smith founded VMI intending to create a hybrid of the best characteristics of the United States Military Academy and British Royal Military Academy Sandhurst educational models.
After Smith agreed to accept the Superintendent's position, Preston applied to join the faculty, and was hired as Professor of Languages. Classes began in 1839, and the first cadet to march a sentinel post was Private John Strange. With few exceptions, there have been sentinels posted at VMI every hour of every day of the school year.
The Class of 1842 graduated 16 cadets. Living conditions were poor until 1850 when the cornerstone of the new barracks was laid. In 1851 Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson became a member of the faculty and professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy. Under Jackson, then a major, and Major William Gilham, VMI infantry and artillery units were present at the execution by hanging of John Brown at Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1859.
Civil War period
VMI cadets and alumni played instrumental roles in the American Civil War. On 14 occasions, the Confederacy called cadets into active military engagements. VMI has authorized battle streamers for each one of these engagements but chose only to carry one: the battle streamer for New Market. Many VMI Cadets were ordered to Camp Lee, at Richmond, to train recruits under General Stonewall Jackson. VMI alumni were regarded among the best officers of the South and several distinguished themselves in the Union forces as well. Fifteen graduates rose to the rank of general in the Confederate Army, and one rose to this rank in the Union Army. Just before his famous flank attack at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson looked at his division and brigade commanders, noted the high number of VMI graduates and said, "The Institute will be heard from today." Three of Jackson's four division commanders at Chancellorsville, Generals James Lane, Robert Rodes, and Raleigh Colston, were VMI graduates as were more than twenty of his brigadiers and colonels.
On 15 May 1864, 247 members of the VMI Corps of Cadets fought as an independent unit at the Battle of New Market. At New Market, in a matter of minutes, VMI suffered fifty-five casualties with ten cadets killed; the cadets were led into battle by the Commandant of Cadets and future VMI Superintendent Colonel Scott Shipp. Shipp was also wounded during the battle. Six of the ten fallen cadets are buried on VMI grounds behind the statue "Virginia Mourning Her Dead" by sculptor Moses Ezekiel, a VMI graduate who was also wounded in the Battle of New Market.
General John C. Breckinridge, the commanding Southern general, held the cadets in reserve and did not use them until Union troops broke through the Confederate lines. Upon seeing the tide of battle turning in favor of the Union forces, Breckinridge stated, "Put the boys in...and may God forgive me for the order." The VMI cadets held the line and eventually pushed forward, capturing a Union artillery emplacement, securing victory for the Confederates. The Union troops were withdrawn and Confederate troops under General Breckinridge held the Shenandoah Valley.
On 12 June 1864 Union forces under the command of General David Hunter shelled and burned the Institute as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864. The destruction was almost complete and VMI had to temporarily hold classes at the Alms House in Richmond, Virginia. In April 1865 Richmond was evacuated due to the impending fall of Petersburg and the VMI Corps of Cadets was disbanded. The Lexington campus reopened for classes on 17 October 1865. One of the reasons that Confederate General Jubal A. Early burned the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania was in retaliation for the shelling of VMI. Following the war, Matthew Fontaine Maury, the pioneering oceanographer known as the "Pathfinder of the Seas", accepted a teaching position at VMI, holding the physics chair. Following the war, David Hunter Strother, who was chief of staff to General Hunter and had advised the destruction of the Institute, served as Adjutant General of the Virginia Militia and member of the VMI Board of Visitors; in that position he promoted and worked actively for the reconstruction.
World War II
VMI produced many of America's commanders in World War II. The most important of these was George C. Marshall, the top U.S. Army general during the war. Marshall was the Army's first five-star general and the only career military officer ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Winston Churchill dubbed Marshall the "Architect of Victory" and "the greatest Roman of them all". The Deputy Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during the war was also a VMI graduate as were the Second U.S. Army commander, 15th U.S. Army commander, the commander of Allied Air Forces of the Southwest Pacific and various corps and division commanders in the Army and Marine Corps. China's General Sun Li-jen, known as the "Rommel of the East", was also a graduate of VMI.
During the war, VMI participated in the War Department's Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) from 1943 to 1946. The program provided training in engineering and related subjects to enlisted men at colleges across the United States. Over 2,100 ASTP members studied at VMI during the war.
Since 1839, VMI has had fourteen superintendents. Francis H. Smith was the first and the longest serving, filling the position for 50 years. Eleven of the fourteen superintendents were graduates of VMI.
- Francis H. Smith (1839–1889)
- Scott Shipp (1890–1907) Wounded leading VMI cadets into The Battle of New Market
- Edward W. Nichols (1907–1924)
- William H. Cocke (1924–1929)
- John A. Lejeune (1929–1937) Also Commandant of the Marine Corps
- Charles E. Kilbourne (1937–1946) Medal of Honor recipient and first American to earn the United States' 3 highest military decorations.
- Richard J. Marshall (1946–1952)
- William H. Milton, Jr. (1952–1960)
- George R. E. Shell (1960–1971)
- Richard L. Irby (1971–1981)
- Sam S. Walker (1981–1988)
- John W. Knapp (1989–1995)
- Josiah Bunting III (1995–2002)
- J. H. Binford Peay III (2003–present)
Virginia Military Institute Historic District
Virginia Military Institute campus
|Location||VMI campus, Lexington, Virginia|
|Area||12 acres (4.9 ha)|
|Architect||Davis, A.J.; Goodhue, Bertram Grosvenor|
|Architectural style||Classical Revival, Gothic Revival|
|NRHP reference #||74002219|
|Added to NRHP||30 May 1974|
|Designated VLR||9 September 1969|
The VMI campus covers 134 acres (54 ha), 12 of which are designated as the Virginia Military Institute Historic District, a designated National Historic Landmark District. The campus is referred to as the "Post," a tradition that reflects the school's military focus and the uniformed service of its alumni. A training area of several hundred additional acres is located near the post. All cadets are housed on campus in a large five-story building, called the "barracks." The Old Barracks, which has been separately designated a National Historic Landmark, stands on the site of the old arsenal. This is the structure that received most of the damage when Union forces shelled and burned the Institute in June 1864. The new wing of the barracks ("New Barracks") was completed in 1949. The two wings surround two quadrangles connected by a sally port. All rooms open onto porch-like stoops facing one of the quadrangles. A third barracks wing was completed, with cadets moving in officially spring semester 2009. Four of the five arched entries into the barracks are named for George Washington, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, George C. Marshall '901 and Jonathan Daniels '61. Next to the Barracks are offices and meeting areas for VMI clubs and organizations, the cadet visitors center and lounge, a snack bar, and a Follett Corporation-operated bookstore.
VMI's "Vision 2039" capital campaign raised more than $275 million from alumni and supporters in three years. The money is going to expand The Barracks to house 1,500 cadets, renovate and modernize the academic buildings. VMI is spending another $200 million to build the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics, to be used by cadets, Washington and Lee University students (such as Tyris Wayne Dancy), and other U.S. and international students. The funding will also support "study abroad" programs, including joint ventures with Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England and many other universities.
VMI offers 14 major and 23 minor areas of study, grouped into engineering, liberal arts, humanities, and the sciences. The engineering department has concentrations in three areas: civil and environmental engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering. Most classes are taught by full-time professors, 99 percent of whom hold terminal degrees.
Within four months of graduation, an average of 97 percent of VMI graduates are either serving in the military, employed, or admitted to graduate or professional schools.
As of 2010, VMI had graduated 11 Rhodes Scholars since 1921, most recently in 2009 (Gregory Lippiatt of York, Pa.). Per capita, VMI has graduated more Rhodes Scholars than any other state-supported college or university, and more than all the other senior military colleges combined. By comparison, Texas A&M has graduated four, Virginia Tech has graduated two, Norwich University one, and both North Georgia University and The Citadel zero.
VMI is the only military college in the U.S. which is nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report in the same category as the federal military academies. In 2015 VMI ranked fourth nationally, after the United States Military Academy, the United States Naval Academy and the United States Air Force Academy, in the U.S. News and World Report rankings' "Top Public Schools, National Liberal Arts Colleges" category.
Forbes' 2012 Special Report on America's Best Colleges ranked VMI in the top 25 public universities in the nation, well ahead of any other senior military college in the country. VMI was ranked 14th in the "Top 25 Publics" section, just behind the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, and the United States Naval Academy, but ahead of the United States Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Overall, VMI ranked 115th out of the 650 colleges and universities evaluated.
In 2009 U.S. News ranked VMI's Civil Engineering program seventh, its mechanical engineering program 14th, and its overall engineering program improved from 25th in the United States in 2008 to 21st out of 105 in the 2009 category of "Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (where doctorate is not offered)." In the newly added 2009 category of "High School Counselor Rankings of Liberal Arts Colleges," VMI is ranked 57th of the 266 best liberal arts colleges.
Kiplinger's magazine, in its ranking of the "Best Values in Public Colleges" for 2006, made mention of the Virginia Military Institute as a "great value", although the military nature of its program excluded it from consideration as a traditional four-year college in the rankings.
While all cadets are required to take four years of ROTC, accepting a commission in the armed forces is optional. While over 50 percent of VMI graduates are commissioned each year, the VMI Board of Visitors has set a goal of having 70 percent of VMI cadets take a commission. The VMI class of 2017 graduated 300 cadets, 172 (or 57 percent) of whom were commissioned as officers in the United States military.
VMI alumni include more than 270 general and flag officers, including the first five-star General of the Army, George Marshall; seven recipients of the highest U.S. military decoration, the Medal of Honor; and more than 80 recipients of the second-highest awards, the Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross. VMI offers ROTC programs for four U.S. military branches (Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force) and is one of the few schools that the Coast Guard allows its students to be able to direct commission from, others being the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, The Citadel, Virginia Tech and Texas A&M.
VMI has graduated more Army Generals than any ROTC program in the United States. The following table lists U.S. four-star generals who graduated from VMI. It does not list alumni who did not graduate from the school, such as General George S. Patton and General Sam S. Walker, and the many VMI graduates who served or still serve as four-star generals in foreign nations such as Thailand, China, and Taiwan.
|Name||VMI class||Branch &
date of rank
|George Marshall||1901||Army, 1 September 1939||
|Thomas T. Handy||1916||Army, 13 March 1945|
|Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.||1917||USMC, 1 January 1952||
|Leonard T. Gerow||1911||Army, 19 July 1954||
|Randolph M. Pate||1921||USMC, 1 January 1956||
|Clark L. Ruffner||1924||Army, 1 March 1960||
|David M. Maddox||1960||Army, 9 July 1992|
|J. H. Binford Peay III||1962||Army, 26 March 1993||
|John P. Jumper||1966||Air Force, 17 November 1997|
|Darren W. McDew||1982||Air Force, 5 May 2014||
Prospective cadets must be between 16 and 22 years of age. They must be unmarried, and have no legal dependents, physically fit for enrollment in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), and be graduates of an accredited secondary school or have completed an approved homeschool curriculum. The Class of 2015 at VMI had an average high school GPA of 3.50 and a mean SAT score of 1151.
Eligibility is not restricted to Virginia residents, although it is more difficult to gain an appointment as a non-resident, because VMI has a goal that no more than 45 percent of cadets come from outside Virginia. Virginia residents receive a discount in tuition, as is common at most state-sponsored schools. Total tuition, room & board, and other fees for the 2008–2009 school year was approximately $17,000 for Virginia residents and $34,000 for all others.
Of 509 students that matriculated in August 2012, 46 were women. The first Jewish cadet, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, graduated in 1866. While at VMI, Ezekiel fought with the VMI cadets at the Battle of New Market. He became a sculptor and his works are on display at VMI. One of the first Asian cadets was Sun Li-jen, the Chinese National Revolutionary Army general, who graduated in 1927. The first African-American cadets were admitted in 1968. The first African-American regimental commander was Darren McDew, class of 1982. McDew is a retired U.S. Air Force General and former Commander, United States Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base, IL. It is unknown when the first Muslim cadet graduated from VMI, but before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, several Persian cadets attended and graduated from VMI. Other Muslim graduates have included cadets from Bangladesh, Jordan, Indonesia and other nations.
Admission of women
VMI was the last U.S. military college to admit women, having excluded women from the Corps of Cadets until 1997. In 1990 the U.S. Department of Justice filed a discrimination lawsuit against VMI for its all-male admissions policy. While the court challenge was pending, a state-sponsored Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership (VWIL) was opened at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, as a parallel program for women. The VWIL continued, even after VMI's admission of women.
After VMI won its case in U.S. District Court, the case went through several appeals until 26 June 1996, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7–1 decision in United States v. Virginia, found that it was unconstitutional for a school supported by public funds to exclude women. (Justice Clarence Thomas recused himself, presumably because his son was attending VMI at the time.) Following the ruling, VMI contemplated going private to exempt itself from the 14th Amendment, and thus avoid the ruling.
Assistant Secretary of Defense Frederick Pang, however, warned the school that the Department of Defense would withdraw ROTC programs from the school if privatization took place. As a result of this action by Pang, Congress passed a resolution on 18 November 1997 prohibiting the Department of Defense from withdrawing or diminishing any ROTC program at one of the six senior military colleges, including VMI. This escape clause provided by Congress came after the VMI Board of Visitors had already voted 9–8 to admit women; the decision was not revisited.
In August 1997, VMI enrolled its first female cadets. The first co-ed class consisted of thirty women, and matriculated as part of the class of 2001. In order to accelerate VMI's matriculation process several women were allowed to transfer directly from various junior colleges, such as New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI), and forgo the traditional four-year curriculum that most cadets had been subjected to. The first female cadets "walked the stage" in 1999, although by VMI's definitions they are considered to be members of the class of 2001. Initially, these 30 women who were held to the same strict physical courses and technical training as the male cadets until it became apparent that adjustments to the standards had to be made.[according to whom?] VMI resisted following other military colleges in adopting "gender-normed" physical training standards until 2008 when it was listed as a goal in VMI's 2039 Strategic Plan. On 30 June 2008, gender-normed training standards were implemented for all female cadets.
Just as cadets did nearly 200 years ago, today's cadets give up such comforts as beds, instead lying upon cots colloquially referred to as "hays". These hays are little more than foam mats that must be rolled every morning and aired every Monday. Further, cadet uniforms have changed little; the coatee worn in parades dates to the War of 1812. New cadets, known as "Rats", experience even further deprivations from many "creature comforts" common to college life at other schools: they are not permitted to watch TV or listen to music outside of an academic setting. To this end, living conditions are considered more austere here than other service academies.
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During the first six months at VMI, New Cadets are called "Rats," the accepted term (since the 1850s) for a New Cadet. The VMI ratline is a tough, sometimes brutal, and old-fashioned indoctrination-system which dates back to the Institute's founding. All "Rats" refer to their classmates, male or female, as "Brother-Rats." The term "Brother Rat" is a term of endearment which lasts a lifetime amongst VMI graduates. Legend has it that when Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) students and VMI cadets drilled together in the 1830s, the students called the cadets "Rats" perhaps because of their gray uniforms. The cadets responded in kind calling the neighboring students "Minks" perhaps because many of them were from wealthy backgrounds. The purpose of the Ratline is to teach self-control, self-discipline, time-management, and followership as prerequisites for becoming a VMI cadet.
New freshmen, known collectively as the "Rat Mass", walk along a prescribed line in barracks while maintaining an exaggerated form of attention, called "straining". This experience, called the Rat Line, is intended by the upper classes to instill camaraderie, pride, and discipline into the incoming class. Under this system, the Rats face numerous mental and physical challenges, starting with "Hell Week." During Hell Week, Rats receive basic military instruction from select upper classmen ("Cadre"); they learn to march, to clean their M14 rifle, and to wear their uniforms. During Hell Week, Rats also meet the members of various cadet-run organizations and learn the functions of each.
At the end of the first week, each Rat is paired with a first classman (senior) who serves as their mentor for the rest of the first year. The first classman is called a "Dyke," reference to an older Southern pronunciation of "to deck out," or to get into a uniform. While the Dyke watches out for the Rat and the Rat works for the Dyke in accordance with Institute policy, Cadre still enforce all rules for the Rats. In combining the softness of the Dykes with the hardness of the system they lead, with countless push-ups, sweat parties, and runs, the Rats are instilled with the virtue of time management and attention to detail.
The Ratline experience culminates with Resurrection Week ending in "Breakout," an event where the Rats are formally "welcomed" to the VMI community. After the successful completion of Breakout, Rats are officially fourth class students and no longer have to strain in the barracks or eat "square meals." Many versions of the Breakout ceremony have been conducted. In the 1950s, Rats from each company would be packed into a corner room in the barracks and brawl their way out through the upperclassmen. From the late 1960s through the early 1980s the Rats had to fight their way up to the fourth level of the barracks through three other classes of cadets determined not to let them get to the top. The stoops would often be slick with motor oil, packed with snow, glazed with ice, greased, or continuously hosed with water. The barracks stairs and rails were not able to take the abuse, so the Corps moved the breakout to a muddy hill, where Rats attempt to climb to the top by crawling on their stomachs while the upper classes block them or drag them back down. The Rats no longer breakout in the mud but instead participate in a grueling day of physical activity testing both physical endurance and teamwork.
The entire body of Rats during the Ratline is called a "Rat Mass." Since Rats are not officially fourth classmen until after Breakout, the Rat Mass is also not officially considered a graduating class until that time either. Prior to Breakout, the Rat mass is given a different style of year identifier to emphasize this difference. The year identifier starts with the year of the current graduating class (their dykes' class), followed by a "+3" to indicate the anticipated year of their own class. For example, cadets that make up the Class of 2020 were considered the "Rat Mass of 2017+3" as the members of their dykes' class graduated in 2017 and they themselves will graduate three years onward from then.
In addition to the Ratline, VMI has other traditions that are emblematic of the school and its history including the new cadet oath ceremony, the pageantry of close-order marching, and the nightly playing of "Taps". An event second only to graduation in importance is the "Ring Figure" dance held every November. During their junior year, cadets receive class rings at a ring presentation ceremony followed by a formal dance. Most cadets get two rings, a formal ring and a combat ring; some choose to have the combat ring for everyday wear, and the formal for special occasions.
Every year, VMI honors its fallen cadets with a New Market Day parade and ceremony. These events take place on 15 May, the same day as the Battle of New Market in which the VMI cadets fought during the Civil War that was in 1864. During this ceremony, the roll is called for cadets who "died on the Field of Honor" and wreaths are placed on the graves of those who died during the Battle of New Market.
The requirement that all cadets wishing to eat dinner in the mess hall must be present for a prayer was the basis for a lawsuit in 2002 when two cadets sued VMI over the prayer said before dinner. The non-denominational prayer had been a daily fixture since the 1950s. In 2002 the Fourth Circuit ruled the prayer, during an event with mandatory attendance, at a state-funded school, violated the U.S. Constitution. When the Supreme Court declined to review the school's appeal in April 2004, the prayer tradition was stopped.
The tradition of guarding the Institute is one of the longest standing and is carried out to this day. Cadets have been posted as sentinels guarding the barracks 24 hours a day, seven days a week while school is in session since the first cadet sentinel, Cadet John B. Strange, and others relieved the Virginia Militia guard team tasked with defending the Lexington Arsenal (that later became VMI) in 1839. The guard team wears the traditional school uniform and each sentinel is armed with an M1 Grande rifle and bayonet.
VMI is known for its strict honor code, which is as old as the Institute and was formally codified in the early 20th century. Under the VMI Honor Code, "a cadet does not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do." There is only one punishment for violating the VMI Honor Code: immediate expulsion in the form of a drumming out ceremony of dismissal, in which the entire corps is awakened by drums in barracks and the honor court to hear the formal announcement. VMI is the only military college or academy in the Nation which maintains a single-sanction Honor Code and in recent times, the dismissed cadet is removed from post before the formal announcement is made.
Clubs and activities
VMI currently offers over 50 school-sponsored clubs and organizations, including recreational activities, military organizations, musical and performance groups, religious organizations and service groups. Although VMI prohibited cadet membership in fraternal organizations starting in 1885, VMI cadets were instrumental in starting several fraternities. Alpha Tau Omega fraternity was founded by VMI cadets Otis Allan Glazebrook, Alfred Marshall, and Erskine Mayo Ross at Richmond, Virginia on 11 September 1865 while the school was closed for reconstruction.
After the re-opening, Kappa Sigma Kappa fraternity was founded by cadets on 28 September 1867 and Sigma Nu fraternity was founded by cadets on 1 January 1869. VMI cadets formed the second chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order. In a special arrangement, graduating cadets may be nominated by Kappa Alpha Order alumni and inducted into the fraternity, becoming part of Kappa Alpha Order's Beta Commission (a commission as opposed to an active chapter). This occurs following graduation, and the newly initiated VMI alumni are accepted as brothers of the fraternity.
VMI fields 14 teams on the NCAA Division I level (FCS, formerly I-AA, for football). Varsity sports include baseball, basketball, men's and women's cross country, football, lacrosse, men's and women's rifle, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's swimming & diving, men's and women's track & field, and wrestling. VMI is a member of the Southern Conference (SoCon) for almost all sports, the MAAC for women's water polo, and the America East Conference for men's and women's swimming & diving. VMI formerly was a member of the Mid-Atlantic Rifle Conference for rifle, but began the 2016–2017 season as part of the Southern Conference. The VMI team name is the Keydets, a Southern style slang for the word "cadets".
VMI has the second-smallest NCAA Division I enrollment of any FCS football college, after Presbyterian College. Approximately one-third of the Corps of Cadets plays on at least one of VMI's intercollegiate athletic teams, making it one of the most active athletic programs in the country. Of the VMI varsity athletes who complete their eligibility, 92 percent receive their VMI degrees.
VMI played its first football game in 1871. The one-game season was a 4–2 loss to Washington and Lee University. There are no records of a coach or any players for that game. VMI waited another twenty years, until 1891, when head coach Walter Taylor would coach the next football team. The current head football coach at VMI, Scott Wachenheim, was named the 31st head coach on 14 December 2014. The Keydets play their home games out of Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium, built in 1962. VMI's last winning football season was in 1981.
Perhaps the most famous athletic story in VMI history was the two-year run of the 1976 and 1977 basketball teams. The 1976 squad advanced within one game of the Final Four before bowing to undefeated Rutgers in the East Regional Final, and in 1977 VMI finished with 26 wins and just four losses, still a school record, and reached the "Sweet 16" round of the NCAA tournament.
The current VMI basketball team is led by head coach Dan Earl and assistant coaches: Jason Slay, Steve Lepore and Chris Kreider.
VMI's alumni include the Governor of Virginia, a Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Pulitzer Prize winners, 13 Rhodes Scholars, Medal of Honor recipients, an Academy Award winner, an Emmy Award and Golden Globe winner, a martyr recognized by the Episcopal Church, Senators and Representatives, Governors, Lieutenant Governors, a Supreme Court Justice, numerous college and university presidents, many business leaders (presidents and CEOs) and over 270 general and flag officers, including service chiefs for three of the four armed services.
Two recent Chiefs of Engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lieutenant Generals Carl A. Strock and Robert B. Flowers, as well as Acting Chief of Engineers Major General "Bo" Temple, were VMI Civil Engineering graduates.
|Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller||1922||Resigned from VMI after freshman year to enlist as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1918; became lieutenant general and most decorated Marine in U.S. history|
|Edward M. Almond||1915||Commander of U.S. Army X Corps during Korean War|
|Mel Brooks||Did not graduate||During World War II, the U.S. Army used VMI to give technical education and training to soldiers who did not matriculate as cadets nor live within the VMI cadet system. Before becoming a filmmaker, he trained at VMI for 12 weeks.|
|James E. Brown III||1976||Fellow and past president of Society of Experimental Test Pilots and Fellow of Royal Aeronautical Society|
|William A. Brown||1980||U.S. Navy vice admiral, Deputy Commander Commander, United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM)|
|Josiah Bunting III||1963||Superintendent of VMI, 1995–2002; Rhodes Scholar; author|
|Withers Burress||1914||Professor of Military Science and Tactics at VMI; Commanding General, U.S. Army 100th Infantry Division|
|Harry F. Byrd, Jr.||1935||Senator from Virginia (1965–83)|
|Richard E. Byrd||1908||U.S. Navy rear admiral, polar explorer, Medal of Honor recipient (1926)|
|Tom C. Clark||1921||Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1949–67), United States Attorney General (1945–49)|
|Dabney Coleman||1949||Movie and television actor|
|Harold Coyle||1974||U.S. Army major; novelist|
|Charles Allen Culberson||1874||U.S. Senator; Governor of Texas|
|Samuel C. Cumming||1917||Decorated USMC Major General during World War II|
|Jonathan Myrick Daniels||1961||American civil rights activist and one of fifteen modern-day Anglican Church martyrs|
|James U. Downs||1963||Senior resident superior court judge in western North Carolina, 1983–2013; lawyer in Hickory and Franklin, North Carolina|
|Richard Thomas Walker Duke||1844||Confederate Colonel; Member of U.S. House of Representatives and Virginia House of Delegates|
|Edward Edmonds||1858||Confederate Colonel of the 38th Virginia Infantry, killed-in-action during Pickett's Charge|
|John D. Ewing||1913||Publisher of Shreveport Times, 1931–52|
|Benjamin Franklin Ficklin||1849||A founder of the Pony Express|
|Robert Flowers||1969||Lieutenant general and Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers|
|Lee S. Gerow||1913||Brigadier General, U.S. Army; Assistant Commanding General of the 85th Infantry Division. A younger brother of General Leonard T. Gerow.|
|Leonard T. Gerow||1911||General, U.S. Army; Commanding General, V Corps (1943–45) and U.S. Fifteenth Army (1945–48). Highly regarded by Eisenhower & Bradley. Led at Omaha Beach and Battle of the Bulge.|
|Ryan Glynn||1995||Professional baseball player in Japan|
|Billy Guin||1949||Pioneer of the Louisiana Republican Party from Shreveport, Louisiana|
|George W. Hardy, Jr.||1920||Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana (1932–34); state circuit court of appeal judge (1943–67)|
|James B. Hickey||1982||Colonel and commander Operation Red Dawn, which captured Saddam Hussein|
|Timothy Johnson||2005||Yearbook advisor at Midlothian High School in Chesterfield County, Virginia.|
|Thomas Goode Jones||1863||Withdrew before graduation to join Confederate Army; wounded in battle four times; Governor of Alabama.|
|John P. Jumper||1966||Retired general and Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force|
|Charles E. Kilbourne||1894||Recipient of Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross; lieutenant general, U.S. Army|
|James H. Lane||1854||Confederate brigadier general, fought in Pickett's Charge, civil engineering professor, and founder of Virginia Tech|
|W. Patrick Lang||1962||Retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer, intelligence executive, commentator on Middle East, and author|
|Cary D. Langhorne||1894||Medal of Honor recipient|
|Dan Lyle||1992||Captain of the USA Eagles national rugby team|
|William Mahone||1847||Confederate major general, Member of Virginia House of Delegates, U.S. Senator (1881–87), and railroad executive|
|George Marshall||1901||General of the Army, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army in World War II, Secretary of State (1947–49), Secretary of Defense (1950), and Nobel Peace Prize winner|
|Richard Marshall||1915||General during World War II|
|Robert Q. Marston||1944||President of University of Florida, Director of National Institutes of Health, Rhodes Scholar|
|Frank McCarthy||1933||Brigadier general, U.S. Army Reserve. Producer of the 1970 Academy Award-winning movie Patton.|
|John McCausland||1857||Confederate brigadier-general, served under General Jubal Early|
|Darren W. McDew||1982||General, U.S. Air Force, Commander, United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM). 1st African-American Regimental Commander of Corps of Cadets.|
|Marshall McDonald||1860||U.S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries (1888–95)|
|Shannon Meehan||2005||U.S. Army Captain, Bronze Star Medal recipient, author and veterans activist|
|Giles H. Miller||1924||Banker, President of VMI Alumni Association, Director of The George C. Marshall Foundation|
|John Cherry Monks, Jr.||1932||Playwright, actor, author, screenwriter, producer and World War II U.S. Marine|
|Thomas T. Munford||1854||Confederate brigadier-general|
|Ralph Northam||1981||U.S. Army Medical Corps major, Virginia State Senator, 40th Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, and 73rd Governor of Virginia|
|Randolph McCall Pate||1921||U.S. Marine Corps general and twenty-first Commandant of the Marine Corps|
|George S. Patton, Sr||1852||Confederate colonel, 22nd Virginia Infantry; died in Battle of Opequon; grandfather of Gen. George Smith Patton Jr.|
|George Patton||1907||His father and grandfather were both VMI graduates. Left VMI in 1904, to attend and graduate from West Point.|
|Lewis F. Payne, Jr.||1967||Member of Congress from Virginia|
|Richard H. Pearce||1953||Highest-ranking U.S. military officer to defect during the Cold War era|
|J. H. Binford Peay III||1962||U.S. Army general, commander 101st Airborne, commander United States Central Command, and 14th superintendent of VMI|
|Thomas F. Riley||1935||Brigadier general in the Marine Corps, served as Inspector General of the Marine Corps. Following his retirement, he served as Orange County Supervisor 1974-1994.|
|Robert E. Rodes||1848||Railroad civil engineer and Confederate major general killed at the Battle of Opequon in the Shenandoah Valley|
|Bobby Ross||1959||Football coach of West Point, The Citadel, University of Maryland, Georgia Tech, San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions|
|Edward R. Schowalter, Jr.||1951||Medal of Honor recipient; colonel, U.S. Army|
|George R. E. Shell||1931||Ninth Superintendent of VMI; Brigadier general, U.S. Marine Corps|
|Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr.||1917||U.S. Marine Corps general and 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps|
|Scott Shipp||1856||Superintendent of VMI (1890–1907). Led VMI cadets at New Market under Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge.|
|Henry G. Shirley||1896||Commissioner, Virginia Department of Highways|
|Joseph Short||1925||White House Press Secretary under Harry S. Truman|
|C. Bascom Slemp||1891||Representative for the Ninth Congressional District of Virginia; philanthropist|
|George Stallings||1886||Major League Baseball player and manager|
|Adolphus Staton||1899||Medal of Honor recipient|
|Carl A. Strock||1970||U.S. Army lieutenant general and commander, Army Corps of Engineers|
|Clarence E. Sutton||1890||Medal of Honor recipient|
|Sun Li-jen||1927||Republic of China/Taiwan lieutenant general, Second Sino-Japanese War and Chinese Civil War|
|Walter H. Taylor||1857||Confederate lieutenant colonel, General Robert E. Lee's aide-de-camp, lawyer, banker, author, railroad executive, Virginia state senator|
|Bobby Thomason||1949||NFL Pro Bowl quarterback|
|Ernest O. Thompson||1910||General, Texas National Guard; Texas Railroad Commissioner, mayor of Amarillo, petroleum expert|
|William P. Upshur||1902||Medal of Honor recipient; Marine Corps major general; Commander, Dept. of the Pacific, 1940–42|
|James A. Walker||1852||Expelled in 1852 for "disobedience" in Stonewall Jackson's classroom, after challenging Jackson to a duel over a perceived insult. VMI granted him an honorary degree in 1872 in recognition of his Civil War service, where he rose to the rank of brigadier general and commanded the "Stonewall Brigade".|
|Reuben Lindsay Walker||1845||Confederate brigadier general and artilleryman.|
|Fred Willard||1955||Comedic actor; U.S. Army officer|
|Jonathan Edwards Woodbridge||1865||Shipbuilder and naval architect|
|Reggie Williams||2008||Led NCAA Division 1 scoring in 2006 and 2007, playing for the Miami Heat in the NBA|
A 2007 study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers found that VMI's $343 million endowment was the largest per-student endowment of any U.S. public college in the United States.[verification needed] 35.4 percent of the approximately 12,300 living alumni gave in 2006. Private support covers more than 31 percent of VMI's operating budget; state funds, 26 percent.
In popular culture
- In Ernest Hemingway's novel Across the River and Into the Trees, the protagonist is Army Colonel Richard Cantwell, a fictional graduate of VMI. Some critics have said that Cantwell was a very autobiographical character.
- Ronald Reagan starred in the films Brother Rat and Brother Rat and a Baby, which were filmed at VMI. Originally a Broadway hit, the play was written by John Monks Jr. and Fred F. Finklehoffe, both 1932 graduates of VMI.
- In the 1943 Wake Island (film), Major Caton (a fictionalized Major James Devereaux, Marine Commander) tells Mr. McClosky (head contractor) that he was VMI Class of ’28, just prior to the final Japanese assault at the end of the film.
- Both the novel and film Gods and Generals depict Stonewall Jackson teaching at VMI before Virginia secedes. The film also depicts Jackson's funeral at VMI.
- In 2014, the film Field of Lost Shoes premiered in Richmond to the Corps of Cadets and the cast. The film depicts the battle of New Market in 1864. VMI now owns and operates this historical battlefield museum and site.
- Also in 2014, Class of 1983 graduate Lynn Seldon published his novel about VMI, Virginia's Ring. The novel was inspired in part by conversation with famed author and graduate of The Citadel, Pat Conroy. Like Conroy's The Lords of Discipline, Virginia's Ring is significantly based off the writer's own experiences at the subject military college and features a protagonist who graduates around the same year that the author did.
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- "ACLU Files Lawsuit to Stop Coerced Prayers at Virginia Military Institute". Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- Josiah Bunting, III, and J. H. Binford Peay, III, Superintendent, Virginia Military Institute v. Neil J. Mellen and Paul S. Knick, 03-863 Stevens, J., (p. 1) (Supreme Court of the United States 26 April 2004) ("In sum, we have before us in this petition a constitutional issue of considerable consequence on which the Courts of Appeals are in disagreement.").
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Our Commission system allows for men to be elected and initiated into Kappa Alpha Order if they are graduating seniors, graduates, faculty, staff or administrators.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Virginia Military Institute.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia article Virginia Military Institute.|
- Official website
- VMI Athletics website
- Wikisource:Virginia Military Institute—Building and Rebuilding Virginia Military Institute Building and Rebuilding.
- Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Virginia Military Institute". Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company.