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Virginia Military Institute

Seal of the Virginia Military Institute
Motto (1) In Pace Decus, In Bello Praesidium[2]
(2) Consilio et Animis[2]
(3) Virginiae Fidem Praesto[2]
Motto in English (1) "In Peace a Glorious Asset, In War a Tower of Strength"[2]
(2) "By wisdom and courage"[2]
(3) "Faithful to Virginia"[2]
Established 11 November 1839
Type Senior Military College (Public military college)
Endowment US$330.2 million[3]
Chairman Thomas G. Slater, Jr (President of Board of Visitors)
Superintendent General J. H. Binford Peay III, US Army (ret), Former Vice Chief-of-Staff, US Army
Provost Brigadier General R. Wane Schneiter
Dean Brigadier General R. Wane Schneiter
Commandant Thomas Trumps, Colonel, US Army (ret)
Faculty 145
Students 1,378[4]
Undergraduates 1,378
Location Lexington, Virginia, US
37°47′25″N 79°26′19″W / 37.790278°N 79.438611°W / 37.790278; -79.438611
Campus Urban, 134 acres (54.22 ha)
Accreditation and Curriculum Approval Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, American Chemical Society, and Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
Sports Baseball, Basketball, Men's Cross Country, Women's Cross Country, Football, Lacrosse, Rifle, Men's Soccer, Women's Soccer, Men's Swimming & Diving, Women's Swimming & Diving, Men's Track & Field, Women's Track & Field, Wrestling
Colors Red, White, and Yellow                  
Nickname Keydets
Mascot Moe the Kangaroo
Athletics NCAA Division I, Football Championship Subdivision, Big South Conference
Affiliations American Council on Education, Association of American Colleges and Universities, College Board, and Association of Virginia Colleges
logo of the Virginia Military Institute

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI), located in Lexington, Virginia, is the oldest state-supported military college and one of six senior military colleges in the United States.[5] Unlike any other state military college in the United States, all VMI students are military cadets. VMI offers cadets a spartan, physically demanding environment combined with strict military discipline. VMI offers bachelor's degrees in 14 disciplines in the fields of engineering, science, and the liberal arts.

Although VMI has been called the "West Point of the South,"[6] it differs from the federal service academies in several respects. For example, while all VMI cadets must participate in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), they are not required to serve in the military upon graduation. Instead, VMI graduates may either accept a commission in any of the US military branches or pursue civilian endeavors upon graduation.

VMI's Mission Statement:

It is the mission of the Virginia Military Institute to produce educated and honorable men and women, prepared for the varied work of civil life, imbued with love of learning, confident in the functions and attitudes of leadership, possessing a high sense of public service, advocates of the American Democracy and free enterprise system, and ready as citizen-soldiers to defend their country in time of national peril.




Early history

On November 11, 1839 the Virginia Military Institute was founded on the site of the Lexington state arsenal, and the first Cadets relieved personnel on duty. Under Major General Francis Henney Smith, superintendent, and Colonel Claudius Crozet, president of the Board of Visitors, the Corps was imbued with the discipline and the spirit for which it is famous. The first cadet to march a sentinel post was Private John Strange in 1839. With few exceptions, there have been sentinels posted at VMI twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, during the school year, since Strange's posting nearly 170 years ago.

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 then-Major Jackson 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

The Institute played a valuable part in the training of the Southern armies as well as participation as a unit in actual battles. VMI cadets were called into active military service on 14 different occasions during the American Civil War and many cadets, under the leadership of General Stonewall Jackson, were sent to Camp Lee, at Richmond, to train recruits. 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.[7] At the Battle of Chancellorsville, Stonewall Jackson was reported to say, "The Institute will be heard from today," commenting on the leadership provided by VMI alumni during the battle.

On May 15, 1864 VMI cadets fought as an independent unit at the Battle of New Market.[8] VMI is the only military college or academy in the United States to hold this distinction and is therefore the only military college or academy authorized to fix bayonets and wear red during formal parade. The cadets who fought that day ranged in age from 14 to 22, though through the years claims of cadets as young as 12 fighting have been made.[9] 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. VMI suffered fifty-two casualties with ten cadets killed in action and forty-two wounded. The cadets were led into battle by 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.

On June 12, 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 October 17, 1865.[10] One of the reasons that Confederate General Jubal A. Early burned the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania was in retaliation for the shelling of VMI.[11] 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.

World War II

VMI produced some of America's most significant commanders in World War II. The most important of these was undoubtedly 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 Vice 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 and various Corps and Division commanders in the Army and Marine Corps.

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. Only three of the fourteen superintendents were not graduates of VMI.

  1. Francis H. Smith (1839-1889)
  2. Scott Shipp (1890-1907)[12]
  3. Edward W. Nichols (1907-1924)
  4. William H. Cocke (1924-1929)
  5. John A. Lejeune (1929-1937) [13]
  6. Charles E. Kilbourne (1937-1946) [14]
  7. Richard J. Marshall (1946-1952)
  8. William H. Milton, Jr. (1952-1960)
  9. George R. E. Shell (1960-1971)
  10. Richard L. Irby (1971-1981)
  11. Sam S. Walker (1981-1988)
  12. John W. Knapp (1989-1995)
  13. Josiah Bunting III (1995-2002)
  14. J. H. Binford Peay III (2003-present)
Virginia Military Institute Campus

The VMI campus covers 134 acres, 12 of which are designated as the Virginia Military Institute Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The campus is referred to as the "Post." 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 designated a National Historic Landmark, stands on the site of the old arsenal. 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 is under construction on the site of the former visitor's center. The four arched entries into the barracks are named for George Washington, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, George Marshall and Jonathan Daniels. 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 Barnes & Noble-operated bookstore.

VMI's campus continued with construction due to the "Vision 2039" program. Under this capital campaign, VMI's alumni and supporters raised over $275 million over three years. The Barracks are being expanded to house 1,500 cadets, all academic buildings are being renovated and modernized, and VMI is spending an additional $200 million to build the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics. The new Leadership Center will be used by VMI cadets, Washington and Lee University students, and other students throughout the country and abroad to develop leadership abilities combined with a focus on integrity and honor to benefit tomorrow's world. The Center will also be home to VMI's Distinguished Speaker Series and its Leadership Symposia. The funding will also support "study abroad" programs including joint ventures with Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England and many other universities.

Academic programs

VMI's academic programs are grouped into four areas: 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.[15] Two recent Chiefs of Engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lieutenant Generals Carl A. Strock and Robert B. Flowers, were VMI Engineering graduates.[16] VMI offers 14 major and 22 minor areas of study,[17] with the majority of classes taught by full-time professors, 96 percent of whom hold Ph.D.s.[15] 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.[18]

The scholarly achievements of VMI cadets and alumni are significant. A strikingly large number of graduates go on to attend graduate and professional schools. VMI has produced more Rhodes Scholars per graduate than any state college or university in the United States and more than all other Senior Military Colleges combined. It has graduated 11 Rhodes Scholars since 1921 and 2 in the last six years. The most recent VMI Rhodes Scholar, Gregory Lippiatt, was named in 2009 [19][20][21] In 2007, VMI had two Rhodes Scholarship finalists and one Marshall Scholarship finalist.[22]



In 2009 VMI ranked third, after the United States Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy, in the US News and World Report rankings of the 27 top public liberal arts colleges in the United States.[23] There is some question as to whether or not the service academies should be rated in competition with colleges that are not fully funded with U.S. government appropriated funds. Compared to the top US liberal arts colleges, public and private, VMI ranked 71st out of 122 (including ties) in the top tier of schools.[24]

Also for 2009, US News ranked VMI's Civil Engineering program seventh,[25] its Mechanical Engineering program 14th,[26] 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)."[27][28] 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.[29]

Forbes' 2008 Special Report on America's Best Colleges ranked VMI in the top 10 Public Universities in the Nation, well ahead of any other Senior Military College in the country. VMI was ranked 9th in the "Top 25 Publics" section, just behind the United States Military Academy, the Air Force Academy, and the Naval Academy, but ahead of such schools as UCLA, the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.[30] Overall, VMI ranked 108th out of the 569 colleges and universities evaluated.[31]

VMI was the only state military college in the country named a "College of Distinction" in 2007 by Student Horizons, Inc.[32] 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.[33]

Alumni giving

VMI is known for the financial support of its alumni—in a 2007 study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, VMI's $343 million endowment at the time was the largest per-student endowment of any public undergraduate college in the United States.[34] As of December 2007, VMI's current endowment of over $343,516,000 is the largest per-capita endowment of any public college in the United States.[35] 36.2 percent of the approximately 12,500 living alumni gave in 2007.[36] Private support constitutes more than 31 percent VMI's operating budget, as compared with 26 percent from state funds.


Of the 1251 students enrolled in 2005, 66 were African-American, 39 were Asian, 34 were Hispanic and 71 were women.[citation needed] Of 446 students that matriculated in August 2008, 39 were women.[37] 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 currently a US Air Force major general and vice-commander of the Eighteenth Air Force at Scott Air Force Base. It is unknown when the first Muslim cadet graduated from VMI, but in 1978 the first known Iranian cadet named Darius Pishdad graduated from VMI. Before the Iranian Revolution, under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, several Persian cadets attended and graduated from VMI.

VMI has traditionally enrolled cadets from the armed forces of Thailand and the Republic of China (Taiwan). Graduates have gone on to pursue graduate degrees after VMI at prestigious universities throughout the United States before returning to their countries to continue their military service. Several graduates reached general and flag officer ranks. During the 1990s many other nations were represented in the Corps of Cadets, including Great Britain, Bangladesh, Finland, Botswana, Germany, Kenya, South Korea, Indonesia, and Japan. Gregory E. Lippiatt '09 of York, PA was chosen as VMI's eleventh Rhodes Scholar in 2008.

Admission of women

VMI was the last US military college to admit women. VMI excluded women from the Corps of Cadets until 1997. In 1990 the US 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.[38]

After VMI won its case in US District Court, the case went through several appeals until June 26, 1996, when the US 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 F.Y. 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 November 18, 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 8-7 to admit women and 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 (NMI), 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. VMI resisted following other military colleges in adopting "gender-normed" physical training standards until the situation became impractical and now [39] gender norming has become a goal of VMI in its 2039 Strategic Plan.[40] On June 30, 2008, gender normed standards were implemented for all female cadets.[41] Female Rats are required to maintain a short haircut of approximately four inches or less and are forbidden to wear makeup or jewelry.

Student life

Daily life at VMI is highly demanding. VMI is an extremely traditional and old-fashioned military college. Today, as nearly 200 years ago, students at VMI sleep on cots for their entire cadetship. Additionally, televisions, telephones, posters, and civilian clothes are not allowed in cadets' rooms. VMI cadets wear uniforms every day and eat their meals together in a mess hall. In many ways, life at VMI today is little changed from life at VMI in 1839.

Athletics at VMI is not a spectator affair. A common refrain at VMI is that every cadet is an athlete. Nearly 40% of the Corps of Cadets compete on intercollegiate athletic teams. All cadets must complete the Rat Challenge, compete in intramural (or intercollegiate) atletics, maintain an aerobic workout regimen as well as take mandatory physical education courses such as boxing, swimming and wrestling/self-defense, etc.

Potential students must be between 16 to 22 years of age. They must be unmarried, 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. New cadets at VMI have an average high school GPA of 3.39 and a mean SAT score of approximately 1140.[42]

Eligibility is not restricted to Virginia residents, although it is more difficult to gain an appointment as a non-resident, as VMI has a goal that no more than 45 percent of cadets come from outside Virginia.[43] VMI has graduated students from across the US and from many other countries. 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 is approximately $17,000 for Virginia residents and $34,000 for all others.[44] These fees can be misleading, because VMI's endowment enables VMI to meet a substantial amount of a cadets's financial need before the cadet needs loans.


The new cadet, known as a "Rat", walks a prescribed line in barracks while in an exaggerated form of attention known as "straining". The Rat experience, called the Ratline, is among the toughest and most grueling initiation programs in the country. The ratline is intended to instill pride, discipline, brotherhood, and a sense of honor in the students. A Rat faces many mental and physical challenges throughout the Ratline. After having their heads shaved bald (or cut very short for female cadets), the Rats undergo their first "Hell Week" in a long year of intense military and physical training. The initial week is a crash course in everything VMI: how to wear every uniform, how to march, how to clean an M-14 rifle, etc.

Once the first week is complete, life continues to get tougher as Rats await the arrival of the returning students, the "Old Corps". 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 phrase "to dyke out", or to get into a uniform. This arose from a pair of cadets helping each other get into the full parade dress uniform, which includes white pants or ducks, a full dress coatee, belt and leather cartridge box, a military dress shako, and several large web belts, or "cross dykes", that are extremely difficult to don alone, along with a school-issued M-14 rifle. Cadet officers and noncommissioned officers have the privilege of bearing a sash and sabre, while the Institute's regimental band carries instruments for parades and formal functions. During the freshman year, Rats continue to undergo training from the most highly skilled cadets at VMI, known as "the Cadre". The Cadre enforces all rules as the Rats live a life of "sweat parties", early morning runs, late night runs, and countless push-ups. It is hoped they will learn to think under pressure and focus on a team approach to solving challenges.

The Ratline experience culminates with Resurrection Week ending in "Breakout", an event during the second semester where the Rats are formally welcomed to the VMI community. After break out, rats are officially fourth class students and no longer have to strain in the barracks or eat "square meals" at attention. 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. As of 2004 the Rats no longer breakout in the mud but instead participate in a grueling day of physical activity testing both physical endurance and team work. The entire body of Rats during the Ratline is called a "Rat mass." Since the Rats of the Rat mass are not officially fourth class students until 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 anticipated Breakout followed by a "+3" to indicate the anticipated year of graduation. For example, rats which will make up the prospective Class of 2013 would be considered to be in the "Rat mass of 2010+3" as the members of that rat mass will graduate in 2010 and they will graduate three years after them.


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 pagentry 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.[45] 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 in 1864. During this ceremony, 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 eat in the mess hall 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.[46][47][48] In 2002 the Fourth Circuit ruled the prayer, during an event with mandatory attendance, at a state-funded school, violated the US Constitution. When the Supreme Court declined to review the school's appeal in April 2004, the prayer tradition was stopped.[49]

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 M-14 rifle and bayonet. [50]

Honor code

VMI is known for its strict honor code, which is as old as the Institute and was formally codified in the early 20th century.[51] Under the VMI Honor Code, "a cadet does not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do."[51] There is only one punishment for violating the VMI Honor Code: immediate expulsion in the form of a drumming out ceremony of dismissal. [52]

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.[53][54] 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 Allen Glazebrook, Alfred Marshall, and Erskine Mayo Ross at Richmond, Virginia on September 11, 1865 while the school was closed for reconstruction.

After the re-opening, Kappa Sigma Kappa fraternity was founded by cadets on September 28, 1867 and Sigma Nu fraternity was founded by cadets on January 1, 1869.[51] VMI cadets formed the second chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity.[55] 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. [56]

Military service

As of 2006, VMI has graduated 265 General Officers and Flag Officers, more than any other college in the United States, except for West Point and Annapolis.[57][58] Among its most distinguished military alumni are the first five-star General of the Army, George Marshall;[59] seven recipients of the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government, the Medal of Honor; more than 80 recipients of the second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross;[60] and nine four-star generals, again, more than any other college in the United States excluding the federal service academies. VMI offers ROTC programs for four US military branches (Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force).[61] While four years of ROTC is a requirement for all cadets, accepting a commission in the armed forces is optional. The VMI Board of Visitors has set a goal of having 70 percent of VMI cadets take a commission by 2015.[62] The VMI class of 2008 achieved a 52.8 percent commissioning rate.[41] Of the total of 127 cadets who commissioned in 2008, 63 commissioned in the Army, 11 commissioned in the Navy, 26 commissioned in the Marine Corps, and 27 commissioned in the Air Force.[63]

The table below lists all United States Generals (four-star) who graduated from VMI (The table does not include four-star Alumni of the Institute who attended VMI but graduated elsewhere, such as Generals Patton and Walker. Nor does the table include the many graduates of VMI who attained the rank of four star general in military service to foreign nations such as Thailand, China, and Taiwan):

Name VMI Class Branch of Service Date of Four-Star Rank Notes
George Marshall 1901 Army September 1, 1939
  • 10th four-star General in US Army history
  • 1st non-USMA four-star General
  • Chief of Staff, US Army, 1939-1945
  • Promoted to be 1st General of the Army (five stars), December 16, 1944
  • Special Representative of the President in China, 1945-1947
  • US Secretary of State, 1947-1949
  • President, American Red Cross, 1949-1950
  • US Secretary of Defense, 1950-1951
  • Congressional Gold Medal, 1946
  • Nobel Peace Prize, 1953
Thomas T. Handy 1916 Army March 13, 1945
  • 22nd four-star General in US Army history
  • Deputy Chief of Staff, US Army, 1944-1947
  • Commanding General, Fourth Army, 1947-1949
  • Commander in Chief, European Command, 1949-1952
  • Commander in Chief, US Army Europe/Commander, Central Army Group, 1952
  • Deputy Commander in Chief, US European Command, 1952-1954
Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. 1917 USMC January 1, 1952
  • 3rd four-star General in USMC history
  • Commandant, US Marine Corps, 1952-1955
  • Chairman, Inter-American Defense Board, 1956-1959
Leonard T. Gerow 1911 Army July 19, 1954
  • Commanding General V Corps 1943-1945: Omaha Beach, Normandy Campaign, Liberation of France, Battle of the Bulge; Commanding General US 15th Army, 1945-46.
Randolph M. Pate 1921 USMC January 1, 1956
  • 4th four-star General in USMC history
  • Commandant, US Marine Corps, 1956-1959
Clark L. Ruffner 1924 Army March 1, 1960
  • 51st four-star General in US Army history
  • US Military Representative, NATO Military Committee, 1960-1962
David M. Maddox 1960 Army July 9, 1992
  • 149th four-star General in US Army history
  • Commander in Chief, US Army Europe/Commander, Central Army Group, 1992-1993
  • Commander in Chief, US Army Europe, 1993-1994
J. H. Binford Peay III 1962 Army March 26, 1993
  • 150th four-star General in US Army history
  • Vice Chief of Staff, US Army, 1993-1994
  • Commander in Chief, US Central Command, 1994-1997
  • Superintendent, Virginia Military Institute, 2003-present
John P. Jumper 1966 Air Force November 17, 1997
  • 152nd four-star General in US Air Force history
  • Commander in Chief, US Air Forces in Europe/Commander, Allied Air Forces Central Europe, 1997-2000
  • Commander, Air Combat Command, 2000-2001
  • Chief of Staff, US Air Force, 2001-2005


Optimized image bcdb8d27.png

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, 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 Big South, the Southern (for wrestling), and the Metro Atlantic Athletic (for lacrosse) conferences. The VMI team name is the Keydets, a Southern style slang for the word "cadets".

VMI has the third-smallest enrollment of any FCS football college, after Presbyterian and Wofford.[64] 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 diplomas.[65]


Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium

VMI played its first football game in 1871. The one-game season was a 2-4 loss to Washington and Lee University. There are no records of a coach or any players for that game.[66] VMI waited another twenty years, until 1891, when head coach Walter Taylor would coach the next football team.[67] The current head football coach at VMI, Sparky Woods, was named the 30th head coach on February 13, 2008.[68] The Keydets play their home games out of Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium, built in 1962.

Men's basketball

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 Dugger Baucom and associate head coach Daniel Willis. On the court, the team is led by senior twins Chavis and Travis Holmes taking the Keydets to the Big South Conference Championship game. The twins are the highest scoring twins in NCAA men's basketball history and they interviewed with many national news sources on the uniqueness of life at VMI including The New York Times.[69]

Notable Alumni

VMI's alumni include a Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Rhodes Scholars, Medal of Honor recipients, US Senators and Representatives, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, college and university presidents, and many business leaders.

Name Year Notes
Edward M. Almond 1915 Lieutenant General, US Army, CG 92nd Division WW2, CG 10th US Corps Korean War
Josiah Bunting III 1963 Superintendent of VMI, 1995-2002; Rhodes Scholar; Author
Withers Burress 1914 Lieutenant General, US Army, CG 100th Division, VI Corps, US First Army
Harry F. Byrd, Jr. 1935 US Senator (1965–1983)
Harold Coyle 1974 US Army Major and Novelist
Jonathan Myrick Daniels 1961 American civil rights activist and one of fifteen modern-day martyrs listed by the Anglican Church
Daniel J. Darnell 1975 USAF lieutenant general, former commander and lead pilot of USAF’s aerial demonstration team, The Thunderbirds
Richard Thomas Walker Duke 1844 US congressman from Virginia, member of the Virginia House of Delegates, colonel in the Confederate States Army
Harry Watkey Easterly, Jr. 1945 President of the USGA and first Executive Director
John D. Ewing 1913 Publisher of Shreveport Times, 1931-1952
Benjamin Franklin Ficklin 1849 A founder of the Pony Express
Robert Flowers 1969 US Army lieutenant general and commander, Army Corps of Engineers
Leonard T. Gerow 1911 General, US Army; Commanding General, V Corps: Omaha Beach, Battle of the Bulge and European Campaign, July 1943 - January 1945; Commanding General, US Fifteenth Army, February 1945 - June 1948. A somewhat self-effacing general, Gerow was ranked by both Eisenhower and Bradley as one of the top U.S. field commanders of the war.[70][71] He is given significant credit by historians for his performance at Omaha beach and for quickly establishing a critical defensive position with V Corps at Elsenborn Ridge during the Battle of the Bulge.[72]
James B. Hickey 1982 US Army colonel who commanded Operation Red Dawn, the operation which captured Saddam Hussein
John P. Jumper 1966 Retired US Air Force general and former USAF Chief of Staff
Charles E. Kilbourne 1894 Medal of Honor recipient
James H. Lane 1854 Confederate Army brigadier general who fought in Pickett's Charge, civil engineering professor, and founder of Virginia Tech
W. Patrick Lang 1962 Retired US Army Special Forces Officer, US intelligence executive, commentator on the Middle East, and author
Cary D. Langhorne 1894 Medal of Honor recipient
William Mahone 1847 Confederate Army major general, member Virginia General Assembly, US Senator (1881–1887), and railroad executive
George Marshall 1901 General of the Army, Chief of Staff of the Army during World War II, US Secretary of State (1947–1949), US Secretary of Defense (1950), and Nobel Peace Prize winner for the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II
Richard Marshall 1915 US Army general during World War II
Robert Q. Marston 1944 President of the University of Florida, Director of the National Institutes of Health, Rhodes Scholar
Frank McCarthy 1933 Academy Award winning producer and Brigadier General, US Army Reserves
John McCausland 1857 Confederate Army Brigadier-General, serving under General Jubal Early
Darren W. McDew 1982 US Air Force Major General, Director of Public Affairs, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. General McDew was the first African-American Regimental Commander of the VMI Corps of Cadets
Giles H. Miller 1924 President and Chairman of the Board, Culpeper National Bank, 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 US Marine
Thomas T. Munford 1854 Confederate Army Brigadier-General
Randolph McCall Pate 1921 US Marine Corps general and twenty-first commandant of the Marine Corps
George Smith Patton 1852 Confederate Army colonel who served in the 22nd Virginia Infantry and died in the Battle of Opequon (the Third Battle of Winchester). Grandfather of namesake, General George Smith Patton Jr.
Lewis F. Payne, Jr. 1967 US congressman from Virginia
J. H. Binford Peay III 1962 US Army general, commander 101st Airborne, commander United States Central Command, and fourteenth superintendent of VMI
Robert E. Rodes 1848 Railroad civil engineer and a Confederate Army major general killed during the Battle of Opequon in the Shenandoah Valley
Bobby Ross 1959 Former head coach of the United States Military Academy, University of Maryland, College Park, Georgia Tech, the San Diego Chargers and the Detroit Lions football teams
Edward R. Schowalter, Jr. 1951 Medal of Honor recipient
Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. 1917 US Marine Corps general and twentieth commandant of the Marine Corps
Scott Shipp 1856 Superintendent of VMI from 1890-1907. Led the VMI Cadets in battle at the Battle of 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 US congressman from Virginia and Philanthropist
Adolphus Staton 1899 Medal of Honor recipient
Carl A. Strock 1970 US Army lieutenant general and commander, Army Corps of Engineers
Clarence E. Sutton 1890 Medal of Honor recipient
Sun Li-jen 1927 Kuomintang (KMT) Lieutenant General, Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, nicknamed "Rommel of the East"
Walter H. Taylor 1857 Confederate Army lieutenant colonel, chief aide-de-camp to General Robert E. Lee (1861–1865), lawyer, banker, author, railroad executive based in Norfolk, Virginia, and Senator in the Virginia General Assembly
Bobby Thomason 1949 Former NFL Pro Bowl quarterback
Ernest O. Thompson 1910 General, Texas National Guard; Texas Railroad Commissioner, mayor of Amarillo, expert on petroleum issues
William P. Upshur 1902 Medal of Honor recipient
Reuben Lindsay Walker 1845 Confederate Army brigadier general and one of the Confederacy's most noted artillerymen.[citation needed]


  • The protagonist in Ernest Hemingway's "Across the River and into the Trees" is Army Colonel Richard Cantwell, a VMI graduate. While not one of his best known works, many critics say that Cantwell is Hemingway's most autobiographical character. The title of the novel comes from Stonewall Jackson's last words which were "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."
  • James A. Walker was expelled in 1852 just before his graduation for "disobedience" in Stonewall Jackson's classroom. Cadet Walker had challenged 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".[73]
  • John Mercer Brooke, inventor of the Brooke Rifled Gun and worked on building the CSS Virginia ironclad. The Maury-Brooke Hall at VMI is named after him.
  • Richard E. Byrd, the US Navy rear admiral, polar explorer, and Medal of Honor awardee, studied at VMI for two years, from 1904 to 1906.[74]
  • The Cadet, the institute's student newspaper, has been run independently by cadets since 1907.
  • Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller resigned from VMI after his freshman year to enlist as a Private in the United States Marine Corps in August 1918. He retired as a Lieutenant General as the most decorated Marine in US history.
  • George Patton, like his father and grandfather who were both VMI graduates, studied at VMI. After leaving VMI, Patton graduated from West Point.
  • Major General John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was Superintendent of VMI from 1929 to 1937.
  • Ronald Reagan starred in the film, "Brother Rat" and "Brother Rat and a Baby", which were both filmed at VMI. Originally a Broadway hit, the play was written by John Monks Jr. and Fred F. Finklehoffe, both 1932 graduates of VMI.[75]
  • Mel Brooks, a famous comedic director, was a graduate of VMI. He later served as Corporal in the US Army during World War II
  • Steven J. McAuliffe, a federal judge in New Hampshire, VMI class of 1970, was the husband of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. She had his VMI ring with her on the shuttle. His Brother Rats replaced the ring.[76] Because of a special agreement between VMI and the suppliers of its ring, all VMI graduates are given a new ring if their original is ever lost or stolen.[citation needed]


Brent, P.T. (April 2004). "Lejeune, Lejern (How to say it)". Leatherneck Magazine.

  1. ^ "VMI Administrative and Professional Faculty Handbook"PDF
  2. ^ a b c d e f History of the VMI Coat of Arms, Motto, Seal & Spider Logo
  3. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. Retrieved March 12, 2010. 
  4. ^ Fall Headcount Enrollment
  5. ^ VMI Web site
  6. ^ Women in the Barracks
  7. ^ [1] VMI Archives
  8. ^ [2] VMI Museum web site
  9. ^ History/Background
  10. ^ [3] VMI Archives
  11. ^ The Burning of Chambersburg
  12. ^ VMI Website: VMI Superintendents, 1839-present
  13. ^ Also a Commandant of the Marine Corps
  14. ^ Medal of Honor recipient and the first American to earn all three of the United States' highest military decorations.
  15. ^ a b VMI web site
  16. ^ VMI web site
  17. ^ VMI web site
  18. ^ VMI web site
  19. ^ Virginia Military Institute
  20. ^ Listing of VMI Rhodes Scholars on VMI website
  21. ^ Texas A&M Rhodes Scholars
  22. ^ VMI web site
  23. ^ VMI retains U.S. News' rank as No. 3
  24. ^ Best Colleges 2009: Liberal Arts Rankings
  25. ^ Best Colleges 2009: Best Colleges Specialty Rankings: Undergraduate engineering specialties: Civil
  26. ^ Best Colleges 2009: Premium Online Edition: Best Colleges Specialty Rankings: Undergraduate engineering specialties: Mechanical
  27. ^ Mercer Ranked Among Top 10 Schools in the South for 10th Consecutive Year
  28. ^ Best Colleges 2009: Premium Online Edition: Best Colleges Specialty Rankings: Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
  29. ^ Best Colleges 2009: Premium Online Edition: Best Colleges: High School Counselor Rankings of Liberal Arts Colleges
  30. ^ America's Best Public Colleges -
  31. ^ America's Best Colleges -
  32. ^ Student Horizons Colleges of Distinction web site
  33. ^ Lankford, Kimberly (2006). Best Values in Public Colleges. Kiplinger's.
  34. ^ VMI Athletics and the VMI Keydet Club Website
  35. ^ 2008 NACUBO Study
  36. ^
  37. ^ 446 Matriculate at VMI
  38. ^ Cabe, Crista (1 March 2005). "MBC Celebrates VWIL's 10th Anniversary March 18, 2004". Mary Baldwin College web site.
  39. ^ showcontent
  40. ^ VMI Operational Plans and Progress Report 2008 Strategy 1-13
  41. ^ a b showcontent
  42. ^ [4]
  43. ^ Untitled Page
  44. ^ Financial Aid: Tuition and Fees: 2008-2009
  45. ^ [5] VMI Web site
  46. ^
  47. ^ ACLU Defends Prayer Ban at VMI
  48. ^ Supreme Court justices in sharp exchange over refusal to hear VMI prayer case
  49. ^ Untitled Page
  50. ^ John B. Strange, Class of 1842. The First Sentinel
  51. ^ a b c VMI History FAQ
  52. ^
  53. ^ VMI: Clubs and Organizations
  54. ^ VMI: Academic and Professional Societies
  55. ^ Our Kappa Alpha Heritage
  56. ^ [6]
  57. ^ The Official Website of VMI Athletics and the VMI Keydet Club
  58. ^ Virginia Military Institute
  59. ^ "VMI Profile". VMI Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  60. ^ ""Medal of Honor"". VMI Alumni Accomplishments. VMI Museum. Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  61. ^ "Corps of Cadets Program". Office of Admissions, VMI. Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  62. ^ Vision 2039 Focus on Leadership
  63. ^ Current Institute Report
  64. ^ The State | Homepage
  65. ^ VMI Athletic History - A Brief Look (9 August 2002). VMI web site.
  66. ^ Virginia Military Institute Game by Game Results
  67. ^ Virginia Military Institute Coaching Records
  68. ^ "VMI News Release on Hiring". Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  69. ^ Holmes Twins Pull a Fast One - The Quad Blog -
  70. ^ Eisenhowers Lieutenants, p. 758, n.6.
  71. ^ Eisenhower's Lieutenants, p.759.
  72. ^ Omaha Beach, Chapter 2, p.15
  73. ^
  74. ^ VMI Museum-Byrd
  75. ^
  76. ^ McAuliffe, SJ. Speech at the VMI class of 1994 ring ceremony

Further reading

External links


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