Virginia Military Institute

Coordinates: 37°47′24″N 79°26′24″W / 37.790°N 79.440°W / 37.790; -79.440
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Virginia Military Institute
MascotMoe the Kangaroo[7]
Websitevmi.edu
Virginia Military Institute is located in Shenandoah Valley
Virginia Military Institute
Location in Shenandoah Valley
Virginia Military Institute is located in Virginia
Virginia Military Institute
Location in Virginia

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a

senior military college in Lexington, Virginia. It was founded in 1839 as America's first state military college and is the oldest public senior military college in the United States. In keeping with its founding principles and unlike any other senior military college in the United States, VMI enrolls cadets only and awards bachelor's degrees exclusively. The institute grants degrees in 14 disciplines in engineering, science, and the liberal arts.[8]

While

federal military service academies in many regards. For example, as of 2019 VMI had a total enrollment of 1,722 cadets (as compared to 4,500 at the Academies) making it one of the smallest NCAA Division I schools in the United States. All VMI cadets must participate in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) of the United States Armed Forces programs, but are afforded the flexibility of pursuing civilian endeavors or accepting an officer's commission in the active or reserve components of one of the six U.S. military branches upon graduation.[11]
Approximately 65% of VMI graduates enter the military upon graduation, making it one of the largest producers of officers for the United States Army and Marine Corps each year.

Governance

The

Board of Visitors is the supervisory board[12] of the Virginia Military Institute.[13][14] 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.[14] The board appoints the superintendent and approves appointment of members of the faculty and staff on the recommendation of the superintendent.[14] The board may make bylaws and regulations for their own government and the management of the affairs of the institute,[15] and while the institute is exempt from the Administrative Process Act in accordance with Va. Code (which exempts educational institutions operated by the Commonwealth),[16] some of its regulations are codified at 8VAC 100. The Executive Committee conducts the business of the board during recesses.[13][17]

The board has 17 members, including ex officio the adjutant general of the Commonwealth of Virginia.[14] Regular members are appointed by the governor for a four-year term and may be reappointed once.[14] 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.[14] 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.[17]

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.[14] Current law makes provision for officers of the Virginia Militia to be subject to orders of the governor.[14] 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.[14][18]

History

Early history

VMI Campus lawn
Engraving of VMI, c. 1863

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. One of them was placed in Lexington. Residents came to resent the presence of the soldiers, whom they saw as drunken and undisciplined. In 1826, one guard beat another to death. Townspeople wanted to keep the arsenal, but sought a new way of guarding it, so as to eliminate the "undesirable element."[19][20] In 1834, the Franklin Society, a local literary and debate society, debated, "Would it be politic for the State to establish a military school, at the Arsenal, near Lexington, in connection with Washington College, on the plan of the West Point Academy?" They unanimously concluded that it would. Lexington attorney John Thomas Lewis Preston[21] became the most active advocate of the proposal. In a series of three anonymous letters in the Lexington Gazette in 1835, he proposed replacing the arsenal guard with students living under military discipline, receiving some military education, as well as a liberal education. The school's graduates would contribute to the development of the state and, should the need arise, provide trained officers for the state's militia.[19][22]

After a public relations campaign that included Preston meeting in person with influential business, military and political figures and many 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.[23][24][25]

The organizers of the planned school formed a board of visitors, which included Preston, and the board selected Claudius Crozet as their first president. Crozet had served as an engineer in Napoleon Bonaparte's army before immigrating to the United States. In America, he served as an engineering professor at West Point, as well as state engineer in Louisiana and mathematics professor at Jefferson College in Convent, Louisiana.[26] 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.[27]

Under Crozet's direction, the board of visitors crafted VMI's program of instruction, basing it off of those of the

École Polytechnique of Paris. So, instead of the mix of military and liberal education imagined by Preston, the board created a military and engineering school offering the most thorough engineering curriculum in America, outside of West Point.[28]

Preston was also tasked with hiring VMI's first Superintendent. He was persuaded that West Point graduate and former Army officer Francis Henney Smith, then professor of mathematics 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.[19]

After Smith agreed to accept the Superintendent's position, Preston applied to join the faculty, and was hired as Professor of Languages.[29] Classes began in 1839, and the first cadet to march a sentinel post was Private John Strange.[30] With few exceptions, there have been sentinels posted at VMI every hour of every day of the school year since November 11, 1839.

The Class of 1842 graduated 16 cadets. Living conditions were poor until 1850 when the cornerstone of the new

execution by hanging of John Brown at Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia
) in 1859.

Founding of the Virginia Military Institute Museum

In a letter dated February 27, 1845, addressed to William S. Beale, VMI Class of 1843,[31] Superintendent Francis H. Smith solicited items to create an Institute museum to inspire and educate cadets. Superintendent Smith accepted a donation of a Revolutionary War musket in 1856, thus establishing the first public museum in the Commonwealth of Virginia. On June 12, 1864, the museum was destroyed by General David Hunter, but reopened in 1870.[32] For the first 75 years the museum was a "special collection" administered by the VMI library,[33] a common model still in use by many colleges and universities. In the early 20th century, the collection was organized as a public resource and took the form of a modern museum.[34] In 1970 the VMI Museum was recognized as its own department, and was professionally accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

Today the VMI Museum System consists of the VMI Museum on the VMI Post, the Virginia Museum of the Civil War located at the 300-acre New Market Battlefield State Historical Park; and the Jackson House, interpreting the life of VMI Professor Thomas J. (later "Stonewall") Jackson and his household on the eve of Civil War.

Civil War period

VMI cadets and alumni played instrumental roles in the

Raleigh Colston, were VMI graduates as were more than twenty of his brigadiers and colonels.[36]

Stonewall Jackson

Battle of New Market

On May 14, 1864, the governor of Virginia called upon the cadets from VMI to participate in the American Civil War. After marching overnight 80 miles from Lexington to New Market, on May 15, 1864, 247 members of the VMI Corps of Cadets fought at the Battle of New Market. This event marks the only time in U.S. history wherein the student body of an operating college fought as an organized unit in pitched combat in battle (as recognized by the American Battlefield Trust).[37][38] This event was the 14th time VMI Cadets were called into action during the Civil War. The VMI battalion received an institutional battle streamer for its part in the battle of New Market, one of only five American institutions to be awarded such an honor.

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

Moses Ezekiel, a VMI graduate who was also wounded in the Battle of New Market.[39]

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."[40] The VMI cadets held the line and eventually pushed forward across an open muddy field, capturing a Union artillery emplacement, and securing victory for the Confederates. The Union troops were withdrawn and Confederate troops under General Breckinridge held the Shenandoah Valley.

Burning of the Institute

George C. Marshall statue

On June 12, 1864, Union forces, under the command of General

Jubal A. Early burned the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, was in retaliation for the destruction of VMI.[42]

Following the war,

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

five-star general and the only career military officer ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.[43] Winston Churchill dubbed Marshall the "Architect of Victory" and "the noblest 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.[44]

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.

Post-World War II

30 female students enrolled in 1997, cementing VMI's new status as a coeducational institution.[45]

On October 19, 2020, following an exposé in The Washington Post, Governor Ralph Northam and multiple other state officials wrote the VMI Board of Visitors that they had "deep concerns about the clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” at VMI.[46] They reported that they had received reports from students of a racist culture at VMI. The students reported a threat of lynching, attacks on social media, and a staff member promoting "an inaccurate and dangerous 'Lost Cause' version of Virginia's history."[47] The letter was signed by Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, State Senate President Louise Lucas, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Chairman of the Black Caucus Lamont Bagby.[47] Northam, a 1981 VMI alumnus, ordered a state-led investigation.[47]

VMI Honor Guard
VMI cannons in front of barracks

Six days later, on October 26, 2020, Superintendent Gen. J.H. Binford Peay tendered his resignation, saying in his resignation letter that he'd been told that Governor Northam and other state legislators had "lost confidence in my leadership" and "desired my resignation".[48][49] Three days later, the VMI Board of Visitors voted unanimously to remove from campus the statue of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson, a former VMI professor, and create a building and naming committee.[50] The school reaffirmed the statue's removal in December and began plans to relocated it to a Civil War museum located on a battlefield where a number of VMI cadets and alumni were killed or wounded.[51]

In October, the board also announced several diversity-related decisions: a diversity officer would be appointed, a diversity and inclusion committee would be created, and diversity initiatives created to include a focus on gender and the adoption of a diversity hiring plan.[50] Nine months later, a report into racial intolerance charged by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia was delivered. The independent report concluded that VMI "maintained and allowed a racist and sexist culture that, until recently, it had no appetite to address." The authors, employed by the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, also accused the institution's leadership, including its governing board, with an "unwillingness to change or even question its practices."[52]

Superintendents

Since 1839, VMI has had fifteen superintendents. Francis H. Smith was the first and the longest serving, filling the position for 50 years. Twelve of the fifteen superintendents were graduates of VMI.

  1. Francis H. Smith (1839–1889), United States Military Academy West Point Class of 1833
  2. Scott Shipp '59 (1890–1907), wounded while leading VMI cadets into the Battle of New Market[53]
  3. Edward W. Nichols '78 (1907–1924)
  4. William H. Cocke '94 (1924–1929)
  5. John A. Lejeune (1929–1937), United States Naval Academy Class of 1888, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps
  6. better source needed
    ]
  7. Richard J. Marshall '15 (1946–1952)
  8. William H. Milton Jr. '20 (1952–1960)
  9. George R. E. Shell '31 (1960–1971)
  10. Richard L. Irby '39 (1971–1981)
  11. Sam S. Walker (1981–1988), matriculated at VMI transferred to United States Military Academy West Point Class of 1946
  12. John W. Knapp '54 (1989–1995)
  13. Josiah Bunting III '63 (1995–2002)
  14. J. H. Binford Peay III '62 (2003–2020)
  15. Cedric T. Wins '85 (2021–present)

Campus

Virginia Military Institute Historic District
Virginia Military Institute is located in Virginia
Virginia Military Institute
Virginia Military Institute is located in the United States
Virginia Military Institute
LocationVMI campus, Lexington, Virginia
Area12 acres (4.9 ha)
Built1818 (1818)
ArchitectDavis, A.J.; Goodhue, Bertram Grosvenor
Architectural styleClassical Revival, Gothic Revival
NRHP reference No.74002219[55]
VLR No.117-0017
Significant dates
Added to NRHPMay 30, 1974
Designated VLRSeptember 9, 1969[56]

The VMI campus covers 134 acres (54 ha), 12 of which are designated as the

George C. Marshall '01[57] and Jonathan Daniels '61.[58]

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, 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.[59]

In October 2020, VMI Board of Visitors announced that the institute would relocate a statue of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a Confederate general and slave owner, from the front of the historic barracks to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park.[60][61] It was taken from view in December 2020.

Academics

VMI offers 14 major and 23 minor areas of study,[62] 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.[63] Most classes are taught by full-time professors, 99 percent of whom hold terminal degrees.[63]

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.[64]

As of 2010, VMI had graduated 11 Rhodes Scholars since 1921.[65][66] Per capita, as of 2006 VMI had graduated more Rhodes Scholars than any other state-supported college or university, and more than all the other senior military colleges combined.

Rankings

In 2021 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 & World Report rankings' "Top Public Schools, National Liberal Arts Colleges" category.[67]

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.[68] Overall, VMI ranked 115th out of the 650 colleges and universities evaluated.[69]

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.[70]

Military service

George Washington statue

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.[71] The VMI class of 2017 graduated 300 cadets, 172 (or 57 percent) of whom were commissioned as officers in the United States military.[72]

VMI alumni include more than 285

ROTC
programs for five U.S. military branches (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard).

VMI has graduated more Army generals than any ROTC program in the United States.[75] 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
Notes
George Marshall
1901 Army, September 1, 1939
  • First General of the Army (five stars), 10th four-star general in U.S. Army history & 1st non-USMA four-star general
  • Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, 1939–45
  • Secretary of State, 1947–49; Secretary of Defense, 1950–51;
  • Special Representative of President to China, 1945–47
  • President of the American Red Cross, 1949–50
  • Nobel Peace Prize, 1953; Congressional Gold Medal, 1946
Thomas T. Handy 1916 Army, March 13, 1945
  • 22nd four-star general in U.S. Army history
  • Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, 1944–47
  • Commanding General, Fourth Army, 1947–49
  • Commander-in-Chief,
    CENTAG
    (1952)
  • Deputy Commander-in-Chief, EUCOM 1952–54
Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.
1917 USMC, January 1, 1952
  • 3rd four-star general in USMC history
  • Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps, 1952–55
  • Chairman, Inter-American Defense Board, 1956–59
Leonard T. Gerow 1911 Army, July 19, 1954
  • Commanding General V Corps 1943–45
  • Commanding General U.S. 15th Army, 1945–46.
Randolph M. Pate 1921 USMC, January 1, 1956
  • 4th four-star general in USMC history
  • Commandant of the Marine Corps, 1956–59
Clark L. Ruffner 1924 Army, March 1, 1960
  • 51st four-star General in U.S. Army history
  • U.S. Military Representative, NATO Military Committee, 1960–62
David M. Maddox 1960 Army, July 9, 1992
  • 149th four-star general in U.S. Army history
  • Commander-in-Chief,
    CENTAG
    (1992–93) & USAREUR (1993–94)
J. H. Binford Peay III 1962 Army, March 26, 1993
  • 150th four-star general in Army history
  • Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, 1993–94
  • Commander-in-Chief, Central Command, 1994–97
  • Superintendent, VMI, 2003–2020
John P. Jumper 1966 Air Force, November 17, 1997
Darren W. McDew 1982 Air Force, May 5, 2014

Students

Members of the VMI march down Pennsylvania Avenue in January 2017, after the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Prospective cadets must be between 16 and 22 years of age. They must be unmarried, and have no legal dependents, be physically fit for enrollment in the

GPA of 3.70 and a mean SAT score of 1210.[76]

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.

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.[78]

The first Jewish cadet,

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, Somalia and other nations.

Admission of women

In 1990 the

Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, as a parallel program for women. The VWIL continued, even after VMI's admission of women.[80]

After VMI won its case in

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.[9]

Assistant Secretary of Defense

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.[9]

In 1996, VMI was forced to either end its prohibition of the admission of women, or become a private college without federal funding. VMI reluctantly became the last U.S. military college to admit women.[81][82][83] Superintendent at the time Josiah Bunting III called this a "savage disappointment".[48]

In August 1997, VMI enrolled its first female cadets.

]

Admission of Black students

Virginia Military Institute was the last public college in Virginia to integrate, first admitting black cadets in 1968,[86][87][82] but interracial problems persisted long afterward.[82][87] According to The Washington Post, even in 2020 "Black cadets still endure[d] relentless racism [in an] atmosphere of hostility and cultural insensitivity".[82]

Student life

The Regimental Commander gives commands during a parade. text
The Regimental Commander gives commands to the Corps of Cadets during a parade in coatee.

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", are not permitted to watch TV or listen to music outside of an academic setting. Living conditions are considered more austere here than other service academies.[88]

Ratline

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, 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.[89]

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, as one of the roles of the rat is to help prepare their "Dyke's" uniform and dress them for parades.[90] 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. The combination of the warm relationship with the Dykes and the harshness of the school system, with countless push-ups, sweat parties, and runs, is calculated to instill the required military outlook and competence on everyday tasks in the Rats.

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.[90] 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 2022 were considered the "Rat Mass of 2019+3" as the members of their dykes' class graduated in 2019 and they themselves will graduate three years onward from then.

Cadet in uniform, 1914

Traditions

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.[91] 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 May 15, the same day as the Battle of New Market in which VMI cadets fought in 1864 during the Civil War. 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.[92] Since 2021, this ceremony has expanded to also include VMI graduates who have died in service to the United States.

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.

U.S. Constitution. When the Supreme Court declined to review the school's appeal in April 2004, the prayer tradition was stopped.[97]

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 M14 rifle and bayonet.[98]

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.[99] Under the VMI Honor Code, "a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do."[99][100] 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.[101]

Clubs and activities

VMI currently offers over 50 school-sponsored clubs and organizations, including The Cadet, recreational activities, military organizations, musical and performance groups, religious organizations and service groups.[102][103] 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 September 11, 1865 while the school was closed for reconstruction.[104]

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.[99] VMI cadets formed the second chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order.[105] 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.[106]

Athletics

VMI fields 14 teams on the

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.[107] 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.[108]
The VMI team name is the Keydets, a Southern style slang for the word "cadets".

1896 football team
Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium

VMI has the second-smallest NCAA Division I enrollment of any FCS football college, after Presbyterian College.[109] 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.[110]

Football

VMI played its first football game in 1871. The one-game season was a 4–2 loss to

Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium, built in 1962. VMI won the 2020 Southern Conference Football Championship, their first winning football season since 1981.[114]

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

NCAA tournament
.

The current VMI basketball team is led by head coach Dan Earl and assistant coaches: Steve Enright and Austin Kenon. Tom Kiely is the director of Basketball Operations.

Alumni

VMI's alumni include: former

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 285 general and flag officers, including service chiefs for three of the four armed services.

Two recent

"Bo" Temple, were VMI Civil Engineering graduates.[115]

Endowment

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.[116][117][verification needed] 35.4 percent of the approximately 12,300 living alumni gave in 2006.[118]
Private support covers more than 31 percent of VMI's operating budget; state funds, 26 percent.

In popular culture

  • 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.[119]
  • 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.
  • The VMI marching song is referenced and in part performed in the documentary Grey Gardens.

See also

References

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Further reading

External links