Although VMI has been called the "West Point of the South, 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, while graduates of the service academies must serve. VMI cadets 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.
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.
On May 15 1864 VMI cadets fought as an independent unit at the Battle of New Market. 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. 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 The Union troops were withdrawn and Confederate troops under General Breckinridge held the Shenandoah Valley.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 injured 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. 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.
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." 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.
Also for 2009, US 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 266.
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. Overall, VMI ranked 108th out of the 569 colleges and universities evaluated.
VMI was the only state military college in the country named a "College of Distinction" in 2007 by Student Horizons, Inc. 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.
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, and Japan. Michael Lokale of Kenya was chosen as VMI's tenth Rhodes Scholar in 2003.
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 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, 30 women who were held to the same strict physical courses and technical training as the male cadets. VMI resisted following other military colleges in adopting "gender-normed" physical training standards. However, gender norming became a goal of VMI in its 2039 Strategic Plan; and on June 30, 2008, gender normed standards were implemented for all female cadets. Female Rats are required to maintain a short haircut of approximately four inches or less and are forbidden to wear makeup or jewelry.
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 SAT score of nearly 1200 and an average high school GPA of 3.39.
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. 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. 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.
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 a mentor for the rest of the first year. This pairing is integral to cadet life at VMI. 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 2012 would be considered to be in the "Rat mass of 2009+3" as the Breakout of that particular Ratmass is expected in 2009 and the anticipated graduation date is three years after that.
Every year, VMI honors its fallen cadets with a New Market Day parade and ceremony. 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. 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.
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. VMI cadets formed the second chapter of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity. 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.
As of 2006, VMI has graduated 265 General Officers and Flag Officers, more than any other college in the United States, except for the federal service academies. Among its most distinguished military graduates are the first five-star General of the Army, George Marshall; six recipients of the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government, the Medal of Honor; and nine four-star generals, again, more than any other college in the United States excluding the federal service academies.
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|
|1||George Marshall||1901||Army||September 1, 1939|
|2||Thomas T. Handy||1916||Army||March 13, 1945|
|3||Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.||1917||USMC||January 1, 1952|| |
|4||Leonard T. Gerow||1911||Army||July 19, 1954|| |
|5||Randolph M. Pate||1921||USMC||January 1, 1956|| |
|6||Clark L. Ruffner||1924||Army||March 1, 1960|| |
|7||David M. Maddox||1960||Army||July 9, 1992|| |
|8||J. H. Binford Peay III||1962||Army||March 26, 1993|| |
|9||John P. Jumper||1966||Air Force||November 17, 1997|| |
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, possibly a Southern style slang for the word "cadets".
VMI has the third-smallest enrollment of any FCS football college, after Presbyterian and Wofford. 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.
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. 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, Sparky Woods, was named the 30th head coach on February 13 2008. The Keydets play their home games out of Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium, built in 1962.
SECRETARY CLINTON TO VISIT THE VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE, THE NATO HEADQUARTERS IN NORFOLK, VIRGINIA, AND DELIVER REMARKS AT THE WORLD AFFAIRS COUNCIL ON APRIL 3.
Mar 28, 2012; WASHINGTON -- The following information was released by the U.S. Department of State: Notice to the Press Office of the...
SECRETARY CLINTON TO VISIT THE VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE, THE NATO HEADQUARTERS IN NORFOLK, VIRGINIA, AND DELIVER REMARKS AT THE WORLD AFFAIRS COUNCIL ON APRIL 3
Mar 29, 2012; WASHINGTON, March 28 -- The U. S. Department of State issued the following press release: On April 3, Secretary of State Hillary...