Virginia Military Institute

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search


School Name Virginia Military Institute
Established 1839
School type Public University
Address Lexington, VA 24450-0304
President J.H. Binford Peay III
Enrollment 1,300 undergraduates[1]
Carnegie Classification Baccalaureate Colleges – Liberal Arts
Type four-year college [awards bachelor's of science and arts degrees]
ROTC Programs Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy
Nickname Keydets
Mascot Moe the Kangaroo

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI), located in Lexington, Virginia, is the oldest state military college in the United States and the nation's only classical state military college: all VMI students are cadets. VMI offers a spartan, physically demanding environment combined with strict military discipline. Cadets pursue bachelor's degrees in 14 disciplines in the fields of engineering, science, and liberal arts. For the past five years, VMI has been ranked America's best public liberal arts college by the magazine U.S. News and World Report. The Virginia Military Institute is world-renowned for the loyalty and discipline of its Alumni and VMI's $275 million endowment is the largest per-capita endowment of any public college or university in the United States. VMI was called the "West Point of the South" by President Abraham Lincoln and General John J. Pershing.

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

Nation's only Classical state military college... VMI.
Nation's only Classical state military college... VMI.

On November 11, 1839, the Virginia Military Institute was founded on the site of the Lexington state arsenal, and the first cadets relieved the enlisted personnel on duty. Under Major Francis H. 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. Since Private Strange's posting, there have been sentinels at two of the three posts at VMI 24 hours a day, seven days a week, during every school year.

The Class of 1842 graduated 16 cadets into the ranks of the first alumni. 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 Stonewall 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 participating in battle. VMI cadets were called into active military service on 14 different occasions during the Civil War. Many cadets, under the leadership of General Stonewall Jackson, were sent to Camp Lee, at Richmond, to train recruits. VMI alumni were regarded 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.[2] 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, 257 cadets fought as an independent unit at the Battle of New Market.[3] VMI is the only military academy in the nation that holds this distinction and is therefore the only school authorized to "fix bayonets" and wear red in their uniforms during parade. Students at only three military schools have fought as a unit in war: École polytechnique in France, Chapultepec in Mexico, and VMI.

Cadet color guard in formation on the VMI parade grounds.
Cadet color guard in formation on the VMI parade grounds.

The Institute was shelled and burned on June 12, 1864, by Union forces under the command of General David Hunter, as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864. The destruction was almost complete and the Institute had to temporarily hold classes at the Alms house in Richmond, Virginia. In April 1865, Richmond was evacuated after the fall of the Confederacy and the Corps of Cadets was disbanded. The Lexington campus reopened for classes on October 17, 1865.[4] It is said that Confederate General Jubal A. Early burned the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in retaliation for the shelling of VMI.

Following the war, Matthew Fontaine Maury, "Pathfinder of the Seas," accepted a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, holding the chair of physics.

World War I and II

During World War II, VMI participated in the War Department's Army Specialized Training Program 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.

The RingFigure Dance, a formal ball where cadets celebrate receiving their class rings.
The RingFigure Dance, a formal ball where cadets celebrate receiving their class rings.

Student life

The Virginia Military Institute is a unique military and educational experience.

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 on one of the quadrangles. The cadets wear uniforms every day and eat their meals together in a mess hall.

Potential students must be between 16 to 22 years of age. They must be unmarried, physically fit for enrollment in ROTC, and graduates of accredited secondary schools. The typical new cadet has an average SAT score of over 1200 and an average high school GPA of 3.35. Eligibility is not restricted to Virginia residents (although it is more difficult to gain an appointment as an out-of-state cadet). Virginia residents do receive a discount in tuition, as is common at most state-sponsored schools. Tuition for the 2005-2006 school year is $8,617 for Virginia residents and $22,816 for all others. These fees can be misleading, because VMI's nearly $300 million endowment enables VMI to meet 95% of a cadet's financial need before the cadet needs to take school loans. It is common for in-state cadets to have their last two years at VMI paid for by generous alumni. VMI has graduated students from across the U.S. and from many other countries.


The "Parapet" designed by Alexander Jackson Davis
The "Parapet" designed by Alexander Jackson Davis

The freshman student is known as a "Rat", and walks a prescribed line in barracks while in an exaggerated form of attention known as "straining." The Rat experience, called the Ratline, is intended to instill pride, discipline, brotherhood, and a sense of honor in the students. A Rat faces many challenges and must memorize rules, school songs, and school history. The Ratline is among the toughest, most grueling, and in-depth initiation programs in the country. It is best described as a longer version of Marine Corps boot camp combined with rigorous academics.

After having their heads shaved bald, the rats undergo their first 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 a rifle, etc.

Once the first week is complete, Rats anxiously await the arrival of the returning students, the "Old Corps". Rats are each paired with a first classman 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", a corruption of the phrase "to deck out", or to get into a uniform. This arose from a pair of cadets helping each other get into the full parade dress which includes of several large web belts, or "cross dykes", that are impossible to don alone.

During the next year, the Ratline continues to undergo training from the most highly skilled cadets at VMI, the Cadre. They enforce all rules, and the Rats live a life involving "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 in a "Break Out" 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 Break Out ceremony have been conducted. In the 1950s, Rats from each company would be packed into a corner room in barracks and brawl their way out through the upperclassmen. In the late 60's through the early 80's, 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 and grease. Another recent version had the Rats climbing a muddy hill on their stomachs while the upper classes drag them back down.

Honor System

VMI Cadets during parade.
VMI Cadets during parade.

VMI is known for its strict Honor System: cadets "do not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do." There is only one possible punishment for a violation of the Honor System: immediate expulsion in the form of a "Drum Out" ceremony, performed in the middle of the night in front of all cadets with the announcement that "the cadet leaves the Institute in shame, never to return. The cadet's name will never be mentioned inside the four walls of VMI again." [5] On average, six to ten cadets a year are expelled for honor system violations.[6]

Minority and female students

Of the 1,251 students enrolled in 2005, 66 were African-American, 39 were Asian, 34 were Hispanic and 71 were women.

The first Jewish cadet, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, graduated in 1866. While at VMI, Ezekiel fought with the VMI cadets at the Battle of New Market. He went on to become a artist/sculptor and many of his works are on display throughout the world.

One of the first Asian cadets was Li-Jen Sun, the Chinese National Revolutionary Army general, who graduated in 1927.

The first African-American cadets graduated from VMI in 1968. The first African-American regimental commander was Derren McDew, class of 1982. McDew is currently a U.S. Air Force brigadier general and the wing commander at Pope AFB.

Biblically-named Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John cannons, were used by "Stonewall" Jackson and VMI cadets to "Spread the Gospel" during the Civil War.
Biblically-named Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John cannons, were used by "Stonewall" Jackson and VMI cadets to "Spread the Gospel" during the Civil War.

Admission of women

VMI excluded women from the Corps of Cadets until 1997. In 1990, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a discrimination lawsuit against VMI for its all-male admissions policy.

While the court challenge was pending, a state-sponsored Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership was opened at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, as a parallel program for women. The program continued even after VMI admitted women.

The case went through several appeals until 26 June 1996 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-1 decision, found that it was illegal for a school supported by public funds to exclude women. (Justice Clarence Thomas did not vote because his son was attending VMI.) On 21 September 1996, the VMI Board of Visitors voted to admit women.

In August 1997, VMI enrolled its first female cadets, 31 women who would be held to the same strict physical courses and technical training as the male cadets. Unlike other U.S. military academies, VMI requires that female cadets adhere to the same strict physical regimen as male cadets. Female "Rats" are not required to maintain a strict crew cut; however they must keep their hair at a length of approximately four inches. Female cadets are also forbidden to wear makeup or jewelry as Rats. The cadets at VMI believe firmly in "One Corps, One Standard" and they expect the same from every cadet.

VMI's Regimental Band stands proud.
VMI's Regimental Band stands proud.

Military service

The Virginia Military Institute supports ROTC divisions of all four military branches.[7] 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 cadets take a commission by 2015. The VMI class of 2005 achieved a 50 percent commissioning rate.

VMI has graduated 265 General and Flag Officers, more than any other state military college in the United States.[8] Six graduates have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award of the U.S. military.[9]


VMI fields 15 teams on the NCAA Division I level. The sports include baseball, basketball, men's and women's cross-country, football, lacrosse, men's and women's rifle, men and women's soccer, swimming, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track, and wrestling. VMI is a member of the Big South, the Southern (for wrestling), and the Metro Atlantic Athletic (for Men's Lacrosse) conferences.

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 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.

VMI has the smallest enrollment among NCAA Division I football schools. 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 athletes who complete their eligibility, 92 percent receive their VMI diplomas.


In 2005, for the fifth consecutive year, VMI was rated first out of America's public liberal arts colleges. VMI's Engineering program was rated in the Top 20 engineering programs in the nation and its Civil Engineering program was ranked ninth nationally for colleges that offer a Bachelor or Master's degree.

Notable graduates

A new graduate looks at his diploma.
A new graduate looks at his diploma.

VMI's graduates include a Secretary of State, a polar explorer, Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Rhodes Scholars, U.S. Senators and Representatives, and CEOs. Some examples:

VMI trivia

See also


External links

The Big South:
   Birmingham-Southern | Charleston Southern | Coastal Carolina
High Point | Liberty | Radford | UNC Asheville | VMI | Winthrop
Personal tools
In other languages