Virginia Military Institute of Lexington, Virginia was the first state military college in the United States.
VMI was referred to as the "West Point of the South" by General John J. Pershing. President Abraham Lincoln, said it has "a spartan, physically demanding environment combined with strict military discipline."
VMI’s campus occupies 134 acres on Main Street in Lexington, 12 of which are designated as a National Historic District.
In addition to military programs, the four-year public college awards B.A. and B.S. degrees. The institute was founded in November 1839. Initially, the college’s site was occupied by a State of Virginia military post, following the War of 1812. It was the arms storage point for the western part of the commonwealth for more than 20 years.
An initial group of 16 cadets graduated in 1842. Until 1850, when the cornerstone of a new barracks was laid, the living conditions were poor, and hardship was the keynote of cadet existence.
In 1859, the college opened its doors to students from states outside the commonwealth.
With the outbreak of the Civil War (1861-1865), VMI’s cadet corps was placed under the command of General Thomas J. Jackson. Union forces, led by General David Hunter, shelled and burned the institute in June 1864. The damage was nearly total, but VMI reopened its doors in October 1865 and began its climb out of the ruins.
The institute excluded women from the corps of cadets until 1997, after a court order required that women be granted admission. Two years later, its first female cadets graduated.
Today, the Virginia Military Institute is home to approximately 1,300 cadets from 37 states and nine foreign countries. About 96 percent of the 145 full-time faculty members hold their Ph.D. or other advanced degree.
Approximately 18 percent of VMI graduates choose the military as a career. Others make their marks in a variety of pursuits, including finance, medicine, law, and education.
Popular VMI majors include civil engineering, mathematics, computer science, mechanical engineering, economics and business, modern languages and cultures, electrical and computer engineering, physics and astronomy, English and the fine arts, psychology and philosophy, biology, history, chemistry, and international studies.
VMI is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is also a member of the American Council on Education, the Association of American Colleges, the College Entrance Examination Board, and the Association of Virginia Colleges. VMI’s engineering programs and chemistry department are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology and the American Chemical Society, respectively.
Virginia Military Institute offers a range of need-based and merit-based assistance, as well as self-help employment for upperclassmen.
A range of club and intramural options is available. The college team competes in NCAA Division I (Division I-AA in football) and the Big South Conference, in 15 intercollegiate sports, including baseball, basketball, men's and women's track and field, and wrestling.