Virginia Military Institution Class Ring

vmi mascot

Founding Year: 1839

Mascot: Moe the Kangaroo

Colors: Red, Yellow, White

In the years following the War of 1812, the Commonwealth of Virginia formed and maintained a number arsenals to store weapons that was meant to be used by the state militia in case of an invasion or slave uprising. In 1936, Col. J.T.L. Preston, a Lexington lawyer who was part of a debate club known as the Franklin Society, suggested to the society that the arsenal in Lexington could be put to better use as a regular school that provides education on practical subjects, as well as military training to persons who could be counted on to serve as officers in the militia if the need arose.

After making some revisions to the initial proposal, the Franklin Society voted in favor of Preston’s idea. The Society arranged a public relations campaign that involved Preston meeting in person with prominent businesses, military and political dignitaries, open letters to editors of well-known news sources from Preston and other prominent supporters. In 1836 the Virginia legislature passed a bill that authorized the creation of a school at the Lexington arsenal, then the Governor officially signed the measure into law.

Preston was with hiring VMI’s first Superintendent. He convinced West Point graduate and Army officer Francis Henney Smith, to become the first Superintendent and Professor of Tactics.

Classes began in 1839, and in falling snow, the first cadet sentry – John B. Strange of Scottsville, Va. – took his post. With few exceptions, there have been sentinels posted at VMI every hour of every day of the school year since November 11, 1839.

During his 50-year tenure, Professor (later Maj. Gen.) Smith, helped the Corps increased in size, broaden the curriculum, and encouraged the growth of the faculty. Col. Preston, predicted that the Institute’s exceptional curriculum would produce “fair specimens of citizen-soldiers,” and this has been substantiated by the service of VMI graduates in peace and war.

16 cadets graduated from the Class of 1842. Living conditions were meager until 1850 when the cornerstone of the new barracks was laid. In 1851 Thomas Jackson joined the faculty as a professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and served until the outbreak of the Civil War. During that war, he became a general of the Confederate forces and earned the name “Stonewall” Jackson. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in the history of military.

On May 15, 1863, the Corps of Cadets ushered Jackson’s remains to his grave in Lexington. Just before the Battle of Chancellorsville, in which he died, Jackson, after surveying the field and seeing numerous VMI men around him in key positions, spoke the words: “The Institute will be heard from today.”

The Cadet Corps has grown not just in size but also in diversity since its first 23 Virginians became cadets in 1839. In 1857 any resident of the United States was allowed to enroll. The first African American cadets graduated in 1971. The first women cadets were first admitted to the Corps in 1997. Today about 8 percent of the 1,600-member cadet Corps are comprised of women.

VMI is proud of its rigorous and constantly developing system of education, and it has earned a reputation as one of America’s leading institutions of higher education. VMI’s mission is to produce leaders — educated men and women of unimpeachable character and unquestionable integrity.


The VMI class ring presentation is held every November of the Second Class (Junior) year. The formal dance known as Ring Figure marks the occasion and represents a crucial milestone in a cadet’s life — close in importance to graduation.

VMI’s first cadets graduated in 1842 and at that time did not receive VMI rings. The members of the Class of 1848 designed the first ring and was presented to graduates during Finals celebrations. The original ring was simple and had the word “Mizpah” cut in the stone in Old English script. The term was a symbol of brotherhood and an enduring connection among the graduates. It also had the words “1 of 24, July 1848”, engraved in its inside band.

The customary class ring presentation did not become firmly established until many decades later, beginning with the Class of 1908. During the 19th century the tradition was observed by some classes and overlooked by others; if a class elected to have a ring, it was presented just prior to their graduation in an informal setting.

The ring tradition eventually became permanent and the Class of 1908 was the first to receive rings during its Second Cass (Junior) year. However, until 1926, rings were still received during Finals week where class members gathered together in Brother Rat’s room and all would put on their new rings simultaneously.

The first group to move the ceremony to November and to organize a Ring Figure dance was the Class of 1928. Since 1927, Ring Figure has been held close to Thanksgiving during the Second Class year, and the ring presentation has been associated with a formal dance. The modern celebration is made up of several events that take place on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The rings themselves have become increasingly larger and more elaborate in design, in contrast to the plainer examples from the 19th century.

Courtesy of vmi.edu 


Walking Guard Duty

On Nov. 11, 1839, John B. Strange of Scottsville, Virginia took his post as the first cadet sentry. Today the duty of walking guard duty is VMI’s oldest tradition, a tradition that every cadet gets to experience.


A cadet’s preliminary days at VMI include matriculation day and nine days of military training also known as cadre week. Matriculation is the day cadets report to VMI’s Cameron Hall to sign the matriculation book and register for classes. 

Family Weekend

Held every fall, the Family Weekend is a good time to visit the campus and observe the cadets function in their environment and also to see the new-skills they have acquired. Family members and the cadets have the chance to participate in a number of activities.


Virginia Military Institute Class Ring

Courtesy of: vmi.edu

Virginia Military Institute Ring with RingWraps

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