Virginia Military Institute (VMI), at Lexington; state supported; chartered and opened 1839 as the first state military college in the United States. Although one of the leading U.S. military institutions, it grants degrees in engineering, science, and the liberal arts. During the Civil War, the institute's corps of cadets served as a unit in the Confederate army under Gen. T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson. VMI excluded women from the corps of cadets into the 1990s. In 1995, a state-sponsored Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership was opened at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., as a parallel program for women after their exclusion from VMI was challenged in the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled (1996) that VMI, as a state-supported school, had to admit women. VMI did so in 1997, and two years later its first female cadets graduated.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.