VMI has graduated an Army Chief of Staff, an Air Force Chief of Staff and two Marine Corps Commandants making it the only college in the United States (including the federal service academies) to have graduated service chiefs of three of the four primary armed services. As of 2007, VMI had graduated over 260 general officers and flag officers; among its most distinguished military alumni are the first five-star General of the Army, George Marshall; seven recipients of the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government, the Medal of Honor; and more than 80 recipients of the second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross/Navy Cross. VMI offers ROTC programs for four US military branches (Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force). 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 VMI cadets take a commission by 2015. The VMI class of 2008 achieved a 52.8 percent commissioning rate. Of the total of 127 cadets who commissioned in 2008, 63 commissioned in the Army, 11 commissioned in the Navy, 26 commissioned in the Marine Corps, and 27 commissioned in the Air Force.
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 &
date of rank
|George Marshall||1901||Army, 1 September 1939||
|Thomas T. Handy||1916||Army, 13 March 1945|
|Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.||1917||USMC, 1 January 1952||
|Leonard T. Gerow||1911||Army, 19 July 1954||
|Randolph M. Pate||1921||USMC, 1 January 1956||
|Clark L. Ruffner||1924||Army, 1 March 1960||
|David M. Maddox||1960||Army, 9 July 1992||
|J. H. Binford Peay III||1962||Army, 26 March 1993||
|John P. Jumper||1966||Air Force of the United States, 17 November 1997||
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