VMI Matriculates 491 Into This Year's Rat Mass

RCO Mark Shelton II '24 leads the Rat Mass to barrack to begin their journey at VMI.

Regimental Commander Mark Shelton II ’24 leads the Rat Mass to barracks to begin their journey at VMI.—VMI Photo by H. Lockwood McLaughlin.

LEXINGTON, Va., Aug. 21, 2023—Matriculation Day was held at Virginia Military Institute Saturday, Aug. 19, beginning the Rat Line for the new academic year. This year marks the 184th year of the Institute.

The day included a fair in Cocke Hall where the students and their families were able to meet with various VMI agencies, local bankers, churches, and other community organizations. Also part of the process was a uniform fitting and issuing of their athletic uniform in Cameron Hall, completion of paperwork, meeting department faculty, and the traditional signing of the matriculation book in the Corps Physical Training Facility. Throughout the morning, the barracks were teeming with parents assisting their students moving into their rooms, and meeting their roommates.

In the afternoon, the Chaplain’s Prayer, an optional non-denominational prayer session for matriculants and their families was held in Memorial Hall, followed by the Superintendent’s Welcome in Cameron Hall.

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85 addressed the incoming 491 matriculants and their families, and the matriculants then took an oath during a ceremony. With hugs, cheers, and a few tears, they bid good-bye to their families, formed up with their companies for the first time, and marched up to barracks where they met their cadre, a group of cadets holding rank in each company, and are chosen based on performance and ability to serve as instructors for the Rat Mass.

This year’s Rat Mass comes from 39 states and five foreign countries, with 57% from Virginia and 43% from out of state. Seventy-one are female, and 176 are recruited NCAA athletes. Forty-nine percent have selected a major in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines and 51% are majoring in the liberal arts.

Lucy and Tyler Hagan congratulate each other after signing the Matriculation Book and becoming VMI rats. -VMI Photo by Marianne Hause.This year, two families who already have cadets at VMI sent two siblings to join them. Lucy and Tyler Hagan, sister and brother from Richmond, signed the matriculation book and joined their older brother, Joseph Addison Hagan V ’24, a civil engineering major and member of the cadre.  “I am excited to see my siblings be tested, endure hardship, and develop the same strong friendships that I have enjoyed. I look forward to watching them earn my full respect through their efforts in the Rat Line, and I am excited to see their transformation from individuals to a class,” he said.

The Hagans are part of a legacy family (generational graduates) at VMI, who include their father, Joseph Addison “Add” Hagan IV ’97; their grandfather, Joseph Addison “Ad” Hagan III ’68; their great-grandfather, Joseph Addison “Add” Hagan Jr. ’42; and their great-great grandfather, Joseph Addison “Addi” Hagan Sr., VMI Class of 1916. In addition, they have multiple cousins, and uncles who graduated from VMI.  

According to “Add” ’97, his three children, Addison, Lucy, and Tyler, have all grown up with great respect for the Institute and its mission of producing educated and honorable citizen-soldiers willing to contribute to society.  “But there is a considerable difference between appreciating and attending VMI, and I never anticipated any - much less all - of my children would choose this less-traveled path. As a VMI graduate and as a parent, it is fulfilling to see my children choose this more challenging endeavor for themselves. Having witnessed the incredibly positive impact of three years at VMI on our oldest, I am eager to see our younger two embrace, and benefit from, the same system. This is going to be a fun year, as we get to see the bookends of the life of a cadet through our three children’s experiences,” he said.

Margaret and David Townsend are official VMI rats after signing the Matriculation Book. -VMI Photo by Marianne Hause.The Townsend family from Crozier now have four children at VMI. Alice and Mark ’96 witnessed their son, David, and daughter, Margaret matriculate on Saturday. They joined their older sisters, Anne Townsend ’24, a civil engineering major and Band Company commander, and Virginia Townsend ’24, a chemistry major and regimental S2 captain. “We are excited for Margaret and David to be here this year! VMI already feels like a family, and with them here, it will even more,” said Virginia.

The Townsend parents love having all four of their children at VMI. “We are blessed with four talented kids who were given all the encouragement in the world to choose a college that meets their needs, and each of them applied early decision to VMI. There is no way that we can take credit for their choice. VMI gets all the credit for recruiting them, and supporting their educational goals and dreams,” they said.

In addition to the Hagan and Townsend families, the Ahrens family welcomed a third sibling on post. Brothers Owen Ahrens ’24 and Noah Ahrens ’25 from Lynchburg, welcomed their sister Tess as an incoming rat. “VMI is special. But there is a difference between knowing something is special from the outside, and experiencing it from within the walls of barracks. I could not be prouder of my sister's decision to choose this special experience that will always hold a place in our family’s legacy,” said Owen. 

Noah agrees. “Entering VMI the year after my brother has brought joy few siblings are able to share. VMI is more than a college, and I am happy to have our sister join us to share this unique experience,” he said.

The matriculation process continues throughout the week with the cadre leading the new arrivals in military drills and physical training, culminating with the Rat Crucible on Sunday, Aug. 27. The Rat Mass will officially become the Class of 2027 in the spring semester, after Breakout.

Members of the Old Corps return Sunday, Aug. 27, and classes begin Tuesday, Aug. 29. Details about events at VMI, including parades, guest speakers, and athletic competitions, for the upcoming semester can be found on VMI's events calendar.

Marianne Hause
Communications & Marketing


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