By Alex Maragos

Vision 2039 is taking shape on the campus of the Virginia Military Institute. The ongoing construction on Main Street is the most visible part of a leadership program designed to guide the latest generation of cadets.

The plan was unveiled in 2003, soon after General J. H. Binford Peay was named superintendent of VMI. Vision 2039’s goals range from enforcing military discipline to maintaining the university’s strong academic reputation. VMI will celebrate its bicentennial in 2039.

“It’s always mentioned,” Cadet Sam Craig said of Vision 2039. “It’s something that Gen. Peay, the superintendent, always emphasizes. It’s his baby.”

The construction near Main Street is one of several work sites at VMI. Over the last decade, renovations have been made to Foster Football Stadium, the main barracks, the physical plant and several other buildings.

VMI's "Vision 2039" campus plan was unveiled in 2003. Photo by Alex Maragos.

The football stadium was built in 1962, but other buildings, such as the original barracks, were built in the mid-1850s. More than $230 million in renovations have taken place on VMI’s campus in the last eight years.

“Vision 2039 set the direction for major efforts in modernizing the curriculum, updating facilities, and bolstering the culture at VMI,” VMI spokesman Col. Stewart MacInnis said in an email. “It is a strategic vision that provides a clearly articulated path to position the institute as a relevant and vibrant college in the 21st Century.”

The plan emphasizes a leadership development system and a strong honor system. VMI’s Center for Leadership and Ethics has been the biggest construction project under Vision 2039. Opened in November 2008 and costing just under $20 million, the center provides new facilities for conferences and symposia on campus.

The current construction facing Main Street is called the South Institute Hill Parking project. It will become a 98-space parking deck in the fall.

“This project will place additional parking spaces in close proximity to the major academic and administrative buildings on the south end of the institute,” said MacInnis. “They will serve the large number of faculty and staff who work in these buildings.”

A new lot near Main Street could also mean less congestion during VMI marches and athletic events. The project began in November when four homes along Main Street were demolished to make room for the parking lot. The houses were previously used as faculty residences. One hundred yards farther north on Main Street, the North Institute Hill Parking project was completed in 2009.

The current parking project will cost $2.8 million. It is one of four active construction projects at VMI. Another active project is the renovation of the school’s training grounds behind VMI’s barracks and classrooms.

“One of the most recent upgrades of our facilities was the upgrade of our obstacle course, called North Post,” said Craig. “It really emphasizes the military aspect of the school.”

North Post is scheduled to be dedicated next month. The renovation of Kilbourne Hall also emphasizes the military aspect of Vision 2039. Its classrooms and offices are used for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

New training fields on North Post, improvements to the existing obstacle and high ropes course, and construction of a fully baffled firing range are important parts of Vision 2039, according to the school’s website.

VMI has made significant progress on several of its admissions goals since Vision 2039 was unveiled. The institute has surpassed its goal of 1,500 cadets, now enrolling 1,604. Another goal is to increase the number of graduates commissioned in the armed services. Thirty percent of VMI graduates were commissioned in the 1990s.

“Those have been increasing with more than half the graduates commissioning now,” said MacInnis. “We still have a ways to go to meet our goal of 70 percent.”

VMI plans to renovate its science building and Post Hospital as two of the remaining large projects that Vision 2039 outlines. The VMI Post Hospital provides office, examination rooms, and patient file storage for the college. The 142-year-old building houses the infirmary and Office of Cadet Counseling. Renovation is expected to be finished in the fall.

The goals of Vision 2039 represent the values and mission that VMI has held since 1839.

“The Leadership Development System is meant to create a rational, overarching system that makes leadership opportunities available to every cadet,” said MacInnis.

Craig said that he and the other cadets occasionally joke about the emphasis put on Vision 2039, but he said, “It’s definitely a good thing.”

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