The tradition of class rings at VMI is nearly as old as the Institute itself. Over the years, the time at which cadets received their rings, the presentation ceremonies and related events, and even the class rings themselves have changed considerably.
Members of the class of 1848 designed the first VMI class ring. They received their rings during the Finals celebrations of their first class year.
The ring, which cost each cadet $5.00, had a simple design and had the word “Mizpah” cut in the stone in Old English script. Mizpah from the Hebrew is typically translated as “the Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent from one another.” The term signified brotherhood and the enduring connection among the members of the class of 1848.
The class of 1908 became the first class to receive their rings as second classmen. The ring presentation ceremony still took place during Finals week.
The class of 1928 became the first class to participate in a ring presentation ceremony in November of their second class year and to hold a Ring Figure dance. Since November 1926, Ring Figure has been celebrated by second class cadets with a formal dance prior to Thanksgiving furlough.
One of the earliest photographs of the Ring Figure dance in the VMI Archives is the dance for the Class of 1940 that took place in November 1939.
To learn more about the history of Ring Figure or to see the ring designs for many VMI classes, please visit the VMI Archives website.
Content written by MAJ Jeff Kozak, Head Archivist of VMI Archives.