Two Handshakes, 120 Years of Cadet Leadership

Although he was not an outstanding student at the Virginia Military Institute, George Marshall proved to be a leader among his fellow cadets as he served as corporal and first sergeant in his second and third years at VMI. He was known for his “impressively military bearing and a voice which could be heard the length of the parade ground,” according to his biographer, Dr. Forrest Pogue.

In his senior year, Marshall was selected to be First Captain of the Corps of Cadets. The responsibilities of First Captain, now called Regimental Commander, include being “the military commander of the Corps of Cadets, responsible to the Commandant of Cadets for the training, discipline, and appearance of the Corps,” according to Leadership Opportunity Inventory from the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics.


First Captain Marshall is front row, third from left. Photo: George C. Marshall Foundation, Lexington, Virginia

Cadet Marshall was extremely pleased to receive this leadership opportunity. Pogue wrote that Marshall “won the prize he coveted most and had worked for hardest. By solid recommendation of his tactical officers, and the four cadet captains, the adjutant, and the quartermaster, he was named first captain for his final year. ‘I tried very hard,’ he said afterward.”

In February 1948, Secretary of State George Marshall got to meet the continuation of this leadership position at VMI, as he shook the hand of the regimental commander for the Class of 1948B, Albert Linwood Loth, Jr., at the Joint American Legion-VMI Dinner in Richmond.


L to R Virginia Lt. Gov. L. Preston Collins, Marshall, Loth, and Rep. J. Vaughn Gary. Photo: Richmond Times-Dispatch

In November 2019, former regimental commander Albert Linwood Loth, Jr., also had the opportunity to meet the continuation of this leadership position when he greeted the current regimental commander for the 2019-2020 academic year, Austin Stansberry.


Albert Linwood Loth, Jr., and Austin Stansberry. VMI photo by Kelly Nye

 

These two handshakes span nearly 120 years of VMI cadet leadership history.