When Kasey Meredith came to Virginia Military Institute three years ago, she said she didn’t know her capabilities.
“The great thing about VMI is it pushes you to do what you’re capable of,” Meredith said.
Meredith has climbed the ranks at the military college in Lexington to become the first woman to serve as regimental commander of the Corps of Cadets in VMI’s 182-year history. She’ll lead about 1,700 cadets during the upcoming school year. She’s responsible to the commandant of cadets for the training, appearance, discipline, health, welfare and morale of the corps.
VMI had a parade Friday, when the change of command took place on the field outside of the barracks where the students live.
Meredith’s mother was in the Navy, and she encouraged her daughter to go to college before joining the Marine Corps.
Meredith, of Pennsylvania, is majoring in international studies, minoring in Spanish. She has held numerous leadership positions during her time at VMI and was mostly recently 1st Battalion sergeant major.
“I shot for every opportunity that I had,” Meredith said. “It’s amazing to see the way I’ve grown here.”
While Meredith is the first woman to hold the highest-ranking cadet position, there are numerous other women who have held other leadership positions.
“She’s got a tough job ahead of her,” said Col. William Wanovich, commandant of the VMI Corps of Cadets.
Founded in 1839 as an all-male military college, VMI was the last state-supported college in the nation to become coeducational. The first women enrolled in 1997, following a years-long legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Friday also marked the first year the college held an altered parade to honor the 592 cadets and alumni who have been killed in action. Previously, the parade only honored the cadets who died fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War’s Battle of New Market.
VMI made the change to the parade prior to the state launching an investigation into racial allegations at the state-funded military school that is scheduled to be completed next month. More modifications are in the works, such as removing Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s name from campus buildings.