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Henry Shirley ’60 and Graham Shirley ’85: Why I VMI

Why I VMI: Henry Shirley ’60 and Graham Shirley ’85


In this “Why I VMI,” meet two members of the Shirley family: Henry ’60 and Graham ’85. The Shirley family has a long history with VMI: When Graham matriculated in 1981, he became the fourth generation to attend the Institute. Though there are superficial differences between each generation’s experiences, the complete lessons learned and foundations built at the Institute remain steady.

Henry recalls going home during his first year and complaining about the Rat Line to his father. “Daddy [Augustus G. Shirley ’41] would look at me and say, ‘You’ve got it easy, son,’” he remembered with a chuckle. Henry went on to serve as president of the Honor Court and counts that as one of the greatest honors in his life – as well as a solid foundation for the rest of his life.

Graham knows he could have chosen an easier school, but he had great admiration for his father and grandfather and “wanted those same qualities myself.” At VMI, surrounded by brother rats going through the same hardships, he learned that he could push himself beyond his limits. Education at VMI is “more than a book education. It’s a life education. It needs to be carried on from generation to generation,” Graham said. “That is why it is important to continue to support VMI.”

  • Christian Heilman

    Christian Heilman Director of Digital Content

    The director of digital content is responsible for creating original video and multimedia materials, as well as developing and editing web and digital content. The director is responsible for platform coordination and troubleshooting, to include the VMI Alumni Agencies’ primary websites, digital newsletter and other digital platforms.