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Peay to be Recognized with VMI’s Highest Honor

Gen. Peay addressing crowd from podium

Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III '62, superintendent emeritus, will be honored with the New Market Medal, VMI's highest honor, on Founders Day, Nov. 11, 2022.—Photo courtesy VMI Communications & Marketing.

Published: September 27, 2022

The Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors voted unanimously to honor Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, superintendent emeritus, with the school’s highest honor, the New Market Medal. The board believes his commitment and leadership to the Institute exhibited through his cadetship, his exemplary military service, and time as superintendent made him a clear choice and deserving of this recognition.

“A lifetime of service, highlighted by a compassionate leadership style and a vision for growth and improvement, General Peay has impacted generations of individuals and thousands of cadets,” said Tom Watjen ’76, VMI Board of Visitors president. “His life serves as a powerful reminder to our cadets and the community of the impact of the VMI experience. It’s an honor to present him with the New Market Medal. His legacy will live on at the Institute.”

Peay received a degree in civil engineering and the prestigious Society of Cincinnati Medal at his graduation in 1962. He was a quarterback of the Keydet football team, member of the Honor Court, and a battalion commander. After commissioning, he served in the U.S. Army for 35 years and retired at the rank of four-star general. He holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and is also a graduate of the United States Army Command and General Staff College and the United States Army War College. He was the Institute’s 14th superintendent, the third-longest serving in this role.

During Peay’s 17 years as superintendent from 2003–20, he focused on improving the academic and co-curricular programs, as well as the NCAA athletic programs, and he oversaw major renovations to the VMI physical plant, as well as the construction of Third Barracks, Marshall Hall, and the Corps Physical Training Facility, among other facilities for athletics and training. The upcoming leadership development building on post will be named for him. He led the development and implementation of Vision 2039, a strategic plan that focuses on improving the academic, military, and athletic programs at the Institute, as well as the infrastructure, to enhance leadership development of the cadets.

Military awards and decorations Peay has received include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Silver Star, and Purple Heart. He wears U.S. campaign ribbons for combat duty in Vietnam (seven campaigns) and Saudi Arabia (three campaigns) and has received foreign awards from Vietnam, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

Peay’s father was J.H.B. Peay Jr., VMI Class of 1929. He and his wife, Pamela, have two sons: Jim Peay ’98 and Ryan Peay ’02.

The New Market Medal was established to recognize exceptional individuals who have demonstrated in their lives the qualities of duty, honor, devotion, and leadership, the same virtues shown by the Corps of Cadets at the Battle of New Market. Coincidentally, the first New Market Medal was presented the year Peay graduated to another former superintendent, Lt. Gen. Charles Kilbourne, VMI Class of 1894 and Medal of Honor recipient. Other recipients include Gen. George C. Marshall, VMI Class of 1901; John O. Marsh Jr., former secretary of the Army; and most recently, Gen. John Jumper ’66, retired Air Force chief of staff.

The presentation of the New Market Medal will take place on VMI’s Founders Day, Nov. 11.