Phi Alpha Theta

Over the last five years, membership has waxed and waned in the Alpha Gamma Mu chapter at VMI, from a high of fifteen cadets to the current low number of four members. We have, however, been active in the normal range of honor society activities. Once or twice a semester, dinner meetings are held with speakers, among whom some of the most popular have been recent graduates who have gone on to graduate or law school. Several times we have traveled to other campuses to hear prominent speakers and mix with their faculty and students. This has included two trips to the University of Richmond to hear George Herring on the Vietnam War and Rhys Isaacs on colonial Virginia history. Along with this, our cadets tend to enjoy trips that allow a brief break from the confines of the post. 

Over the last several years, we have made day trips to such historically significant sites as the Holocaust, Air and Space, and Spy Museums in Washington DC, along with the Appomattox Battlefield Park. Last year, the chapter traveled to Norfolk, where the executive officer of the aircraft carrier USS EISENHOWER (A VMI graduate) gave the group an extended tour and facilitated an overnight stay.

In addition, cadet members have participated in the annual Virginia state Phi Alpha Theta conferences. In the last three years, two cadets have presented papers, both of whom won awards in their categories. In 2003 Jason Harr won honorable mention in American history for a paper on the American military presence in China during the 1920s (concentrating on the sailors of the Yangtze Patrol.) In 2004, Cadet Austin House prepared a paper on the role of Japanese air officer Minoru Genda in the preparation of the Pearl Harbor attack. Mr. House did particularly impressive research, including several trips to the University of Maryland, College Park, to read through interviews and other papers donated by the late Gordon Prange, author of the award-winning At Dawn We Slept. 

These papers include interviews with Japanese officers and material collected after the posthumous publication of Prange’s magnum opus that might have gone into a subsequent biography of Genda. (Mr. House’s paper also won VMI’s Hinman Award for outstanding undergraduate research.) In 2005, VMI did not participate in the state conference, since if conflicted with the National Conference on Undergraduate Research held here, at VMI. However, several PAT members did make presentations in that venue.