Wentworth Military Academy
Travel and E-Travel
I traveled through Lexington regularly to and from my wife’s home in Hamilton. I photographed on the campus in 2019. Internet Archive has most of the Wentworth catalogs and yearbooks online. The 1880 National Register application has a history of the campus. The seal is from the 1915 catalog. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112113351396&view=1up&seq=103. Note the color difference from later Wentworth seals.
Stephen G. Wentworth founded Wentworth Male Academy in 1880 as a lasting memorial for his deceased son William. Sandford Sellers, the first superintendent, became the first of three generations of his family to hold that position. In 1882 Wentworth became a military school, with a name change to Wentworth Military Academy in 1890. At that time it was a small school with 80 cadets listed in the catalog. Students had a choice of three courses of study—classical, business, and elective.
Through the years enrollment went up and down with wars, health of the economy, and shifts in social attitudes toward the military. Catalogs for both 1920 and 1950 show more than 500 students; those of 1930 and 2000 show enrollments around 200. Most students came from the Midwest, but the 1960 yearbook shows students from 29 states and 12 foreign countries. In 1923 Wentworth instituted a junior college program. Featuring small classes, supervised study, and regular access to faculty, the junior college program insured success to students who would likely have been unsuccessful in a larger college.
Previous to 1993, daughters of school employees had been accepted as day students; but in a move to boost enrollment, females were allowed in the regular cadet program after that date. By 2007 the junior high school program had been dropped.
Two popular Wentworth programs were the Falcon Program, which provided a one-year scholarship to Wentworth followed by an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the ROTC program, which provided a four-year scholarship to Wentworth followed by a commission in the U.S. Military.
Wentworth students had the usual curricular and social activities, included a drill team, a color guard, and a marksmanship team. Musicians had a band and a choir. There was an Honor Society and a Phi Theta Kappa Society. Social opportunities included Homecoming, Parents’ weekend, Founder’s Day, and the Military Ball.
Growing financial difficulties led to the school’s closure on May 31, 2017.
Bricks and Mortar
With a population of 5,000 and located only 40 miles east of Kansas City, Lexington was an ideal place for a military school. It had been the scene of a Civil War battle, and it contained two women’s colleges, thus it had military, educational, and social advantages.
Wentworth purchased the New Presbyterian Church at the corner of 18th and Main as the first campus building. He later added 16 acres with two residences. One residence became the Superintendent’s home; the other became the Administration Building. Barracks and other campus buildings generally face Washington Avenue a block north of Main. The National Register application states that most “were erected from approximately 1830 to 1920, and almost all have been altered to reflect a unified design.”
The campus is intact and was placed on the National Register in 1980.
Team name: Red Dragons
School Colors: Red and White
Well before Wentworth added junior colleges classes, its varsity football teams were playing a collegiate schedule. College Football Data Warehouse shows that as early as 1895 Warrensburg Normal School, Midland Lutheran College and St. Louis University were part of the schedule. Kemper Military School first appeared on the schedule in 1902. Wentworth became part of the Missouri State Conference with Kemper, Missouri Military Academy, Chillicothe Business College, Rockhurst College and St. Paul’s College.
Wentworth sponsored junior college, high school and junior high teams in most sports—including, basketball, baseball, and track. Later these included more individual sports such as cross country, golf, tennis, and wrestling. In addition, Wentworth offered strong intramural competition among the cadet companies.
After 1993, Wentworth fielded women’s teams in volleyball, cross country, and track.
2019 image of the Administration Building behind the spring blossoms. D Barracks is to the left, the Student Center to the right. The empty pedestal in front formerly held the "Griffin" statue--now at College of William and Mary.
1903 Wentworth football team. Image from the 1903 yearbook. https://archive.org/details/Wentworth_Military_Academy_Yearbook_1903/page/n49.