Wentworth Military Academy and College

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Wentworth Military Academy
Motto En Dieu Et Tout (Latin), In God Is All (English)
Type Military Junior College and High School
Active 1880–2017
Location Lexington, Missouri, United States
39°11′12″N 93°52′22″W / 39.1866°N 93.8727°W / 39.1866; -93.8727Coordinates: 39°11′12″N 93°52′22″W / 39.1866°N 93.8727°W / 39.1866; -93.8727
Campus 137 acres (55.4 ha)
Mascot Red Dragons


Wentworth Military Academy
Wentworth Military Academy Administration Building
Wentworth Military Academy and College is located in Missouri
Wentworth Military Academy and College
Wentworth Military Academy and College is located in the US
Wentworth Military Academy and College
Location Washington Ave. and 18th St., Lexington, Missouri
Area 15.2 acres (6.2 ha)
Built 1883 (1883)
Architect Multiple
Architectural style Greek Revival, Italianate
NRHP Reference # 80002373[1]
Added to NRHP November 24, 1980

Wentworth Military Academy and College was a private two-year military college and high school in Lexington, Missouri, part of the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Wentworth was one of five military junior colleges in the United States. The institution held its final commencement and dress parade on May 13, 2017.



Lexington's Civil War Battle of the Hemp Bales was still a recent memory when Stephen G. Wentworth founded Wentworth Military Academy in 1880. By the 1870s, the town had already attained the reputation as the "Athens of the West" for its many academic institutions. Lexington was home to three notable schools for girls. Lexington Baptist Female College was started in 1850 in the old county courthouse that had been abandoned upon the construction of the new Lafayette County Courthouse, built in 1847 and still in use today. In 1869 the Baptist Female College moved its operation to the former home of Pony Express Founder William B. Waddell at the corner of 13th and South Streets. Elizabeth Aull Seminary was opened in the fall of 1860 and operated in a large building on Highland Avenue. Central Female College, later Central College for Women, began in 1868 and, in 1871, took over the old Masonic College on the grounds of the Battlefield. However, Lexington's educators, business leaders and ministers had made numerous attempts to establish a school for boys and young men. Public schools were not yet widespread and there was a glaring need for a boys' school, but none had been successful. The most visible failed effort was the Masonic College of Missouri, which moved to Lexington in 1847 and operated until 1859.

Wentworth Male Academy[edit]

On May 12, 1879, Wentworth's 27-year-old son William died. As a memorial, Wentworth focused his attention on finally making a school for boys a reality in Lexington. In the spring of 1880, Mr. Wentworth announced that a new school named Wentworth Male Academy would begin operation in the fall. Mr. Wentworth had a long record of public service to Lexington. A local editorial writer proclaimed that Wentworth was "One of our oldest, most generous and most worthy citizens" and "no nobler name can this community furnish [the new school]. " On May 24, 1880, Mr. Wentworth bought the "New Presbyterian Church" at the southwest corner of 18th and Main Streets, directed that it be fitted up for the next term, and gave the school solid financial backing. Although his financial involvement was limited to the Academy's early years of operation, his foresight led to the establishment of the first board of trustees and his generosity provided a firm foundation for the school.

Wentworth also announced that 22-year-old Benjamin Lewis Hobson, the son of the local Presbyterian minister who had run a fledgling private boys’ school in town the previous year, would be given charge of W.M.A. Young Hobson had graduated from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1877, and had spent the next two years as teacher and then principal of Spencer Institute in Taylorsville, Kentucky. In the summer of 1879, he had returned to his hometown of Lexington and started Hobson's Select School for Boys.

Benjamin Hobson knew that he could not operate the new school alone, and he turned to Sandford Sellers, a 26-year-old friend and former classmate at Centre College in Kentucky. Sellers eagerly accepted Hobson's invitation to join him as co-principal at Wentworth Male Academy. When Hobson left to pursue a career in the ministry at the end of the 1880–81 school year, Sellers took full charge of the academy.

Wentworth Military Academy[edit]

Sandford Sellers became the force who forged Wentworth's national reputation, and his hand would guide the school for the next 58 years. In the early days, he handled all the institution's administrative affairs, academic planning, and student recruitment on his own, canvassing surrounding areas on horseback. In 1882, Wentworth became a military school, and Sellers hired Captain David W. Fleet, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, as the first Commandant. Fleet brought VMI terms such as "rats", "rears", and "Old Boys" to the school. The school officially changed its name to Wentworth Military Academy in 1890.

Sellers' skills as educator, administrator, businessman, and promoter saw the institution through its first half-century of growth, and his vision remained throughout the history of the school. He led Wentworth through economic panics of the 1890s, when he struggled to keep enrollment above 100, and through the boom times of World War I, when enrollment more than doubled to over 500 cadets. He also oversaw the addition of the junior college in 1923.

During much of the 20th century, the annual football game with rival Kemper Military School and College in Boonville, Missouri was a huge event on Thanksgiving Day, with both corps of cadets boarding trains and either meeting on their home fields, or sometimes meeting on a neutral field in Sedalia or Marshall, Missouri. The Kansas City and St. Louis newspapers referred to the gridiron battle as the "Little Army-Navy Game", and gave front page coverage to the outcome. This rivalry ended with the 2002 closure of Kemper.

By the mid-1920s, Sandford Sellers, handed over much of the day-to-day operations of the school to his sons, Sandford Sellers, Jr., superintendent from 1923 to 1933, and James M. Sellers, Commandant and Assistant Superintendent. But Sandford Sellers stayed very involved until his death in 1938 after a fall in the school gymnasium.

From the Great Depression to post-World War II prosperity[edit]

When the Great Depression of the 1930s hit the country, Wentworth, like many institutions across the country, struggled to survive. In 1933, Colonel James M. Sellers assumed the superintendency of the school and was soon joined at the helm by Colonel Lester B. Wikoff, treasurer and business manager. Together, Sellers’ natural leadership and Wikoff's business acumen would lead the school to new heights. Colonel Sellers and Colonel Wikoff guided the school through the lean years of the 1930s and into the prosperity of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. During their term of leadership, Wentworth added a number of buildings to the campus, including the Sellers-Wikoff Scholastic Building, the Memorial Chapel, Sandford Sellers Hall, and the Wikoff Field House. In addition, a unique military aviator training program complete with its own airport was launched to train pilots. A highlight of the Sellers-Wikoff era was President Harry S. Truman's speech to the cadet corps at Wentworth's 75th anniversary celebration in 1954.

In 1960, Sellers retired as superintendent but remained as president of the school, and Wikoff served as superintendent from 1960 to 1971. During that time, Wentworth had unparalleled enrollment, averaging over 550 students a year. Under Wikoff's leadership, the 65,000-square-foot (6,000 m2) Wikoff Field House opened in 1966, including three basketball courts, a Laykold-type indoor track, a racquetball court, a weight room, a wrestling room, and a pool. Among the signature programs that Wentworth offered from 1966 until its closing was the Army's two-year Early Commissioning Program, an Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program through which qualified students can earn a commission as a Second Lieutenant after two years of college. Wentworth also participated in the Air Force Academy Falcon Foundation Scholarship program beginning in 1971 and continuing through 2016. Among the very first class of Falcon Scholars at Wentworth was General Mark A. Welsh who would go on to be 20th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force.

Continuity and change in the post-Vietnam era[edit]

In 1973, a third generation of the Sellers family assumed leadership of the Academy when Colonel James M. Sellers, Jr., a 1945 Wentworth graduate, was named as superintendent. In the early 1970s, the school was again faced with crisis. Anti-military backlash from the country's continued involvement in the Vietnam War, combined with double-digit inflation, caused enrollment to plummet. Many military schools across the country simply closed their doors. Wentworth was dealt an additional blow when, in 1975, a fire destroyed two buildings and severely damaged others, causing the loss of over 32,000 square feet (3,000 m2) of space.

Despite these setbacks, Colonel J. M. Sellers, Jr., was able to stabilize enrollment by 1978 and lead the academy through another period of growth. In 1980, Wentworth celebrated its centennial year, with Vice-President Walter Mondale addressing the corps of cadets at commencement. In the early 1980s, enrollment continued to rise, peaking at over 400 cadets in 1984. In 1990, Colonel Sellers, Sr., who taught Latin until he was 95 years old, died, and Colonel Sellers, Jr., resigned as superintendent, ending a remarkable 110 years of the Sellers family's continuous involvement in the active operation of the academy.

Last Years[edit]

In the 1990s, Wentworth struggled with enrollment. As part of a new approach, female cadets were admitted for the first time in 1993, and soon made up about twenty-five percent of the corps. The Wentworth Foundation was created to build stronger financial footing. In 2002, Major General John H. Little, Wentworth Class of 1961, returned to campus as superintendent. Under his stewardship, Tillotson barracks, was constructed.


On April 7, 2017, the Board of Trustees announced that Wentworth Military Academy & College would be closed, with final commencement to occur on May 13, 2017 and the official date of closure set for May 31, 2017. An email was sent out to all alumni and employees, parents and cadets were informed. The announcement cited declining enrollment, an aging campus, and a lack of financial support for continued operations. Plans were announced to settle the school's debts, allow students and staff to seek enrollment and employment elsewhere.

Academic accreditation[edit]

Wentworth's college was accredited by the Higher Learning Commission but had been placed on probation due to its financial position and the high school is accredited by AdvancED,[2] formerly the (North Central Association of Colleges and Schools). In addition, Wentworth is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges, The Association of Boarding Schools, the National Association of Independent Schools, the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States, and others.[3] The Higher Learning Commission placed Wentworth on probation in late 2015 "because of concerns related to integrity regarding the College's finances and resources to support its academic programs and operations."[4]

Current status of the school and grounds[edit]

Following its closure in May 2017, there are no plans yet for the school’s facilities at the Lexington campus.

National Historic District[edit]

The Wentworth Military Academy was listed as a national historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.[1] The district encompasses seven contributing buildings erected from approximately 1830 to 1920. They are Hickman Hall (1907), "D" Company (1884), The Administration Building (1865, 1895, 1905, 1938), The Student Union (1914, 1920, 1966), Marine Barracks (1918, 1928), Superintendent's Residence (1838, 1848) and Junior Barracks (1920).[5]


The campus has been mentioned as a frequent location for paranormal sightings.

Signature programs[edit]

Wentworth college students attend either the military college as cadets, or the civilian college as commuter students. Wentworth Military College provides the opportunity to receive a commission in the U.S. Army, Army Reserve or Army National Guard. Wentworth's Senior Army ROTC offers two and four-year programs for becoming an Army Officer. Wentworth also has a one-year Service Academy Prep program. Wentworth college graduates are not obligated to military service, however, and are able to transfer to a four-year college or university as rising juniors. Wentworth also maintains ties with Missouri Valley College and the University of Central Missouri, both offering guaranteed transfer agreements to Wentworth junior college cadets and students.

2-Year Early Commissioning Program and ROTC Program[edit]

Wentworth's Early Commissioning Program (ECP) is a 2-year ROTC program that allows college students to receive a U.S. Army commission as a Second Lieutenant upon graduation as a college sophomore. Wentworth's ECP graduates have a number of advantages compared with a graduate of a 4-year ROTC commissioning program. In addition to the intensive leadership training obtained, those Wentworth college sophomores who are commissioned as second lieutenants have a two-year head start toward promotions and retirement.

The ECP is tailored for those who have completed one of three requirements: (1) three or more years of JROTC; (2) Leaders Training Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky or Basic Training; and/or (3) AIT with the National Guard or Army Reserve. Applicants who meet this criterion are eligible for two different two-year scholarship opportunities: the Military Junior College Scholarship (MJC) or the Campus-based Scholarship. Recipients of the MJC Scholarship serve in a Guard or Reserve Unit while enrolled, while Campus-based recipients cannot serve in the Guard or Reserve. Upon graduation from Wentworth with an associate degree and a commission, recipients must complete their bachelor's degree at a four-year college of their choice that offers ROTC, and they must graduate within three years of commissioning. Recipients will also serve with a Guard or Reserve unit while completing their bachelor's degree.

Extension sites and commuter college program[edit]

In addition to the main campus in Lexington for about 250 resident full-time students comprising the Corps of Cadets, Wentworth serves several hundred local area commuter college students. Wentworth also has three extension centers located around the state of Missouri in Cameron, Hermitage, and Lamar, serving a total of over 1500 commuter full- and part-time students.

Dual enrollment with area high schools[edit]

Wentworth's college partners with numerous high schools within Missouri and Kansas to offer a dual enrollment program. This program provides qualifying high school junior and seniors the opportunity to earn college credits while completing their high school graduation requirements within the setting of their own high school. Approved college-certified faculty teach students using a college level curriculum. At completion, the student receives credit for the appropriate high school course in addition to earning college credit hours from Wentworth. College credits earned through Wentworth's dual enrollment program will transfer to most colleges and universities.

Honor Guard[edit]

Wentworth's Honor Guard was formed in 1945 and was composed primarily of the top academic students of the corps. Its primary function was as an elite drill team, performing what is known as the "Silent Drill" – a ten-minute sequence of intricate marching maneuvers using 1903 Springfield A3 rifles requiring absolute precision and perfection. The Honor Guard has won numerous national championships and was named the nations bicentennial drill team in 1976.

Marching band[edit]

During the 1896–1897 school year, Captain E. J. Stark organized the first Wentworth band of fifteen pieces. When Captain Stark left in 1905 to become a noted ragtime composer and arranger, he was succeeded by Captain F.A. Day who led the band for the next three decades. In 1955, new band director Captain James Bell inaugurated a routine which formed the basis of Wentworth's famous "Snap Drill". In 1965, under the direction of Robert Hinds, the band won the All-American Band Competition and marched in the Inauguration Parade for President Lyndon B. Johnson. In the 1970s, under the direction of Captain Roger Kendall, professor emeritus of Ethnomuicology at UCLA, the band reached new heights, winning national band competitions, and performing and recording Captain Kendall's original "Centennial Symphony", produced especially for Wentworth's centennial year in 1980. Through the years, the band served as Wentworth's premier public relations vehicle and performed in countless parades including Mardi Gras, the Cherry Blossom parade, the American Royal parade, presidential inaugural parades, and gubernatorial inaugural parades, as well as appearing at Kansas City Royals games, Kansas City Chiefs games, and numerous band competitions. In 1991 the band traveled to London, England where they marched in Kensington's New Years Day Parade.

Wentworth Military Academy & College Bandmasters

  • Etilmon J. Stark, 1896 to 1905 (Founder)
  • Fred A. Day, 1905 to 1934
  • E. Harry Criswell, 1934 (Acting Bandmaster, Dean of the College)
  • W.L. Pike, 1935
  • Ben Johnson, c. 1946
  • Jim Bell, 1955 to 1963
  • Robert Hinds, 1963 to 1970
  • Danny Lane, 1970 to 1974
  • James Siewert, 1974 to 1976
  • James Newhard, 1976 to 1978
  • Roger Kendall, 1978 to 1981
  • Dr. Guy D'Aurelio, 1981 to 1996
  • Pat Scott, 1996 to 1999
  • Kevin Edgar, 1999 to 2003
  • Marc Graham, 2003 to 2004
  • Gary Love, 2004 to 2015
  • Dr. Chris Waage, 2015 to 2017

Notable alumni[edit]


The Arts[edit]




  • Dr. Ovid R. Sellers – internationally known Old Testament scholar and archaeologist



Presidents of Wentworth Military Academy & College[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ http://www.advanc-ed.org/oasis2/u/par/accreditation/summary?institutionId=7476
  3. ^ www.wma.edu
  4. ^ "Public Disclosure Notice on Wentworth Military Academy and College" (PDF). Higher Learning Commission. November 5, 2015. Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  5. ^ Mary J. Matthews (January 1980). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Wentworth Military Academy" (PDF). Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2017-01-01.  (includes 14 photographs from 1979)

External links[edit]