Wentworth Military Academy and College

Wentworth Military Academy and College

name = Wentworth Military Academy

established = 1880
motto = "Achieve the Honorable"
type = Military junior college and High school
head_label = Superintendent
head = Captain Basil Read
city = Lexington
state = MO
country = USA
undergrad = 1500 students
postgrad =
staff =
campus = convert|137|acre|km2|1
mascot = Red Dragons
free_label =
free =
website = http://www.wma.edu |

Wentworth Military Academy and College is a private four-year college preparatory high school and military junior college. It is located in Lexington, Missouri, part of the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area. Wentworth is the oldest military academy west of the Mississippi River, and the campus is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of five military junior colleges in the United States. Among the programs that Wentworth offers is 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 has had 100% acceptance into the Air Force Academy over the past 19 years through its Falcon Foundation Scholarship program. Because the high school shares the campus with the junior college, many high school students accelerate their education and gain college credit during their junior and senior years.



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

On May 12, 1879, Wentworth’s twenty-seven 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 twenty-two 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 twenty-six 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

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, all still familiar to cadets today. 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 is still evident today. He led the school 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. 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

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 600 students a year.

Continuity and change in the post-Vietnam era

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 convert|32000|sqft|m2|-2 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 operation of the Academy.

Modern expansion

In the 1990s, Wentworth struggled with enrollment. As part of a new approach, female cadets were admitted for the first time in 1993, and today they make up about twenty-five percent of the corps. In 2002, Major General John H. Little, Wentworth Class of 1961, returned to campus as Superintendent. Under his stewardship, a new state-of-the-art barracks, Tillotson Hall, was constructed, and the growth of the Wentworth Foundation put the school on stronger financial footing.

Captain Basil Read (USN ret.) was named the school's 13th superintendent in 2007. Captain Read has instituted a number of new academic programs, establishing Wentworth's Accelerated Scholars program, Distinguished Scholars program, and Launching Scholars program. Now all Wentworth high school cadets will graduate with some college credit. He also is expanding Wentworth Junior College's dual enrollment program with area high schools, and is strengthening the programs within the military junior college (MJC) as the U.S. Army increases the number of MJC scholarships.

High School academic program

Wentworth takes advantage of the fact that it is one of few schools in the United States that has a college and high school sharing the same campus by encouraging all its high school students to gain college credit before they graduate from high school. In 2007, Wentworth announced that they would offer a three-tiered program designed to allow all of its high school students to graduate with some college credit. The Wentworth Launching Scholars program allowsstudents to earn simultaneous high school graduation credit for college classes, and graduate with approximately 1 semester (6-12 credit hours) or more of college already complete. The Wentworth Distinguished Scholars program participants may graduate with approximately 1 year (24 - 32 credit hours) or more of college credit. The most advanced program, the Accelerated Scholars Program, allows its students to graduate from high school and obtain an Associate's degree from the junior college simultaneously.

Over 95% of Wentworth graduates go on to college. In the last twenty-five years, Wentworth has sent more than 150 cadets to top twenty colleges, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, including the Air Force Academy, West Point, the Naval Academy, Harvard and Yale. Thousands more Wentworth students have gone on to earn degrees at private and public colleges and universities throughout the country.

Camp LEAD summer program

Wentworth’s Camp Lead summer program allows students to earn up to 6 college credits and participate in programs such as Marine Biology (in which they earn lifetime SCUBA certification), Aviation (including ground school and flight orientation), or Advanced Military Skills, where students learn advanced leadership and can be awarded a conditional college ROTC scholarship.

tudy Time

Call to Quarters (CQ) is a two-hour study session held every school night (Sunday – Thursday), from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. If a student is caught up with his or her studies, he or she can use CQs to get ahead or write a letter home or other quiet activity. Those who require more study time can request it. Members of the faculty are assigned as Duty Officers and are available on each floor to assist cadets who need help.

College Academic program and Senior ROTC program

Wentworth's 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. Other college graduates do not pursue the military, but choose to continue on to the nation's most competitive four-year colleges and universities as rising juniors.

2-Year Early Commissioning Program

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 criteria 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's 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.

4-Year Commissioning Program

Wentworth’s four-year program is known as the 2+2 Scholarship Program. This is a unique, one-of-a-kind, four-year ROTC scholarship broken into two separate, but significant parts. Recipients attend their freshman and sophomore years at Wentworth, enrolled in the basic Military Science Program (Military Science Levels I and II). Upon completion at Wentworth, students earn an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science Degree, then transfer to either Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, or the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, to complete their junior and senior year. They then complete the advanced Military Science Program (Military Science Levels III and IV). Successful completion of the 2+2 Scholarship Program culminates with a bachelor’s degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army, Army Reserve, or National Guard.

Air Force Academy Falcon Scholarship Program

Wentworth partners with the Air Force Academy and the Falcon Foundation to offer academically talented students a one-year scholarship at Wentworth that leads to an appointment at the United States Air Force Academy, one of the most selective higher education institutions in the country. Wentworth traditionally accepts fewer than one in seven applicants. Over the past 19 years, Wentworth has had a 100% success rate getting its Falcon Scholars accepted to the USAFA. Wentworth also has sent a number of students on to West Point and the Naval Academy through its Service Academy Prep program.

Extension sites and commuter college program

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

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.

Academic Accreditation

Wentworth's high school is accredited by the North Central Association, and Wentworth's college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. In addition, Wentworth is a member of the National Association of Community Colleges, The Association of Boarding Schools, the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States, and others. [www.wma.edu]

tudent life

Corps of Cadets

The Wentworth Corps of Cadets consists of approximately 250 students, ranging from 9th grade through junior college sophomores. The corps is divided up into five companies, and junior college cadets provide most of the corps' leadership, supervised by Wentworth staff and faculty. For the first semester cadets are introduced to a introductory phase known as Recruit At Training or RAT. RAT is based on a Virginia Military Institute tradition that was put into place by Wentworth's first commandant in the 1880s. The RAT system is designed to help new students to master the habits of discipline, success, time-management, character growth, self-discipline, critical thinking, leadership development, school pride, and ensures each student learns Wentworth's history. At the end of the RAT phase, cadets become Old Boys, making them full-fledged members of the Corps of Cadets.


Wentworth’s campus features four full-sized outdoor athletic fields and eight tennis courts. The 65,000 square foot Wikoff Athletic Center includes three basketball courts, a Laykold-type indoor track, a racquetball court, a weight room, a wrestling room, a Jacuzzi and an Olympic-size pool.

The high school is a member of the Missouri State High School Activities Association (Division 1-A) and the Mid-State Conference. The high school Wentworth Red Dragons compete in football, basketball, soccer, wrestling, track and field, cross country, volleyball, swimming, golf, and tennis.

The college is affiliated with the Missouri Community College Conference and National Junior College Athletic Association, and competes in track, wrestling, soccer, cross country, tennis and golf.

For many years, 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.

Extracurricular activities

Cadets participate in a range of extracurricular activities normally two days a week. The remaining days are dedicated to ROTC lab exercises or athletics. Activities vary by season and sponsor but usually include aviation, newspaper, yearbook, camera club, quiz bowl, jazz band, chorus, horseback riding, swimming, SCUBA diving, paintball, rock climbing, archery, Rangers, rifle team, scouting, and more.

Honor Guard

Wentworth’s Honor Guard was formed in 1945 and is comprised primarily from the top academic students of the corps. Its primary function is as an elite drill team, performing what is known as the “Silent Drill” - a ten minute sequence of intricate marching maneuvers requiring absolute precision and perfection.

Marching band

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 31 years. In 1955, new band director Captain James Bell inaugurated a routine which formed the basis of Wentworth’s famous "Snap Drill", still being performed today. In the 1970s, under the direction of Captain Roger Kendall, now a music professor 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 has performed in countless parades including Mardi Gras, the Cherry Blossom 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. The band is still Wentworth’s premier public relations vehicle.

Community service

Wentworth college and high school cadets are all encouraged to perform community service, Such service is a graduation requirement for high school cadets. Seniors must complete 20 hours, juniors 18, sophomores 16, and freshman 14 per academic year to fulfill the requirement. This past year, Wentworth cadets supported a variety of charitable causes in Lafayette County and Kansas City and contributed 2,768 hours of service, with some cadets personally contributing in excess of 50 hours.

Notable alumni


*Ike Skelton - United States Congressman, 4th District of Missouri (1977 - present), Ranking Democrat and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee
*Charles H. Price II - former United States Ambassador to Belgium (1981-1983) and United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom (1983-1989); appointed by President Ronald Reagan
*Newell A. George - United States Congressman, 1959-1961

The Arts

*Robert Altman - Academy Award winning Director of classic films such as "M*A*S*H" (1970), "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (1971), "The Long Goodbye" (1974), "Nashville" (1975), "The Player" (1992), "Short Cuts" (1993), "Kansas City" (1996), "Dr. T & the Women" (2000), "Gosford Park" (2001), "The Company" (2003), and "A Prairie Home Companion" (2006)
*Marlin Perkins - host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom


*James "Bud" Walton - Co-founder of Wal-Mart
*Eddie Chiles - Founder of the Western Company of North America and owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team
*John D. Groendyke - (1964) CEO of Groendyke Transport Inc. the 5th largest tank truck company in the nation.
*William C. Schwartz - Physicist, Laser pioneer, and founder of International Laser Systems


*Paul Henderson - reporter for The Seattle Times, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in 1982
*Lewis Hill - co-founder of Pacifica Radio, the first public radio station in the U.S.


* Dr. Ovid R. Sellers - internationally known Old Testament scholar and archaeologist


*Beals Becker - Major League baseball player
*Med Park - NBA player
*Harry Ice - MVP of 1942 Sugar Bowl, member of University of Missouri's all-century football team
*Ben A. Jones - Thoroughbred horse trainer, six-time winner of the Kentucky Derby


* Lt. General Melvin F. Chubb, Jr. - Former Commander of Hanscom Air Force Base
* Major General Clarence L. Tinker - namesake of Tinker Air Force Base
* General William M. Hoge - oversaw construction of the ALCAN Highway and directed capture of the Remagen Bridge in World War II
*George B. Turner - Medal of Honor recipient, World War II
*William E. Adams - Medal of Honor recipient, Vietnam War


* Colonel Sandford Sellers, 1880-1906, 1907-1923.
* Colonel William McGuffey Hoge, 1906-1907.
* Colonel Sandford Sellers, Jr., 1923-1933
* Colonel James M. Sellers, 1933-1960.
* Colonel Lester B. Wikoff, 1960-1971.
* Colonel Leon Ungles, 1971-1973.
* Colonel James M. Sellers, Jr., 1973-1990.
* Colonel John Rowland Edwards, 1990-1991.
* Lieutenant General Robert Arter, 1991.
* Brigadier General Gerald Childress, 1991-1994.
* Colonel Jerry E. Brown, 1994-2002.
* Major General John H. Little, 2002-2007.
* Captain Basil Read, 2007-present.


* The Story of Wentworth, by Raymond W. Settle, 1950, Spencer Printing Co., Kansas City.
* History of Wentworth Military Academy, by James M. Sellers, Jr., 1984.
* Wentworth Trumpeter, 1893-2007.
* Wentworth Military Academy, 125th Anniversary. Lil Touch Publishing. 2005.

External links

* [http://www.wma.edu Wentworth Military Academy and College Website]

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