A dream lost after 137 years

Wentworth Military Academy’s closure brings the dream of its founder to the forefront once again

Charlie Grom, left, a tack officer at Wentworth, marches with his cadets in a 2016 Lexington parade. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Grom)

By Liz Johnson, Staff Writer

“I will not lie, cheat or steal, Or tolerate those who do. Achieve the honorable.”


He had a dream.

Lexington banker Stephen Girard Wentworth dreamed of opening an all-male school as a memorial to his son, William, who died in May of 1879. That dream has remained alive since Wentworth opened Wentworth Male Academy in 1880 – until now. On April 7, 2017, it was announced that Wentworth’s 137-year-old dream has ended.

Wentworth – the beginning

On Sept. 8, 1879, Benjamin Hobson, the New Presbyterian Church minister, announced the opening of a “Select School for Boys and Young Men.” The school opened inside the church, located on the corner of North Main and 18th streets in Lexington.

Wentworth had been a member of Hobson’s church since 1844 and served as a deacon and elder. He was also a board member of the Elizabeth Aull Seminary, and one of three schools for women in Lexington. He knew there were no boys schools in the growing city, and the need for a male academy was great. He became interested in obtaining Hobson’s school as a memorial to his son.

“Lexington needed a top notch boys school,” said Jennifer Teichman Kerr, an attorney in Lexington and local historian. “It was not a military institution in the beginning.”

On May 24, 1880, after establishing an agreement with Hobson, Wentworth bought the New Presbyterian Church and changed the name of the boys school to Wentworth Male Academy in honor of his late son.

Wentworth opened its doors as a male academy in the fall of 1880 with Hobson as principal. Hobson then named a close friend and college classmate, Sandford Sellers, as co-principal.

The days of Wentworth had begun.

The complete story is in the Friday, April 21, 2017 Richmond News.

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