The alumni cadets of Wentworth Military Academy won their fight over their “Doughboy.”
On Tuesday in Lafayette County Circuit Court, a judge granted a temporary restraining order to stop the beloved sculpture from being part of an upcoming auction of assets of Wentworth, which closed in May after 137 years.
“It was a great day for us,” alumni president Scott Hefner said Wednesday. “We needed a win. We’re all still hurting from the closing.”
The Doughboy sculpture was dedicated on the Lexington, Mo., campus in 1923 to honor 14 former cadets who died in World War I. It depicted a charging soldier, one hand holding a rifle, the other raised with a grenade. Every cadet for nearly a century since had saluted the statue.
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The gist of the alumni’s ownership claim was that former cadets purchased the piece and had never given it to the school. Wentworth’s position was that the statue was a gift, like many over the years.
Both sides, including the bank that held liens on Wentworth assets, showed up to fight Tuesday at the courthouse in Lexington, but in the end, everyone came together in agreement that ownership of the sculpture be transferred to the alumni group.
More than 30 former cadets attended the hearing.
“We want to credit Bank Midwest for stepping up the way they did,” Hefner said.
Jim Sellers, the great-great-grandson of Wentworth founder Stephen Wentworth, said the victory means that the Doughboy’s “memory and honor to our comrades will be sustained. And we are thrilled with that responsibility.”
The agreement could lead to other items being taken off the auction block and given to the alumni.
Also, the former cadets announced Tuesday that the group had arranged to lease a building in downtown Lexington for a Wentworth museum and a gathering place for Wentworth “old boys.”
The Doughboy will likely be displayed there or in the town’s courthouse lawn.
Wentworth closed due to falling enrollment, declining revenue and rising costs. Hundreds of former cadets returned to Lexington for the final graduation in May.
Donald Bradley: 816-234-4182