Wentworth Military Academy and College, an institution in Lexington, Mo., for 137 years, will close its doors for good when the current semester ends May 31.
Letters dated April 7 went out to cadets, students, parents and alumni of Wentworth telling them that declining revenues and increased expenses made it “impossible for Wentworth to continue providing the level of education and services expected, while remaining financially viable.”
Allan Hallquist, a lawyer with Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell who represents Wentworth, confirmed the upcoming closure.
“The academy has had declining revenue, declining enrollment and increased expenses for a period of time,” Hallquist told The Star in an interview on Saturday. “They have had for a number of years a generous, loyal alumnus who funded the deficit while they have considered different strategies for increasing revenue. But they have not been able to operate in the black.”
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Hallquist declined to identify the alumnus. He said Wentworth planned an orderly wind up of its operations, settling of its debts and liquidation assets after this, its final semester, ends.
“The Wentworth board decided to close with dignity and with an orderly fashion now as opposed to continuing to operate with a deficit and at some point in the future face with a brick wall and they would lose control,” Hallquist said.
Wentworth, a private institution, had 220 cadets who boarded at the campus, 55 of which were high school students and the rest enrolled in its two-year college program. Another 300 civilian college students took classes at Wentworth.
Wentworth, with its stately campus situated one block off Main Street in Lexington, about 50 miles east of Kansas City, counts the late Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton among its prominent alumni. James “Bud” Walton, co-founder of Wal-Mart, attended as well.
The academy fell on difficult times in recent years. On November 5, 2015, the Higher Learning Commission put Wentworth’s accreditation status on probation. The commission cited concerns about Wentworth’s finances and resources to support academic programs. The commission was set to review Wentworth’s accreditation status on Monday, according to its website.
According to Wentworth’s nonprofit filing with the Internal Revenue Services, the academy posted a $1 million loss for the year ending May 31, 2016.
Hallquist said that there was no precipitating event that led to the Wentworth board’s decision to close.
“Honestly, it’s an ongoing inability to operate in the black for a military academy in a small, rural Missouri town,” Hallquist said.
Lexington Mayor Jerry Brown, former superintendent of Wentworth, told The Star that the Lexington City Council on Tuesday would discuss the academy’s situation.
“We would like to continue this facility in Lexington,” Brown said. “Maybe reuse and maybe refurbish to some extent.”