New arts, language institute planned for Lexington

Friday, November 24, 2017

The recent closing of Wentworth Military Academy and Community College seemingly left a gap in local opportunities for ongoing education. A former Wentworth professor of English has decided to use the opportunity to begin a national dialogue about universities, their structure, and the possibility of a cheaper and yet still prestigious educational institution.

As a result, Thomas Rowland, PhD, is initiating the Riverwell Institute, a small school that will provide a forum for a larger and longer discussion on universities. He said he hopes to have the institute underway for the coming term, which begins in January.

“The foundational idea of the institute is that learning is not just for the young: it is a lifelong pursuit,” Rowland said. “At the moment, Riverwell is not a degree-granting school, but rather an umbrella institute hosting classes on language and the arts, and eventually a program for Shakespearean drama. We intend to appeal to young learners and old, and to every member of the family. We would even love to have parents and their children enroll in the same classes.”

This project will start small, he said, offering classes related to rhetoric and literature, foreign language, martial arts, music, and the fine arts to both residents of Lexington and the nearby communities, and to weekend commuters from Kansas City. The classes will reflect a wide variety of skills and interests of both Rowland and the other instructors, so each class will be taught by someone with experience, strong qualifications, and a passion for the arts.

“Some of the offerings will be one-of-a-kind in Missouri, including the Salle Saint Louis, a martial arts school specializing in the style of self-defense as practiced by medieval knights, and will include authentic sword fighting techniques,” Rowland stated. “There is no comparable school to this anywhere else in Missouri.”

The Institute is also committed to growing and serving Lexington and the nearby communities in other ways. In addition to classes, the Institute will also host events on Friday and Saturday nights, giving a safe and exciting range of activities for children, youth, and young adults on the weekends.

“We are also hosting classes directed to Kansas City commuters, in order to promote a wider profile for Lexington to the greater metropolitan population,” Rowland said. “Part of this offering will be the new Shakespeare Academy, which will begin a tradition of Shakespeare productions in Lexington parks.”

The overall plan for the institute is to grow a little bigger each year until they reach a phase at which they can transform into a university, one that will serve Lexington and the nearby communities as effectively as previous institutions had done.

“Lexington has always been a place of educational innovation, and I am hoping that The Riverwell Institute will continue this proud tradition,” Rowland said. “For this project to grow, it will require the support of the community. At the moment, I’m asking residents to consider signing up for a class, or to let others know who might be interested to do so.” Those who may not want to participate in a class are encouraged to sponsor a student locally who may find such opportunities outside of the family’s budget. Riverwell will also gladly accept donations to the school. And potential instructors who might like to expand the school’s offerings are encouraged to contact the institute.

The institute currently is enrolling students for its initial winter term, which starts Jan. 15, 2018. Enrollment goes until Dec. 15, at which point late enrollment begins. The winter term’s line-up includes:

—University courses with college credit through Saint Louis University.

— One-of-a-kind medieval martial art courses including sword fighting.

— Art history and mural painting.

— Private lessons in piano and guitar.

— Future courses will include ACT/SAT exam prep courses, Bible and philosophy courses, and drama courses.

Anyone interested in more information, or to sign up for classes, is invited to visit the institute’s website at Riverwell Institute is located at 925 Main Street in Lexington, and can be reached for more information at

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