VENICE — Kentucky Military Institute alumni returned to their former Venice campus Friday for a dedication of an exhibit at the San Marco building.
Larry Humes, with the KMI Alumni Association, emceed the dedication during a gathering outside the building along a slice of Centennial Park.
Humes thanked the Venice Centre HOA which assisted with creating the exhibit inside the San Marco building.
Now a mix of condominiums and businesses, the building once housed KMI students who would take a 36-hour train ride from northern Kentucky a few days after Christmas every year to spend a semester in Venice.
“Our motto was ‘Character makes the man,’” Humes recalled. He smiled as he spoke about the history and the exhibit that will last far into the future.
Creating the exhibit was a team effort, linking together the Venice Centre HOA, Venice MainStreet and KMI Alumni Association.
The exhibit was created by Creative Arts with funding by the KMI Alumni Association in collaboration with the Venice Centre Association, representing the building’s condominium owners.
Michelle Harm curated the year-long project, Humes said. Harm is with Venice MainStreet and is a former curator of Venice Museum & Archives.
“KMI and Venice Centre are forever linked together,” Venice Centre HOA President Peter Cundari said. “We are very, very grateful to be chosen to house this first-class exhibit.”
Harry Klinkhamer, manager of the Venice Division of Historical Resources, noted what KMI meant to Venice between 1933-1970 — calling the students “the ultimate snowbirds.”
“The time they spent here had an awesome impact on this community,” Klinkhamer said.
KMI alumni appreciated the efforts made.
“I’m glad to see the city is still willing to remember our school as being a part of the history of Venice,” Class of 1971 graduate Brigham Clegg said. “Most (residents) don’t know who we are.”
Clegg, now a Sarasota resident, said KMI taught him respect and how to be a team player — and spoke about the motto “Character makes a man.”
John Bevis, who graduated in 1965, said he was “making a career out of high school” before his father gave him the option of KMI. Aspects of the school taught him about organization. He became a pilot and boat captain, something he wonders if he’d been able to do without the discipline he learned.
And he has to make his bed every morning.
“Things are neat and straight,” he said.
Fred Francis, now a Venice resident and another KMI alumni, said there is something to be said for schools like KMI.
“It gave me an opportunity to grow up on my own,” said Francis, who graduated in 1957. “We matured quickly because we were here.”
KMI was founded in 1845 in Frankfort, Kentucky, and was the first affiliated with the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Program — then later moved to Lyndon, Kentucky, outside of downtown Louisville. It eventually closed its doors in 1971.
The exhibit features cadet uniforms and other items from their school years.
“Posters outlining the 126-year history of the military preparatory school extend throughout the building’s grand hallway,” Humes noted in an earlier news release.
There are also video monitors giving alumni interviews discussing their Venice memories and their cadet lives, Humes wrote.
“They’ve done a pretty good job,” Francis said.