Battle Mountain High School celebrates 55th commencement |

Battle Mountain High School celebrates 55th commencement

Graduating senior Rachel-Marie Weiss from the 2015 Class of Battle Mountain High School sings a solo during the Battle Mountain Jazz Choir and Senior presentation of "The Longest Time" by Billy Joel.
Chelsea Tuttle|Vail Daily |

VAIL — Rachel Ledon finally put in perspective how AWESOME the Battle Mountain’s Class of 2015 is.

“Our entire community is excited about Battle Mountain’s Class of 2015,” she said. “2015 is everywhere. Every bumper has a 2015 sticker on it, Vail Resorts built an event around us, and people started selling memorabilia just to commemorate this class.”

Battle Mountain’s 55th commencement, like the class itself, spanned sunshine, rain, snow and a couple storms. But eventually the sun came out, as it always does in life.

Ledon gave “mad props” to their parents, “Who graduated without Wikipedia.”

“I know how proud they are. This would be the best time to ask them for money,” Ledon said.

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Among the Huskies: Tanner Crisofulli collected his award for Outstanding Service to School, and then the entire class broke into a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” because it was.

Graduate Julio Garcia has his own YouTube channel, putting together multi-lingual how-to videos.

Hi mom!

Principal Phil Qualman opened by thanking everyone who came, parents, friends and family, beginning with his mom.

“She has always been here when I needed her. Thank you, Mom!” he said.

Speaking of moms, graduate Rachel Weiss is among the 1 percent of Americans accepted to Cambridge University, the one in England, the one that no one you know is smart enough to get into — until now.

“Be yourself. If you can’t be yourself, be Cathleen Weiss,” Rachel said, introducing her mom.

Rachel is the youngest of their six kids, and Cathleen said she’s graduating, too.

“For more than 30 years I’ve been the mother of children. As of today, I’m not. I’m the mother of adults, and that’s profoundly different,” Cathleen said. “You are going to do lots of stupid things. Parents, you are, too. A lot of those stupid things, we’ll do because we have never done this before. We have never let go of one another before.”

‘Remember us as loving you’

Donald Hohmann, retiring Spanish teacher, was resplendent as he gave the faculty address in a stylish black academic robe and matching black fedora. He threw away his mortarboard 10 years ago and replaced it with the fedora.

“I lived above a funeral home when I was in college. Often you’d have to help bring in the bodies,” he said.

He dodged the duty for four years, he said.

“The last day when I was on my way out with my suitcase in my hand, the owner saw me and said, ‘Donald, would you help me bring in the corpse, please?’ I wanted to run.”

“I had that same feeling when the class asked me to do this speech,” Hohmann said.

He trotted out a little Winston Churchill and a little Dr. Martin Luther King, ending with the entire crowd singing out, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we’re free at last.”

“You feel that way, don’t you?” he asked the graduates.

The entire class stood and faced the crowd to give their families and friends a standing ovation. Then he had the crowd do the same thing for the grads, “For what they have meant to you.”

“Remember us as loving you,” Hohmann said.

Hohmann has already cleared out his classroom, sort of the same thing the graduates are doing.

“There’s never a time when you’ll feel more freedom and relief than you feel right now. Right now, it’s just freedom and liberty. Just don’t do anything stupid.”

He said he woke up two weeks before retiring telling himself that very thing.

“Just get through these next two weeks and don’t do anything stupid,” Hohmann said.

Their black robes represent a blank blackboard, a blank slate, Hohmann said.

“You can start to be whatever you want to be,” he said.

Then they sang “Leavin’ On a Jet Plane.” They sounded a little like the Mormon Tubercular Choir, and it was GREAT! They got a standing ovation.

And so did the Class of 2015, the one all the fuss is about.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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