Vail Mountain School graduates its 50th class

Justin McCarty |
Justin Q. McCarty |

Vail Mountain School’s Class of 2013’s commencement honored two men who will always influence the student’s lives, headmaster Peter Abuisi and Dr. Paul Numeroff.

Both set high standards and expected students to reach them, students said during commencement speeches. And that might be the greatest gift given to the VMS community, students said.

Abuisi is retiring after leading the school for more than three decades. Numeroff, who died earlier this year, was a scientist with the Manhattan Project and brought loving but exacting standards to the school as a volunteer science teacher for two decades.

It wasn’t always gold stars on their homework, said Amy Sherman.

She recalled the time Dr. Numeroff stopped class and told a group of students they should go home for the rest of the day and master formula writing if they expected him to continue teaching them.

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“He literally threatened to fire them,” Sherman said. “Instead, he fired them up to set higher standards for preparation and taking personal initiative.”

“Dr. Numeroff was a revered person and personality at Vail Mountain School and is held fondly in our memory,” Sherman said.

Abuisi, conducting his final commencement, left them laughing with an anecdote about Jeff Gorsuch, then 9 years old and a Vail Mountain School student. Abuisi was in Vail to look the place over when he met young master Gorsuch, who helped recruit Abuisi by looking him straight in the eye and confidently saying, “You should move here!”

And with that recommendation, Abuisi did. He says he figured he’d stay three years. In his second year they made him headmaster and he made a five year commitment.

Seven of those five-year commitments have come and gone, and Friday was his final commencement.

The Wright twins, Andy and Mike, opened the school’s 50th anniversary commencement by taking one last opportunity to enjoy people who can’t tell the identical twins apart.

“We entered kindergarten at Vail Mountain School 13 years ago, and now we’re the first set of identical twins to complete 13 years of education here,” said one, while not tipping the crowd about whether it was Andy or Mike. “Looking back at old photos, I have sympathy for the teachers because sometimes I can’t tell the different between the two of us.”

Their first grade teacher, Mr. Lasher, created a system to tell them apart by the color of their shoes.

“Proportionally, the number of twins enrolled at Vail Mountain School is [a lot] for a school this size,” said the other Wright, either Mike or Andy, they still weren’t saying. “When we started school back in 2000, we were the only set of identical twins. By our calculations this is an 800 percent increase over 13 years. At this rate, everyone in the school will have a twin by VMS’s 100th birthday.”

Luke Gorsuch, who’s headed to Texas Tech to study agriculture and ranch management, talked about the time when he was a third grader and won the National Western Stock Show’s muttonbustin’ championship.

“I remember vividly walking into Mrs. Douthitt’s classroom with the bright red trophy that was taller than I and a muttonbustin’ championship buckle holding my pants up,” Gorsuch said. “Sharing the trophy and belt buckle was one of the proudest moments of my young life.”

The best advice doesn’t always come from physicists and philosophers. Sage Ebel, in her senior address, recalled a book the seniors’ first grade reading buddies put together for them, filled with advice about how to behave when they went off to college.

“The advice spans from recommending that we brush our teeth twice a day, to telling us to sit up straight and reminding us to give our friends gifts on birthdays,” Ebel said.

Ebel’s reading buddy, also named Sage, told an adorable story about worms and life’s changes. The moral of the story was, “We have to go. Something is changing and I don’t want to miss it.”

Congratulating Vail Mountain School’s 8th graders on moving to upper school, Andrew Zdechlik gave them the same message the graduates have taken to heart.

“Try new things,” Zdechlik said. “Don’t let insecurities constrain you experience. Try your best. You may surprise yourself.”

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

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