Former Gunnison principal with 36 years in education honored with Pillar Award
By Robert Stevens
Dec. 21, 2017
GUNNISON—A firm pillar of a man with a mind set on making others’ lives brighter was honored in Gunnison last week.
During the annual Yule Program of Gunnison Valley Middle School held on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Gunnison Valley High School auditorium in Gunnison, the recipient of the program’s Pillar Award was the very man who ran the school since 1999, former principal Alan Peterson.
Peterson passed the reins at Gunnison Valley Middle School over to the current principal, Jeff Bartholomew, this year after sustaining a serious injury.
Peterson said he didn’t plan on the career shift, but he took it in stride.
Bartholomew, who said during the Yule Program he wants to continue on the trail Peterson already paved, was quick to praise Peterson for taking his career shift in stride and for his decades of educational excellence.
“Tonight we honor an outstanding individual who has demonstrated throughout his life the true spirit of community and service to those around him,” Bartholomew said when they presented the award to Peterson.
Bartholomew added, “It is from his countless hours of service we have come to know the individual we choose to honor tonight. He is like a pillar, a column of strength.”
He continued, “For 36 years, he has sustained the weight of public education in our community. Like the buildings of antiquity which still stand today, our community, like those ancient structures, is strong due to this individual, along with the others we have honored before him.”
Next, the honoree’s own son, Eric Peterson, came to the podium to speak in tribute of his father after Bartholomew had announced the award.
Eric told the audience a story of his childhood, when, through the simple act of making socks, his father had helped instill discipline in Eric and his siblings.
“Dad’s been doing this for us kids, the grandkids and so many students over 36 years,” Eric said. “He has taught us all how to be pillars—to have a strong foundation.”
Eric added, “Nobody knows his history or heritage quite like Dad, and he’s taught all of us about that. To support others, like a pillar, he always tries to strengthen and support those on the roadside of life.”
Eric said his father also taught him to always be thinking about tomorrow, and, just a few days before the program, his father had told him he was planning his next career.
“I thought ‘Oh boy!’” Eric said. “He never stops thinking about tomorrow. He has been a pillar for all of us.”
Eric ended on a reminder, offering praise to someone he says helped make his father such a great man.
“We all know in our hearts, but often forget to say,” Eric said, “that behind any great man is an even greater woman. My dad would be the first to say that whatever good he has done he owes to his angel wife, Evelyn Peterson, who was a pillar as well to anything she joined. So to you Dad, and to Mom, from all of us in the family and all of us throughout the community, thank you and merry Christmas.”
After his son had finished heaping praise on him, Alan stepped to the podium, where he casually joked about gas prices before giving his real message: “I’d like to say it’s been my privilege and my honor to work with your kids and all of you—the teachers, the faculty, great people like the new principal we have—for all those years.
He continued, “This is a great place to raise kids. We have good schools, and we have dedicated people, and I’ll tell you we are just lucky to be here. We are so lucky. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of you.”
During the Yule Program, the middle school’s eighth-grade band and seventh-grade choir performed a number of holiday favorites.
Bartholomew also conveyed a holiday message of service: “Through service of others we magnify ourselves. Our deeds and kindness will linger with others we’ve served long after the lights have dimmed and the pages have turned.”