MT. PLEASANT—Wasatch Academy alums and students braved chill, rain and snow on Saturday to participate in a Founder’s Day celebration that included two dedications and unveiling of a statue.
The weather didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of dozens of people who gathered for the dedication of the school’s Learning Center and a new plaza just outside the Tiger’s Lair, a repurposed gymnasium now used as an assembly hall.
They also witnessed unveiling of a statute of Joseph Loftin, head of school at Wasatch from 1988 to his retirement in 2020.
Loftin, who now lives in New Jersey, oversaw tremendous change at the campus, including construction of a new administration building; purchase and remodeling of the First Presbyterian Church into a music conservatory; and the remodeling of two commercial buildings on State Street to become the Arts Building and the Architectural Sciences Building.
Other accomplishments included restoration of Liberal Hall on Main Street as a school museum; the purchase and restoration of the one-time North Sanpete High School gymnasium as the Wasatch gymnasium; and launching of Wasatch’s equestrian program.
“I cannot tell you how much I love this school,” Loftin told the crowd. He went on to cite the school’s exceptional characteristics such as its international student body, which includes students from Japan, China, Thailand, Mali, Germany, to name a few of the countries. Only 40% of the student body is from local area.
Loftin noted that the total student body is about 200. The average class size is 16 students, with some classes having as few as 12.
The school recently vacated its old administration building in favor of a modern new one located on the east side of the campus. The old building has been converted to the new Learning Center.
Chris Winfrey, head of the learning center, says the facility will give struggling students a place for one-on-one support services, not just with academics but with life skills and ways of coping with the world.
Winfrey said Wasatch students “have the same struggles and challenges as high-school-age children everywhere. We want to make sure they have a safe, non-judgmental place where they can get personalized support as they make the transition into adulthood.”
Winfrey said the center has a staff of 10 people who are intent on one thing: “making sure the students succeed, no matter where they are from…
“We don’t care if the student lives across the street or across an ocean, our goal is to help them succeed, not just as students, but as people.”
The idea for the learning center came from Carole Loftin, wife of the former headmaster, who used to gather struggling students around her kitchen table to give them individualized support.
Since then, Mrs. Loftin’s program has grown to where it not only has its own building but where 40% of the student body are participating. The building was dedicated as the Joe and Carole Loftin Student Learning Center.
Ceremonies then moved to a newly constructed plaza right outside the Tiger’s Lair that has long been a gathering place for students. Loftin’s contribution to the campus was honored with the unveiling of a statue that features him sitting on a park bench as if ready to converse with anyone who cared to sit down.
A plaque unveiled beside the bench described how much Loftin enjoyed walking the campus, calling out students by name and congratulating them on their most recent accomplishment. Despite a driving snowstorm and chilly wind, few left the ceremony.
Then things moved inside the Tiger’s Lair where new head of school, Matt Culberson, told the story of Wasatch’s founding by Duncan McMillan, an itinerant schoolteacher and Presbyterian minister. He established Wasatch Academy in 1875, the same year Brigham Young established BYU in Provo.
Culberson told how unusual it was that a Presbyterian school was established in the middle of an overwhelmingly LDS community. But the locals supported it, and McMillan’s dream survived and thrived to become the non-sectarian school it is today.
Culberson welcomed seniors from the Class of ’22 and challenged them to continue their school connections by becoming active alumni after their graduation, which is six weeks away. Then copper roses were then presented to each senior as a memento of his or her time at Wasatch.