Wasatch Academy, Heritage Area named Best of State

Joyce Bennett, widow of Sen. Bob Bennett, (center in black dress) accepts a best-of-state award in behalf of the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area (MPNHA). Sen. Bennett sponsored the bill in Congress that established the MPNHA.


Wasatch Academy, Heritage Area named Best of State


Suzanne Dean




SALT LAKE CITY—Sanpete County was abundantly represented at the Best of State Awards Gala at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City.

The Mormon Pioneer Heritage Area (MPNHA) was named best of state in heritage tourism at the gala on Wednesday, May 17. And Wasatch Academy won eight awards across a spectrum of categories, including best private school, best administrator, best teacher in grades K-12 and best high school coach.

Joyce Bennett, widow of the late Sen. Bob Bennett, accepted the best-of-state medallion for the MPNHA. Sen. Bennett was the primary force in getting the bill that created the heritage area through the U.S. Congress.

The statement nominating MPNHA said development of the heritage area over 30 years represented a singular achievement in heritage tourism in Utah.

“Beginning in the early 1900s as a loosely organized coalition of energetic citizens called the Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance, the operation has developed a remarkable network of partners, marketed a 250-mile historic corridor of the state, and above all, helped preserve or restore 33 significant Mormon pioneer historical sites,” the nomination said.

According to the nominating statement, in the 10 years since Congress designated the U.S. 89 corridor as a national historic area, the MPNHA has received $2.2 million in federal funds but has leveraged that money to support $44.3 million in local projects.

Wasatch Academy representatives celebrate the school’s eight best-of-state awards.
Front (L-R): Christine Perea, a student active in the award-winning equestrian program; Nancy Hewitt, alumni association director, representing the school as a whole; Sonita Alizadeh, Wasatch student, winner in arts talent representation.
Back row (L-R): Josip Vrankic, captain of the Wasatch varsity basketball team, who was named best high school athlete; Matthew Schukis, head of the music and fine arts department, which played a role in Sonita Alizadeh’s arts talent award; Todd Tree, equestrian coach, who played a role in Wasatch’s selection as best equestrian sports program: Joseph Loftin, head of school, who was named best school administrator; Curtis Condie, Wasatch varsity basketball coach, who was named best high school coach.
Not pictured: Emma Chiapetta, winner of best teacher in grades K-12.

Following is an outline of Wasatch Academy’s eight awards:

Best private school (K-12): Wasatch, the only college preparatory boarding school in Utah, was named best of state for K-12 private schools for the eighth consecutive year. Characteristics that helped the school win the award included diversity of the student body, programs and student services.

Best school administrator: The best-of-state award for a school administrator went to Joe Loftin, head of school at Wasatch for the past 30 years. According to materials in support of his selection, Loftin “has set the standard nationwide for visionary leadership, dedicated service, and effective pedagogy and curriculum.”

Best teacher (K-12): The best-of-state award for a K-12 teacher went to Emma Chiappetta of the math department at Wasatch. At Dartmouth College, she was the top-ranked Ph.D. student. At Wasatch, she is credited with teaching math very effectively to a wide variety of students using outstanding pedagogy.

Best in special-interest education: The award recognizes the Wasatch Innovation Studios, a collection of engineering, technology and media programs. According to nominating materials, the studios combine the latest technology, design thinking and art to train students in skills for the 21st Century.

Arts talent representation: In applying for the award, Wasatch featured Sonita Alizadeh, a Wasatch student from Afghanistan who escaped an arranged marriage she did not want. Wasatch provided a home, education and a caring support network. Sonita developed into a rap singer and has performed before large audiences and in videos posted to the Internet. Her story was the basis for a documentary that won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Best male high school athlete: Best of state in the category went to Josip Vrankic, captain of the Wasatch varsity basketball team. In 2016, Josip led his team to a 21-4 record. The Tigers were one of eight high school teams in the nation selected to complete in the Dick’s Sporting Goods National Tournament in New York City.

Best high school coach:  The award went to Chris Condie, head coach of the Wasatch varsity basketball team. The team was ranked 15th in the nation om 2016/

Best equestrian sports program: The award recognizes the state-of-the-art facilities Wasatch has arranged for its equestrian program, including use of ConToy Arena in Mt. Pleasant. The school offers training in both English and Western riding styles. The Wasatch rodeo team competed in 24 Utah High School Rodeo Association rodeos last year and in a number of English riding competitions.