Paul Luikart, Former Faculty

It is with a deep sadness that I report the passing of longtime former faculty member Paul Luikart this past weekend after his long battle with cancer.

As many of you may know, Paul officially retired from Williston at the end of the 2021 academic year, following remote work during the heart of the pandemic. At last year’s year-end faculty and staff celebration, Jen Fulcher captured the breadth of his legacy, built from a career at Williston that began in 1997, teaching science in both the upper and middle schools and coaching judo for many years. As she said, “Paul’s passion for science and teaching are what got him out of bed every morning. No matter what the day before threw at him, he would make his way across campus to the Middle School. He had to be there to show those kids how amazing and fun life and science are.”

In his subject area, chemistry, Paul was encyclopedic, but his interests and life experience revealed a Renaissance scholar’s breadth of knowledge, and he was an absolutely devoted mentor to his students and advisees. A Vermonter to the core, Paul’s presence on campus was unmistakable and it did not take much to elicit his broad smile by asking him about a canoe trip or fishing expedition.

For most of the past decade, Paul taught exclusively in Whitaker-Bement, and so there are many current upper school day students who will have known him well and seen him teach despite days of obvious discomfort. As former Dean of Faculty Peter Valine stated so succinctly, “It was a privilege to know Paul and always inspiring to watch him teach.”

We will post a full obituary when one becomes available. In the meantime, I know I speak for so many of his friends, colleagues, and former students in saying that all of Williston extends our deepest sympathy and support to his daughter Bella ’16 and to Paul’s extended family.

Robert W. Hill III, P’15, ’19
Head of School

9 thoughts on “Paul Luikart, Former Faculty”

  1. Saddened with this news. Mr. Luikart was an absolute gem, kind and approachable in such a distinctive way. I can’t for the life of me imagine the patience this man had in teaching this stubborn distracted teen chemistry, but he did with grace and humor. Thank you for always sharing a warm smile and for caring for your students.

  2. I was a student of Mr. Luikart’s from 1999-2002, when he was my dorm parent at Logan House, as well as my judo instructor, chemistry teacher, and mentor. Suffice it to say that for those of us who lived in his dorm, the term “dorm parent” was no metaphor. I’d been meaning to call him for years and regret that I didn’t. I guess even now, I’m still learning from you, Mr. Luikart, though this lesson is more painful than the arm bars. Thank you for everything.

  3. To all of Paul’s family, my condolences.
    My heartfelt gratitude for and to Mr. Luikart for his positive influence on all us Vasiceks, myself and husband, Mark, as well as Joe, Kate, Sarah and Dot. “Whirled peas” was his bumper sticker 20 years ago. He made a serious contribution to the same.

  4. Paul was my advisor at Williston and my favorite science teacher in a department that was stellar across the board. I’ve never felt as supported by a teacher, coach or mentor as I did with Paul. His confidence in my future and his compassion were a source of strength for me during hard times where I was still struggling to find my place at Williston. Some of my favorite memories of Paul included searching for crayfish and other creatures in local streams during Ecology field work. I thought of Paul sometimes as the Hagrid of Williston because of his many fantastic pets in and outside of the classroom and his deep appreciation of the forest, but looking back I think it was Paul’s warm nature, unflagging devotion to his advisees (and students) and easy-going demeanor that truly sparked that connection. It’s crushing to learn that Paul has left us. I will never forget the brightness he brought to Williston and into the lives of those who knew him.

  5. I had two close friends in high school: Mr. Hing, and Paul (or to me, he was always “Mr. Luikart”). I sat with him at lunch. I babysat his daughter. He was my sensei. He was the definition of “mentor”. I remember many, many stories he told about his experience in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, specifically one where the people there were utterly convinced that black people had different blood than white people. He tried to teach them that they didn’t by showing them their blood compared to his blood under a microscope, but it utterly failed because they had sickle cell anemia! Ha! I remember him describing how he and Grace put their five pairs of shoes in a row in their house, and the neighbors there thought they had a shoe store! I remember him talking about how disgusting it was to him when he came back, to be confronted with an entire aisle of bread in the grocery store. He had to leave without buying anything because it was too overwhelming. I remember him crying when he talked about the war that broke out there after he left. He taught me how to make (and eat) sushi. He taught me many, many lessons about dealing with anger and conflict through judo. He sent me a fishing lure with a really nice letter when I was studying abroad in France my junior year, and I tried to wear the lure as a necklace but it almost gouged a hole my neck! haha. We spent a lot of time talking about God, the universe, and the meaning of life. He understood grief and pain, and yet was always able to be hilarious anyway. When he first got cancer, he was telling me the story of his tumor and I completely ruined the climax – I completely stole his thunder, and I always felt really bad about that. His solid, positive kindness helped me with my own personal struggles. It’s so weird to me that I’m about the same age now that I was when I first met him! I will never, never forget him. He changed my life permanently, for the better, and my heart aches.

  6. I’m so sorry to read this news. Mr. Luikart was a warm, kind, encouraging teacher who went above and beyond to make sure I understood a difficult concept. What a massive loss.

  7. Very saddened to hear about Mr. Luikart’s news. He was my dorm parent at Logan House when I first arrived at Williston in 1997 and also my Chemistry teacher. He was a very kind person, humorous and always had a smile to keep things light. He would go out of his way to help me to get things done only because he was supportive of me making my own decisions which included a long drive to another state with Mrs. Luikart. He made me comfortable being away from home half-way around the world. I still remember going up to him asking for advice on anything and he’d happily discuss and shared his thoughts. He’s not just a teacher but also a great mentor and a friend whom I’ll miss. Thank you, Mr Luikart, very much for uplifting many students’ lives and experience at Williston.

  8. Paul Luikart was an undergraduate chemistry student of mine at Bard ’87. He had been a biology student because of his great love of the outdoors but he really blossomed when he took organic chemistry which stimulated his intellectual expectations and brought him unexpected success. His approach to learning meshed well with my style of teaching and he was well aware of my passion for teaching. I was very pleased when he decided to pursue teaching as his abilities and personal style seemed well suited to the profession. He was a particularly nice person with patience and humility far beyond most students of his age and well beyond my own. Williston seemed like a good match for Paul and he often told me how much he loved the place and his students there. It is so nice when my students find the career and the position which fulfills their life dreams. Paul had some tough breaks in life but I am sure that he would love to live the same life over again given the chance. I’m happy to know that he was well appreciated at Williston.

    Hilton Weiss,
    Professor Emeritus

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