MEA Alum Gives Gift of Exercise

Mount Ellis Academy (MEA) in Bozeman saw the installation of an exercise trail during the summer of 2013 that is quite literally making a lasting impact both on the campus and in the lives of students. Completed just prior to fall registration, the Warren Walikonis Memorial Exercise Trail encompasses the campus at a total length of just under 1 mile and represents the latest fulfillment of another component of the campus master plan.

The trail is a gift from the family of MEA alumnus Warren Walikonis, '74. Following Walikonis' sudden death in the spring of 2012, his widow, Dawn, began contemplating the idea of making a gift in his memory and felt that it should go somewhere in Montana. "Warren was a homegrown Montana man," she explains, and she knew MEA had played a significant role in developing his character. "Mount Ellis meant so much to Warren," she says. "He made so many friends during his years there. He loved the teachers and had so many wonderful memories of activities — Dynamics [the MEA select choir] especially. He kept crossing paths throughout his life with teachers and classmates from his years at MEA, and it meant a lot to have those connections."

Dawn contacted then-principal Darren Wilkins and began the discussion of making a gift to MEA in Warren's memory. After taking some time to consider a few options, Dawn felt drawn to the exercise trail. "Warren was so active," she explains. "He liked sports, basketball, volleyball, etc., and the trail just seemed something unique that would fit his personality. If this trail can help enhance the physical component [of education] and continue to help future generations of students, so much the better."

The trail is now in daily use. Students run laps for fitness class, while others enjoy the trail for more casual strolls with therapeutic purposes. "It's a great way to wind down from the stress of classes," said one junior recently. The hope is that the lesson of those stress-relieving benefits extends throughout the students’ lives, making the Warren Walikonis Memorial Exercise Trail a gift with benefits that last long beyond the students' time at MEA.