By Kay Braddock
The sudden death of longtime Terry High School Science Teacher Keith Gumm over the weekend left faculty, staff and students still reeling from shock Monday morning. Gumm, whose 42-year teaching career at Terry Schools established him as a beloved institution to many, died of a massive heart attack Saturday, April 17, after being airlifted to Billings Clinic. He was 72.
Superintendent Charles Deisher gathered high school students and teachers in to a first-period assembly Monday morning. Pointing to the science teacher’s impact on the school, Deisher noted 1,111 students graduated from Terry High School since Gumm’s 1968 arrival.
But a more telling sign of his impact could be seen on the faces of the students during the assembly, recalled colleague Julie Paschke.
“Some were … stone faced to sobbing,” Paschke shared. “Some would smile and some would cry harder.”
Paschke, who shared a love for the Dallas Cowboys with her fellow teacher, shared a few of her favorite memories of the man who came to embody the spirit of Terry Schools. She ended her talk by holding up a Cowboys number one form finger - a gift from the science teacher – declaring, “Go Cowboys!”
A students-inspired memorial was created in front of the science room, with pictures, poems and collections of the science teacher’s favorite items assembled at the site. A “Go Yankees, Cowboys, Terriers” message was placed on the school’s marquee.
“He’s an icon here,” Deisher said. “Everybody has an opinion on Mr. Gumm.”
What some may remember as a sometimes cantankerous and opinionated man, others may more likely recall a man devoted to his students and his school. Despite differing viewpoints on various issues, Deisher and Paschke agreed, Gumm’s positive influence on Terry Schools, in both academics and sports, demanded respect.
“He was a teacher,” Deisher stated simply.
Pashcke’s description paints a more vivid picture of the school’s loss.
“You don’t fill that void. You move on, but you never fill that void.”
A blog has been created on the Terry Schools Web site for those who would like to share memories or thoughts on the passing of Keith Gumm. Go to:
Published April 21, 2010