The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the Valedictorian as, “the student usually having the highest rank in a graduating class who delivers the valedictory address at the commencement exercises.” In the case of the Aicher Family of Patchogue, it also becomes a family affair. In an unprecedented feat in the history of Patchogue - Medford School District, all three daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Aicher have each achieved the highest academic honor of their graduating classes. Ariel Aicher, Class of 2009, will become the third Aicher girl to be Valedictorian. Her sisters, Athena (Class of 2007), and Rachel (Class of 1999) were also chosen to be Valedictorian of their respective classes.
The Aicher family have been residents of the Patchogue - Medford School District for the girls’ entire academic careers. The three girls attended Eagle Elementary School where teacher, Mrs. Susan Hazan, remembers all three girls as wonderful, talented, kind and unique, each in their own special way. Mrs. Wendy Michnoff was guidance counselor to Rachel and remembers the young woman as having a unique, strong personality. “Rachel always displayed a positive attitude and was unafraid to be herself. The most remarkable aspect was her humility. Even though she was at the top of her class, she never let that come between her friendships with so many of the students at school. “Mrs. Nancy Goldfader was guidance counselor to Ariel and Athena. “All three sisters displayed their own unique qualities and interests. Competition was never a factor in all three girls becoming valedictorians. The support they gave to each other was a true testament to the loving and encouraging family that they grew up in.” Mrs. Goldfader continues, “In my 24 years as a counselor, I have never met a family like the Aichers.” One quality that always comes up when speaking about the Aichers is their humility, their ability to be totally nonjudgmental, and their kindness to all aspects of the student body. The girls were very popular among their peers.
When asked about what qualities her family instilled in her, Ariel does not point to any specific, secret Aicher routine. She says, “Our lives really can’t be marked by a routine. We are not a family marked by the stereotypical ‘come home, do your homework, go play, dinner, bed time routine. We were given free reign to explore any interests we had and always had the support of our family.’ Ariel adds, “We were brought up in an environment that made learning fun. School was seen as an opportunity. We were expected to do well, and brought up with the work ethic to make that possible.” Mr. Aicher is a businessman and Mrs. Aicher is a stay-at-home mom. Both parents have been a huge influence on the girls.
Ariel’s achievements as a Patchogue-Medford student include Honor Roll for four years, oboe player in the orchestra for four years, Music Honor Society and Student Government (including Class President) for three years. Ariel’s pursuits also include a number of sports and activities. She was on Varsity Cheerleading, Varsity Golf and served on the Competition Cheerleading team as a flyer. Her many awards include The Town of Brookhaven 5th Council District Award for superior academic achievement, PSAT National Merit Scholarship Letter of Commendation, PMCT Student Citizen Award, Art Instructor’s Award for Achievement and the Elks Club Student of the Month. Ariel scored a 5 (highest score) on 7 of 8 of her Advanced Placement courses. Ariel is headed for Cornell University (her mom’s alma mater) this coming September.
While older sister, Valedictorian Athena, was at Patchogue - Medford High School, she was a member of the Spanish Honor Society, National Honor Society ( in which she served as vice president), The Leo Club, Mural Club, and Heifer Club. She participated in Varsity Golf, Winter and Spring Track, and played the trumpet as first part in the High School Wind Ensemble. Athena is currently a sophomore at Dartmouth College and is planning a future in veterinary medicine. She just completed a “SEA Semester” where she sailed from Tahiti to Hawaii doing oceanographic research. She is also a member of a Dartmouth sorority.
Rachel Aicher graduated in 1999 as Valedictorian. While at Patchogue - Medford, she was class corresponding secretary, played in the wind ensemble as first chair clarinet, was a member of the jazz band and President of the National Honor Society, and was a National Merit and Advanced Placement Scholar. Rachel completed her undergraduate studies at Harvard in 2003, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She has a concentration in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations with a focus on modern Middle Eastern studies. She studied Arabic and Hebrew and earned a certificate in Spanish. In graduate school, at Oxford in 2006, she received a full scholarship to pursue a two year master’s program in England at Oxford’s Nuffield College. Rachel currently works at the Open Society Institute as an Advocacy Coordinator to support communications by promoting international justice, human rights, and citizen engagement.
Ariel says that, “It is impossible to generalize our upbringing. There is no such thing as an ‘Aicher routine’ or any magic formula for success.” The Patchogue -Medford Congress of Teachers and the entire community is proud of our Triple Play and we recognize the uniqueness of the entire family and wish them all the best. Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Aicher for doing such a great job with all three girls. As Mrs. Goldfader said, “There is no question that we will be hearing great things about these women. They will be outstanding contributors to their communities and be exemplary citizens. They each have left a lasting impression on everyone they meet.”