Memorial service honors history teacher

Students, faculty, staff and alumni honored history teacher Eric Zwemer at his memorial service and shared memories of him at the open-mic reception that followed Oct. 5. Zwemer’s father, brother and other family members joined the school community at the gathering.

Chronicle Digital Editor Lucas Gelfond ’19 said Zwemer’s class influenced his education and experience at the school.

“I walked into [Zwemer’s] class about the same as any other sophomore might,” Gelfond said. “Fifteen years old, 5’ 4”, slightly underweight, covered in acne and firmly a STEM student, smug about the impracticality of a history class. Little did I know my high school career was about to be fundamentally altered.”

Members of Chamber Singers and the symphony orchestra performed between the speeches by Zwemer’s colleagues, including history teacher Katherine Holmes-Chuba and performing arts teacher Ted Walch.

“Each year, when [Zwemer] would give his speech, he would always thank the students,” Holmes-Chuba said. “He told them that they had all made the choice to do the work that they did, so on behalf of the school, he thanked them. We never got a chance to thank him for making the choices he did; for making Harvard-Westlake a much better place, a place where intellectual vigor was honored. I hope he knows how grateful we are for him and how much we love him.”

After the reception in St. Saviour’s Chapel, the community gathered on the plaza, where attendees could share stories and memories of Zwemer at an open mic. Former history teacher Ken Neisser was the first to take the stage to speak about his colleague and friend.

“In my 40 years of work across a variety of disciplines and multiple continents, [Zwemer] was easily was one of the most distinctive, multi-talented people I ever encountered,” Neisser said. “He was the indispensable scholar, and those of us who relied on him will have to expand our intellectual and personal horizons to assuage his loss. Yes, he’s up there with his cherished old movies, his radio shows, and his beloved Mongolian beef. He left early, but he gave us a lot. See you, pal of mine.”

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