The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Brendan Kutler (1992-2009)

By Allegra Tepper

St. Michael’s Church was packed past capacity Sunday for a memorial service for senior Brendan Kutler, 17, who died Dec. 29 on a family vacation in Hawaii.

Speakers boomed eulogies by Kutler’s teachers, family, and friends onto Coldwater Canyon for those who couldn’t fit into the church.  Kutler was remembered for his love of Japanese culture, his “eclectic and obscure” taste in music, his athletic prowess, and, as history teacher Dror Yaron described, his role in the classroom as an “intellectual mensch.”

Chaplain Father J. Young described Kutler’s unconventional religious upbringing, saying that the service would follow suit. Kutler’s dean, Beth Slattery, described their unusual relationship between a scientifically inclined quiet boy and a chatty dean with an affinity for humanities.

“I never thought I’d get to know him,” Slattery said. “But soon we forged a friendship, and I discovered that he was acting as the adult between the two of us, asking me questions about my tastes and my kids.”

Slattery also spoke at the upper school memorial service on Jan. 4, where she read the final college essay she received from Kutler, a response to the Japanese proverb, “The infinite is in the finite of each instant.” Slattery said the essay, which described Kutler’s discovery of true beauty at a Japanese temple, particularly spoke to Kutler’s ideals.

Computer science teacher Jacob Hazard read a eulogy he had written as well as those of science teachers Chris Dartt and Antonio Nassar.  Dartt wrote that he always saved Kutler’s AP Chemistry lab reports for last, knowing they would leave him on a high note. Nassar said that Kutler had plans to design an undergraduate major that would encompass all of his interests across several concentrations.

Sean Kesluk ’09 returned from traveling during a gap year to speak at the memorial about his junior varsity and varsity tennis doubles partner of three years. Together, the two were known as Curly and Pudgy by the team, and Kesluk joked that “Kutler was the pudgy one.”

Nick Mancall-Bitel ’10, Spencer Koo ’10, Andrew Wang ’10, Jacob Gindi ’10 and Gavin Cook ’10 each spoke from the perspective of Kutler’s friends and classmates.  Koo and Gindi recalled memories from elementary school days at John Thomas Dye, while Mancall-Bitel and Cook spoke of Kutler’s musical interests and love of all things Japan.  Kevin Kusumanegara ’11, played “One Summer’s Day” from the Japanese animated film “Spirited Away” on the piano.

Kutler is survived by his father Jon Kutler, his mother Sara Kutler, and his sister Caroline Kutler, who were the final speakers at the service. Caroline told the audience that “to me, he was Just B.” The name was printed on bracelets given to attendees after the ceremony.

Kutler’s father recounted a brush with mortality four years ago that caused him to retire and spend more time with his family.  With Brendan, that amounted to late night hot chocolate study breaks and trips to Diddy Riese, during which Brendan often sneaked his phone under the table to tweet to what students affectionately refer to as “The Twitter Family.”

“On Dec. 28, four of us ate dinner and watched a Hawaiian sunset,” Jon said. “And on Dec. 29, three of us woke up to a nightmare.”

The service was followed by a reception in Feldman-Horn Gallery and in the Sculpture Garden.  The gallery was filled with photography, graphics, and photo manipulations that Kutler had created over the past several years.  He had displayed and sold his artwork on  Additionally, Kutler co-founded the website, for which he reviewed music and published video blogs and podcasts.

At the Jan. 4 service, many students and teachers paid tribute to Kutler by wearing two baseball caps, a typical style of Kutler’s.

Cinema Studies teacher Ted Walch read the college recommendation he wrote for Kutler, which recounted his confusion when an extra student began attending his Cinema Studies class last year. He later discovered that Kutler had been auditing the class without permission, having already reached his maximum of classes for the year. After Slattery and Walch turned a blind eye to the auditing, Kutler became what Walch termed the illegitimate child who set the bar for the rightful heirs, writing papers and taking exams for a class that did not appear on his transcript.

Kutler began attending Harvard-Westlake in the seventh grade after graduating from John Thomas Dye. A varsity tennis player and Directed Studies in Cinema student, he was the school’s nominee for the Morehead-Cain scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. President Thomas Hudnut said in an e-mail that the scholarship criterion was simply, “nominate your best kid,” and Kutler was a “best kid.”

The family has requested that contributions in Brendan’s memory be sent to the Office of Advancement. 

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Brendan Kutler (1992-2009)