Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation
Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation

From Loved Ones & Friends

Letter from Roger McC. Eastlake

Dear Ellen and Frank,

Please know that you and Kate have often been in my thoughts during these past few, incredibly sad weeks. There can be no greater pain than the loss of a child; that’s just not the way it should ever be. I hope that Sunday’s service was taped so that you can hear it again when you are feeling less overwhelmed, because there were wonderful messages there that should give you strength. You had a daughter who lived life with exceptional gusto, purposefulness, and generosity of spirit, and those qualities entered her through a combination of nature and nurture. Who Kate was and what she was will carry you through not only this time of intense loss, but will strengthen your spirits forever. That is the greatest tribute you can pay to Kate, and she deserved nothing less.

I am probably not the first person to tell you that Kate’s memorial service was an incredibly powerful experience. Most such services I have ever attended seem to be less about the individual and more about asking people to reaffirm their belief that people who die have gone on to a better life. Kate’s service was about Kate. It was about the Kate that we all had for too short a time, and it was about the need for people to support those who are suffering unimaginable grief. Rabbi Marx forced us all to come face to face with something horrible that happened to someone wonderful, and while he kept saying that there were no words that could offer much in the way of consolation, his humanity did just that.

When I first learned that Kate was missing, something took me to her permanent folder to reread what I had written about her when she applied to college. As you will see when you read the first paragraph of the enclosed letter, I leaned on Kate for a thought that would establish a theme for my letter. I rarely do that – most seniors don’t submit much in the way of quotable comments when they write their self-evaluations. At first, I felt haunted by her words. Now, though, I don’t feel that they were prophetic. Rather, they simply remind me of a larger than life young woman who needed literal as well as figurative mountains in her life, who thrived on them and would go through hell to scale them. What a legacy. What a loss, because there will be no more mountains, except for the ones that she has given you and Mike the strength to climb in her name. Please see the enclosed letter as an amalgamation of what many people at GA thought of Kate, of how you described her in your parent evaluation, and of how she saw herself.

I feel privileged to have known a young woman of Kate’s strength, character, and effervescence, and I will always remember her and what she meant to her family and friends.

Very truly yours,
Roger McC. Eastlake
Germantown Academy


Reference letter for Kate Svitek

When I prepare to write a reference letter I often seek out a quotation that seems to express some unifying theme that thinking about the student suggests. As I read through Kate’s self-evaluation, however, I found some thoughts that are better than any others I could have hoped to find. "I love adventure and I love to be challenged…Nothing feels better than to know that you went through your own hell to get to the top of a peak just as the sun is setting." That’s eloquent, as well as typical of how Kate sees things. What a pleasure it is to stand solidly behind this rugged, independent and tenacious young woman as she plans the next step in her education.

Kate’s teachers invariably express their respect for her good mind and cheerful spirit. In the words of one, "…she was one of the most intense members of the class, one who wrestled to get the most meaning and value from every piece that we read." Kate’s observations are pointed and mature, and she has made excellent strides in learning to back up opinions with textual evidence. What turned a few A’s into B’s and a few B’s into C’s is a tendency toward inconsistency that she is working hard to overcome. Given Kate’s whirlwind schedule of school, activities, synagogue commitments, off campus job, work on the family farm and community service commitments, sometimes her course work was not her highest priority (although it was never the lowest, either). I mention this not as an excuse but as an explanation. Kate’s average record of last year is not a result of any particular problem. Rather, she was overextended—happily so, I would add—as she tried to do so many things. Kate’s teachers have recently remarked that she is clearly becoming more focused and intellectually aggressive. Where she was once tentative in class and even shy, she is now much more confident about her ability to match wits with her peers.

Outside the classroom, being tentative has never been an issue for this adventurer who has scaled peaks—actual and figurative—that would intimidate the faint and even the not so faint at heart. Kate’s extra-curricular resume is extensive, and not meant just to impress colleges. Everything she does involves genuine commitment and an honest and generous expenditure of time, talent and heart. Special Olympics volunteer—Big Sister to a homeless child—homeless outreach—Habitat for Humanity—etc. Kate shows extraordinary willingness to reach out to those less fortunate and to make the world a more humane place. She is also transforming that easy going self into a strong leader. Each of our advisories elects a student to represent it in the class government—Kate’s peers have asked her to represent them last year and this. Her extremely challenging Outward Bound Program in the Pacific Northwest also brought out leadership talents. One of two women in her group, she used her physical courage, resilience, listening ability and good humor to emerge as a leader. Kate’s determination borders on the fearless while avoiding the reckless. She has been in Class V rapids alone in a raft and she has scaled peaks that require a high degree of technical skill. She has even literally reached into a suffering ewe at her farm to turn a lamb trying to enter the world in a breech position. In her spare time, she has a parttime job as a waitress in a retirement community. Indicative of Kate’s impressive breadth, she has turned into a gifted sculptor, winning the Upper School Sculpture Prize. I wonder if she ever eats lunch because of her numerous club affiliations—stock exchange, ethics, modern issues discussion, etc. Finally, when she is home, she is just as likely to be stacking bales of hay as she is to be concocting an elaborate dinner or mucking stalls. She is also an actively committed member of her synagogue.

Elsewhere in her evaluation, Kate wrote: "I think the colleges I have chosen are realistic and I’m ‘psyched’ to get this stuff over with and become a FRESHMAN…somewhere!" Well, I am psyched to be describing one of the most purposeful, energetic and tenacious members of the senior class, and I commend Kate to the admission committee accordingly as well as warmly. She has many peaks yet to scale to see those memorable sunsets, and I have every confidence in her ability to meet the challenges that await her.

Roger McC. Eastlake
Director of College Guidance

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