Caitlin Berka's Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Castilleja Board of Trustees:

      Recently, I was reminded of the final scene from Balzac's novel Père Goriot. The young Rastignac stands at the apex of a Parisian graveyard and looks out over the city, whose lamps are shining from across the Seine, as he wipes childhood's final tears from his eyes. "When such tears fall on earth, their radiance reaches heaven," writes Balzac of the bittersweet crossing into adulthood.

      For the lucky among us, education represents a permanent reckoning—the moment we stand and look out over a past life and realize that we cannot return, that what we have learned has changed us for good. Education is about wisdom and maturation, and the true student, like Balzac's hero, must stand periodically at the precipice and take stock.

      I remember Castilleja, fondly, as that precipice. Tears were shed, most often over rough drafts of essays and into midnight cups of tea. And I was, at times, made uncomfortable by what I learned, both about the world and about myself. But I would not change a thing about my Castilleja education, an education for which I grow more and more thankful each year. And in my catalog of cherished Casti memories, I can only find a handful that do not involve Mr. Capron.

      My best memories are not necessarily my happiest, but are often of my most painful epiphanies. I remember staring down failure and disease at an audition and feeling bested; but most of all, I remember Mr. Capron's eternal kindness and empathy as he urged me to find beauty and meaning in even the most bewildering of circumstances. I remember feeling overwhelmed by work and impotent in the world, and then returning to the chapel stage for rehearsal of the Fall Play or Spring Musical and feeling, for those two irreplaceable hours, an uncanny power and liberation under the guidance of Mr. Capron. It is the purpose of art to sometimes beckon us toward the strange and the terrifying, and Mr. Capron often gave us encouraging nudges toward that outstretched hand, but he never did so without providing a safe place to which we could return.

      I urge you to stand at this precipice and take stock of what is being lost. For me, and for the thousands of students past and present who love Mr. Capron, to find that he has been dismissed and not to know the reason is both confusing and heartbreaking. It is a rude awakening to find that such a thing could happen at my beloved Castilleja, and one that is inconsistent with my memories of a school that trusted its students to confront new and disquieting experiences with poise and maturity, and its teachers to act in the best interests of those students.

      I ask that the administration reconsider its decision to dismiss Mr. Capron, lest Castilleja's formidable peak be eroded further.

Caitlin Berka
Class of 2004

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