D-E legend Jerry “Kraut” Krauthamer passed away on November 3, leaving behind not only family members who are part of the D-E community (his wife, Middle School history teacher Betsey Carson; brother-in-law Rob Carson, Jr., who is a former D-E Director of Admissions, coach, and English teacher; nephews Rob Carson III ’87 and Peter Carson ’89; and niece Katharine Carson Miller ’90), but also numerous colleagues, and legions of students he taught and athletes he coached. Prior to his retirement last spring, Kraut had been a member of the Upper School English Department faculty for 38 years and a long-time coach of cross country and track. As his wife Betsey noted, he was the kind of coach “who learned how to pole vault so he could teach and coach it. He ran and jumped and threw with the kids. He set up Sunday Boat Basin runs and ran.”
A memorial service was held for Kraut on November 14 in Silberfein Gym, just as he had requested in the months prior to his passing. The service, at which more than 400 were in attendance, was a “celebration of life” in the opening words of Head of School Dr. De Jarnett – providing colorful insights into Kraut’s remarkable breadth of interests and why he was perhaps best viewed as a Renaissance man. In addition to remarks from current student athletes Tara Satnick ’16 and Antonios Tsougarakis ’16, alumni and others contributed poetry, spoken word segments, and statements of sincere thanks. Those participating included Young Park ’90 (who offered her own reflective comments to dovetail Betsey’s remarks), Shereen Al-Sawwaf ’15, and Shivali Shah ’93. Current and former colleages of Kraut’s who spoke included faculty member John Deal; faculty member and Varsity Cross Country Coach Dan Sussman; Robert Vigneau; Peter Platt; Sam Bacon; English Department Chair Fred Daly; and Upper School Principal Joseph Algrant. Additionally, the service included musical segments from the musical Guys & Dolls and the operetta Pirates of Penzance (sung memorably by Scarlett Diaz ’19 and Henrique Neves ’18, respectively) and the “Adagio” movement from “String Quartette op. 13” by Mendelssohn, performed by the Stott family and violist Jason Finn ’18. Duets from D-E Performing Arts Department Chair and flautist John Littlefield and pianist Karen Littlefield added to the solemnity and beauty of the service.
Betsey closed her remarks during the memorial service with these profound words: “Please, today, take a moment, or this weekend. Reflect on your Kraut lessons. Please take time to share them with other people. Share them with me sometime. Please hear his voice as you run, as you work out, as you read, as you write, as you live your life. Finish what you start. And do as Kraut did—finish strong.”
The D-E community was extremely fortunate to have had a chance to honor Kraut before his death with joyful, fitting tributes to his contributions as a coach and as a teacher.
A Running Tribute
In mid-September, Kraut was an honored guest at the “Kraut’s Running of the Bulldogs” Fun Run/Walk. More than 500 students, current and former teachers and staff members, alumni, and friends gathered on Graham Field for the event, which was spearheaded by Mathematics Department faculty member and D-E coach Patti Barrett together with student athlete Tara Satnick ’16. Ultimately the track & field and cross country teams joined in to help, along with dozens of faculty and staff members volunteering as well.
Prior to the sound of the starting gun, under the cross country team’s (Kraut-purchased) blue pop-up tent, Kraut was lauded by family and friends. Then the cross country team led a traditional Kraut-style stretching exercise complete with soundtrack. More than a few jokes were made that the event was finally putting into place Kraut’s vision for a cross country route in and around the D-E campus. And then they were off, all proudly wearing their official white “Kraut’s Running of the Bulldogs” tank-style T-shirts. In his characteristically generous (and humble) way, Kraut asked that all funds raised from the event—which as of earlier this month was approximately $17,000—be directed right back to support the track & field and cross country teams.
A Classroom Dedication
After the run, a small group of Kraut’s family and friends then proceeded to the second floor of Leggett Hall, where one of the Harkness table classrooms that Kraut often taught in was officially dedicated as the Jerald Krauthamer Classroom. Head of School Dr. De Jarnett called attention to the framed interior plaque, featuring Jerry’s photo and an essay by Fred Daly, English Department chair and Jerry’s fellow coach. Guests were then encouraged to write a note or personal message to Jerry and Betsey and add it to a special memory book.
A Community Speaks
The most poignant portion of the day was the ceremony that followed the classroom dedication, in Schenck Auditorium. A standing-room-only audience listened to a brief introduction by Dr. De Jarnett, followed by remarks from individuals who worked with or coached alongside Kraut, including the revered, now-retired D-E faculty member Doris Gelman (who took us back in time to the first few days of Kraut’s hiring), and Fred Daly, who spoke with reverence and customary humor of Kraut’s infamous study guides for Macbeth and Hamlet; his lunchtime editing sessions; and the infamous GUM (Grammar Usage Manual). After the formal remarks, there was the opportunity for anyone to have the microphone and say some words to Kraut, and Betsey too, with a full range of emotions on display, and all with a common theme of gratitude for Kraut’s constant dedication and generosity, his brutal yet refreshing honesty, his quirky sense of humor, and his integrity.
Sarah Krakoff ’82, now a professor at the University of Colorado Law School, who still holds the School record in 3200 meters, was the first to take the microphone. She noted that she and her brother, Dr. Jonathan Krakoff ’81, were in Kraut’s first crop of runners on the track team. She said, “I…would not have run, but for you, if you hadn’t dragged me out there, you and [coach] Bob Vigneau, but I’ve been running ever since, and racing ever since and loving it. And I know Jonathan and I…have so many memories. I mean, really, my best memories from high school were from running and athletics and sports because, otherwise, I think I felt so strange. You took us to those amazingly fun, grimy meets at 168th Street at the Armory…And then, meets in Kearny and Jersey City, where when we would lie down to stretch, we’d get up, our sweatpants, and they were cotton back then, were just covered with grime and dirt. And then all winter, we’d go up and run along the Palisades and the ‘Manhattan Touch’ [touch a tree below the George Washington Bridge] and back, and all of those runs. I remember every step of them. Every step. Every mile. Thank you so much for getting us started and for creating our best memories of life here at Dwight-Englewood.”
The event closed with a rousing standing ovation. Although clearly weary, Kraut still demonstrated his customary resilient grin, and epitomized the words from which so many have learned, “finishing strong.”