Kutler, Brendan M.
February 28, 1992 – December 29, 2009
Brendan Monroe Kutler was only 17 when he suddenly died in his sleep on December 29, 2009. A senior at Harvard-Westlake School, Brendan’s insatiable thirst for knowledge and vast curiosity led him to achievements well beyond his years. Even more than his intellectual gifts, however, Brendan was an extraordinary human being who found ways to connect with people all over the globe. With grace and humility, Brendan used his talents to support others and to make the world a more beautiful, just place. The paths that Brendan had already forged during his brief life, were clearly on the road to a radiant future, now abruptly extinguished.
In the academic world, Brendan defined the notion of intellectual curiosity. Japanese, computer science, cinema, scientific research, music and photography were all passions of Brendan’s, which he absorbed with dogged determination. Not only was he interested in a variety of subjects, but he excelled in all of them, earning the universal admiration of his classmates and teachers. As evidence of this, Brendan was selected as Harvard-Westlake’s single nominee for the Morehead-Cain Scholarship and was recently notified that he was a finalist for this prestigious national award. It was Brendan’s level of curiosity that always probed a discussion beyond a simple answer. He wanted to dig deeper and discuss the merits of a particular solution, never resting with just a right answer. In his world, the answer wasn’t necessarily the point, because for Brendan, life was truly much more about the journey, rather than the destination.
Brendan spent much of his free time pursuing the subjects he loved. In the spring of 2009, as part of the Reischauer Scholars Program at Stanford University, he was one of 25 US high school students selected for intensive study of Japan-US relations culminating in an individual research project, “Stopping the Third Superpower: How Cryptography Secured an Allied Victory in the Pacific Theater.” This past summer, as part of the High School Diplomats (HSD) at Princeton University, he was one of 40 American high school students selected for a cultural exchange program with 40 Japanese high school students. Also in the summer of 2009, he participated in the Summer Science Program (SSP) in Socorro, New Mexico, a competitive, residential program affiliated with MIT, in which students performed hands-on astronomical research projects including the determination of the orbit of an asteroid from their own observations, measurements, and software. For the past two years, he also worked as a research intern at the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) at UCLA, successfully developing computer programs to analyze cell phone photo images for an United Nations project. Brendan also co-authored, “A System for Determining Indoor Air Quality by Automatic Analysis of Images of an Air Filter Captured on Mobile Phones,” presented at ImageSense 2008, Raleigh, N.C.
For someone so gifted in the areas of math and computer science, Brendan also had the amazing capability to express a depth of emotion through the written word that is rare for one so young. In an essay Brendan wrote recently about a trip he took to Japan, Brendan demonstrated that he understood the importance of appreciating the time we have by writing, “After my travels, I focus on living instead of existing – and life has blossomed.” For this reason, Brendan was able to truly “live” during his 17 years. One of Brendan’s great joys was introducing new music to his friends and family. He channeled this love into a Senior Editor position on The 8th Circuit, an online magazine where he researched and wrote a weekly world music review column, technology reviews and developed monthly podcasts. Through this, Brendan developed a following of readers and admirers around the world. It was one of Brendan’s singular gifts – the ability to connect with people of disparate backgrounds and interests. He was able to make similar connections through his photography and artwork, which he displayed and sold on the internet through www.deviantart.com. Brendan had an appreciation for the natural world and much of his artwork represented the beauty he saw in nature. He was also able to travel extensively, selecting destinations that were off-the-beaten-path, but renowned for their beauty. Brendan was perhaps most at home at Harvard-Westlake, where he developed deep relationships with friends, teachers and administrators. In addition to his academic contribution, Brendan made his mark as a four-year Varsity player on their competitive tennis team; an editor for Foreign Outlook, the school’s international journal; a founding member of the Stocks Club; the nationally recognized Rocketry Club; and a member of Model UN, Robotics Club, and Computer Science Club.
Despite his extraordinary gifts, Brendan did not seek accolades. He instead sought to support and promote the achievement of others. Brendan lived his life by the saying, “None of us are as smart as all of us.” As a result, he was surrounded by a large group of loving and devoted friends who miss him terribly. According to a Facebook tribute page: In Loving Memory: Brendan Kutler 1992-2009 set up by his friends, his death has set off an incredible outpouring of disbelief and grief — in which the recurring themes expressed are their love and admiration for an extraordinary kid with an incredible mind, who was cherished as a friend, and admired by all.
He is survived by his father Jon, mother Sara and sister Caroline. All are invited to attend a memorial service on Sunday, January 10 at 2 PM at St. Michael’s and All Angels Episcopal Church, 3646 Coldwater Canyon Ave., Studio City, CA 91604 with a reception to follow at Harvard-Westlake School, located next to St. Michael’s.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to Harvard-Westlake School, Office of Advancement, 700 N. Faring Road, Los Angeles, CA 90077, designated for the Brendan Kutler Memorial Fund.
(Originally published in Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2010.)
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