The White Mountain School community is deeply saddened by the loss of Catherine “Kitty” Houghton member of the class of 1960 and board of trustees, who died tragically last night. She will long be remembered for her kindness, love of music, keen intellect and adventurous spirit. She lived life to its fullest, pursuing each next step with curiosity and joy. Through her words, actions and deeds she has inspired countless others to do the same.
Kitty was a strong student and athlete at The White Mountain School, formerly St.-Mary’s-in-the-Mountains, whose love of music, the mountains and her St. Mary’s friends continued to play a prominent role throughout her life. She returned to her alma mater as a member of the board of trustees in 2010 to, in part, honor all that she had learned and the deep connections she had made while a student at St. Mary’s. She firmly believed that today’s youth deserve the same quality of education and depth of experience in academics, the arts and the natural world that she received while a high school student at St. Mary’s.
After graduating from The White Mountain School, Kitty earned her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and later her M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. Kitty served in the Peace Corps in Nepal and was, for a time, an international officer for the Bank of America. Kitty spent most of her professional career as a Commercial Counselor in the global business arm of the U.S. Foreign Service. She served all over the world including, Colombia, Austria, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Germany and Canada. Kitty spoke 14 languages, with fluency in German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Nepali and Bengali. Upon retiring, Kitty obtained her private pilot license. In addition to serving on The White Mountain School board, Kitty volunteered her piloting services for Angelflight, a non-profit organization providing air transportation and supply for financially distressed people in medical need and for Lighthawk, a non-profit organization providing flight transportation for conservation organizations. Kitty has been a member of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots, since 1996. Througout her life Kitty remained an avid hiker, skier and musician, singing in several choirs.
Because of the pivotal role music played in Kitty’s life at St. Mary’s and beyond, her work on the WMS board of trustees centered on the arts. Her strong advocacy for arts education came into focus when she led the effort to fund a new music position at the School. The music position broadened and deepened the arts at The White Mountain School and led to a revival of the wonderful choral tradition so important to her own experience. In recent months, Kitty expanded her support of music at WMS to incorporate the full visual and performing arts spectrum. Her leadership support of the arts at WMS was instrumental in the School’s approval to build a new arts center, housing classroom space for growing programs in the visual arts, music and dance. Construction of the new arts center is scheduled to begin this spring and open in January, 2014.
As The White Mountain School’s commencement speaker in 2011, Kitty praised the students for the education they chose to participate in at The White Mountain School and encouraged them to use their knowledge and skills for good in the broader world, offering, “Here at the School, you listened, processed information, gave your understanding of a problem, heard others out and maybe adapted your viewpoint. Or perhaps you stood your ground and explained your position…these are the tools of diplomacy. Your skills as mediators and leaders will be needed out there in the world you are entering.”
The White Mountain School community, along with countless others, may miss Kitty’s quick smile and bright, twinkling eyes the most.