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WMS dedicates arts center to Houghton



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Several former students joined the WMS A Capella group during the ceremony to dedicate the Houghton Arts Center on Saturday. Darin Wipperman/Littleton Courier. (click for larger version)
October 16, 2013
BETHLEHEM — When White Mountain School trustee Catherine "Kitty" Houghton died in Littleton last January, people around the world grieved. On Saturday, the school dedicated its new arts center to Houghton's memory.

Houghton was a 1960 graduate of the school, then called St. Mary's in the Mountains. She led an adventurous life that led her to many countries. Her overseas time included service at U.S embassies in the commercial arm of the U.S. Department of State. A talented linguist, Houghton was fluent in six foreign languages.

Even with a keen intellect and countless accomplishments, Houghton's modesty, service, and compassion were the focus of Saturday's dedication ceremony.

Head of School Tim Breen opened the event, which attracted students, staff, alumni, and friends. Breen said WMS wished to honor Houghton, who was "a beacon to many around the globe." Breen concluded, "Through this building, her life will continue to serve as a beacon."'

Board chairwoman Barbara Sirna said Houghton lived in a way that "will continue to inspire me." She praised Houghton for "a life filled with purpose, adventure, love, and service." As a trustee, Houghton was devoted to "making sure this school thrives," Sirna noted.

Those building the new center seemed to have the same type of drive that moved Houghton. As Sirna noted, the structure, with framing complete, was "just a slab a week ago."

Family friend John Arnold noted the "worldwide network of Kitty's friends." He called Houghton a "high achieving, wonderfully good" person. Houghton "enriched all our lives," Arnold said.

Arnold remembered how Houghton always found the good in others, including his daughter Sue. Houghton and Sue shared many discussions, Arnold said. Even with a life of tremendous substance, Arnold said the focus of any conversation with Kitty "would be on you," not her.

The new center, Arnold concluded, will be great for the school and Houghton's memory. He hoped the facility allows students to "be inspired to make arts a part of their life going forward."

Houghton was a talented vocalist and piano player. She voted to authorize construction of the new facility shortly before her January death in Littleton. Her previous effort to revive the WMS music program is fondly remembered at the school.

Nancy Van Vleck Von Allmen was a member of Houghton's Class of 1960. She added to the praise Arnold mentioned, remembering how impressive Houghton was during her time at St. Mary's. At the dedication ceremony, Van Vleck Von Allmen said the young Houghton made one wonder, "How eclectic can a 17-year-old be?"

Van Vleck Von Allmen said that Houghton was "so free of social status concerns." Across Houghton's life, "her generosity just knew no bounds," Van Vleck Von Allmen noted.

Her concluding comments were directed at Houghton herself. "We miss you very deeply," Van Vleck Von Allmen said, "and so does this great school you loved so much."

Flying was one of Houghton's passions. She would donate her time to benefit multiple organizations. One of those was LightHawk. Jonathan Milne, a regional manager for LightHawk, said Houghton was "careful and meticulous" as a flyer. He was also impressed by how Houghton was "interested and enthusiastic about everything."

Another LightHawk representative, Bev Gabe, added, "It was a singular honor to have known Kitty, if only for a short time." Gabe will long recall both Houghton's "zest for life" and "trademark smile."

As a further way to honor Houghton, a flyover by LightHawk aircraft was part of Saturday's ceremony.

Rev. Kurt Wiesner, a member of the WMS board, called the new building "a fitting tribute" to Houghton. Even when the building opens, Wiesner informed the crowd, "We have work to do." He said that work required each person to "honor her life and what it stands for."

The school's A Capella performers sang two songs during the ceremony. After "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," alumnae joined the group to sing "Lift Thine Eyes."

"Today, we carry Kitty's dreams," Breen said near the end of the ceremony. He added that Houghton's actions showed the great love she had for others. Breen concluded that Houghton would have been especially proud of the diversity seen in the prep school's student body.

When opened, the Houghton Arts Center will include space for music, visual arts, and dance. An onsite poster noted that Creative Edge Dance School will provide classes at the center.

The new center will feature several characteristics to reflect Houghton's interest in environmental conservation. This includes solar panels, allowing the building to use very little energy.

Ruhl Walker of Boston was the design architect for the Catherine Houghton Arts Center. Benson Wood Homes in Walpole is the builder/prefabricator.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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