Eliot Hack ’24 arrived at the base of Mount Katahdin last summer ready to complete a technical climb in memory of beloved Milton Academy teacher Kendall Chun. Mother Nature had other plans.
Rain forced Eliot to ditch his plans for a technical ascent—using rock climbing gear and heading up a steep path to the summit—and he instead hiked the mountain on foot, completing his first effort to raise money for access to public lands and celebrating the massive influence Mr. Chun had on Milton’s adventure-seeking students.
“Mr. Chun did so much for our community and for me, personally. I really wanted to honor him,” Eliot said. “He was focused on getting people out there and breaking down any kinds of barriers to the outdoors.”
Mr. Chun, who died April 26, 2022 after a recurrence of cancer, ran the school’s Outdoor Program in addition to his work as a computer science teacher and role as a Robbins House faculty advisor. His love for outdoor adventures was infectious as he introduced students to hiking, rock and ice climbing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, and more—regardless of their prior experience or skill level.
On Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of his passing, Milton faculty and staff remembered him in an informal ceremony. In addition to the gathering, Mr. Chun’s memory was evoked in a hackathon last week, during which students created video games featuring some of his favorite things: Boba tea, Star Wars, the outdoors, Pink Floyd, and more.
“He was extraordinary in so many different ways and brought light to all of our lives who knew him,” said Head of School Todd Bland. “You hear former students talk about the indelible mark that he left on so many lives. He cared deeply about all of the students he interacted with and he did the same for his colleagues. Kendall was amazing and we miss him so very much.”
Eliot started participating in Outdoor Program activities as an eighth grader and joined the club’s board as soon as he reached the Upper School.
Inspired by Mr. Chun’s spirit, Eliot decided to raise money in his memory and pledged to do the technical climb of Katahdin—Maine’s highest mountain and the northernmost point of the Appalachian Trail. In doing so, he raised more than $1,000 for the Access Fund, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to preserving access to outdoor lands and climbing sites. He is planning to complete the technical climb this summer and has kept his fundraising site open. He encourages friends and community members who wish to celebrate Mr. Chun’s life by connecting with the outside world in some way.
“Do your own thing, hike in the Blue Hills, go for a long walk on the beach or a bike ride, climb a mountain, but do something that gets you outside so you feel that connection with the world around you, whatever your ability,” Eliot said. “There is a place in the outdoors for everyone.”
Tibetan prayer flags hung last year to honor Mr. Chun continue to fly on the Quad and in front of Robbins House. According to the Outdoor Program, “Tibetan prayer flags originate from Buddhist tradition; they represent peace, wisdom, and strength. Each color (white, blue, yellow, green, red) holds significance and symbolizes an element of the physical world (air, sky, earth, water, fire). All together the flags signify balance.
They’re also designed to slowly disintegrate with time, blowing thoughts and prayers into the world.
They fly at all the basecamps of the big mountains in the Himalayas during the climbing season, hence the Outdoor Program connection! All the flags you see on campus were handmade by artisans in Nepal.”