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Yale 62

Carl KaestleCarl Frederick Kaestle

March 27, 1940 – January 5, 2023

Carl died in Bloomington. Indiana, where he’d moved a few weeks before to be with his daughter Frederika Kaestle, a Yale graduate and professor of molecular anthropology at Indiana University, and her husband, Lee Kruschke. Carl suffered from cancer and dementia.

He was born and brought up in Schenectady NY, son of Francis Llewelyn Kaestle, who attended Yale Graduate School, and Regina Maria Perrault Kaestle. His older brother, P.K. Kaestle ‘60E, survives; his younger brother predeceased him. Before Yale he attended Scotia-Glenville High School in Scotia, NY. Both his wives, Elizabeth Mackenzie and Elizabeth Hollander, have died as has his younger daughter, Christina Kaestle Madsen.

At Yale, he majored in English and was on the Dean’s List and a Ranking Scholar. He was a member of the Torch Society, progressed through the Freshman and Apollo Glee Clubs, and spent two years in the Yale Glee Club. He directed and arranged for the Duke’s Men before becoming the Pitchpipe and arranger for the Whiffenpoofs of 1962. Later he joined the Yale Alumni Chorus for their international tours and served on the Yale Glee Club Associates board. Beyond his extraordinary loyalty and dedication to the Whiffs, he remained close to the Duke’s Men and served on their alumni board, as they evolved into the Doox and began to accept women members.

He always spoke very gratefully about his inspiring high school music teacher who encouraged his musical interests. During his high school summers, he played professionally in Lake George, part of the time accompanying a very popular melodrama. In fact, he was a very accomplished jazz and classical pianist. Earlier last year, along with his son-on-law Louis Madsen, a professional quality saxophonist, he played a very fine concert at my house.

Further evidence of how central a role music played in his life was his longtime involvement with Community Musicworks, an organization in Providence whose mission is to “create cohesive urban community through music education and performance which transforms the lives of parents, children, and musicians.” He and his wife Liz attended concerts, served on boards, and hosted students and the resident professional musicians who staffed this energetic and creative program.

After earning an MAT at Harvard, he ran the Warsaw Poland International School before returning to Harvard for a Ph.D. in History in 1971. For 18 years he taught at the University of Wisconsin. He met his second wife in Chicago and accepted an appointment at the University of Chicago, only to find he’d been hired to help close down the department of his appointment, Education! The remainder of his career was very happily spent at Brown University, and the next paragraph which sums up his career is from their website.

University Professor, Professor of Education, History, and Public Policy. Ph.D. (1971) Harvard University. Previous appointments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Chicago. Director of the Advanced Studies Fellowship Program at Brown. Specializations in the history of American education and the history of publishing and reading. His books include Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools and American Society, and Literacy in the United States: Readers and Reading since 1880. Kaestle co-edited and wrote three chapters for Print in Motion: Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880–1940, to be published by University of North Caroline Press. Kaestle has been President of the National Academy of Education, Vice-Chair of the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council, and currently serves on boards or study groups sponsored by Educational Testing Service, College Board, Southern Education Foundation, New York State Archives, and the W. E. B. Du Bois Center of Great Barrington.

The ’62 Whiffs have remained remarkably close, beginning in 1977 with biennial reunions including families and singing, even daring to perform under Carl’s brilliant direction not only at our reunions but in Woolsey Hall and in 2009 celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Whiff. Carl was a remarkable leader. He was calm and organized, with a great wit and sense of humor always employed to lighten the mood. He had an extraordinarily sensitive ear to intonation, blend, and ensemble issues, and kept us to a very high musical and performing standard while making sure that we enjoyed it. His arrangements of “Lucky to be Me” and “When My Sugar Walks Down the Street” are at least as good as any arrangements in the Whiff playbook.


— John Harger Stewart