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a living language. something about the way Dr. Vitale said it. It was not a recitation of a dead language. He spoke the words like, well, like he was speaking another language—a living language. Dr. Vitale introduced us to hundreds of Latin verbs, nouns, and adjectives. He taught us the difference between tenses and led us through translations of Caesar. He spoke to us in Latin frequently and challenged us to think of and use Latin as a modern language. He taught with fervor and passion. He taught us the way a Cathedral education demanded. —Taylor Spearnak ’96, Lawyer Dr. Vitale has had a greater influence on who I am today than any man I know. He has given me the gift of unfailingly wise counsel and a love of ancient and sacred stories, wherever they may be. He made long-lost worlds and words come alive for me and countless others. Now, as an actor who works primarily in classical theatre, his love of language informs everything I do. I can never properly thank him for everything he’s done for me and though life has taken us many miles apart, I carry those gifts with me everywhere I go. I’d fight for him to the very steps of Caesar’s home. —Daniel Frederick ’01, Actor While going through high school, my Latin education influenced me in innumerable ways. Studying Latin truly became a study for the sake of the study itself, and not for any ulterior purpose. This is not to say that Latin did not help me understand grammatical and linguistic nuances in several languages.


On the contrary, Latin in seventh grade was a gateway to helping me understand grammar and vocabulary on many levels. Latin has influenced me in terms of the literature I read, the courses I choose to take, the colleges I am applying to, and, most importantly, the way I view the world. A cursory glance at any Western culture will reveal the undeniable influence of Rome. Learning Latin has given me a deeper understanding of this, as well as an appreciation for Rome itself. Latin became a prism through which I could view the vastly interesting subject of Roman history and culture. Of course, none of this personal growth and development would have been possible had it not been for Dr. Vitale. Another teacher, perhaps, would have succeeded in making a dead language seem just that; but not him. From his passionate searches through the well-thumbed volumes in his cabinets to the glint in his eye when he speaks about his subject, it is clear that he lives and breathes the language. While this passion alone might have been enough to inspire any student, when it is coupled with his wealth of knowledge in almost every field, it becomes almost overwhelming. The way he managed to weave Latin, history, philology, literature, and a preposterous range of other subjects into a coherent web during one 45-minute period still amazes me, and I realize that I will never have a teacher quite as passionate about and devoted to the study of Latin as Dr. Vitale. —Elias Stengel-Eskin ’10 Senior, The Dalton School

Top: Decades of student art graces the walls of Dr. Vitale’s third-floor classroom. He commissioned Ana Lieberman ’03 to create this piece of artwork honoring Cicero. Right: Dr. Vitale

THE REFLECTIONS of my fellow alumni reveal just what an impact Doc had on us. Through teaching us Latin, he opened the door for us to appreciate all things. It is evident that Dr. Vitale can teach anywhere, yet he has chosen Cathedral—and I don’t think this is an accident. He has rooted our next generation of leaders. And after 20 years, he still has his magic. We are all connected through our history, and Dr. Vitale captures this ideal beautifully. So how has Latin helped us in our adult lives? The answer is simple. Latin has provided a foundation that enables students to become thoughtful, global ambassadors—a powerful position in a world that is becoming increasingly smaller. s A member of The Cathedral School’s Board of Trustees, Linara Davidson ’96 earned her bachelor’s degree in humanities from New York University. A veteran of various political campaigns and offices, she was named one of New York City’s Top 40 Under 40 Political Rising Stars by City & State in 2012. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in public administration at Columbia University.


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Profile for The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine

Cathedral Magazine (Winter 2014)  

Cathedral Magazine (Winter 2014)