Kimball Union Academy lost a beloved student and community member. Burke Ryder ’23 passed away peacefully on Thursday, November 10, 2022, at the age of 18 after a battle with cancer.
Dear KUA Community,
I’m writing to share that the Kimball Union Academy lost a beloved student and community member. Burke Ryder ’23 passed away peacefully on Thursday, November 10, 2022, at the age of 18 after a battle with cancer. Burke, a Colorado native, made the choice to live his final days just up the road from KUA – in a farmhouse we referred to as Ryder Dorm.
In the fall of 2020, when most of us were struggling with COVID-19 as the greatest existential challenge of our lives, Burke joined our community fresh off a surgery to amputate his left leg and somehow, his spirit was light and his smile ever-present. Without ever saying a word about his struggles, he gave us all the clarity that we were doing just fine. More remarkable than his resiliency in the face of that life-altering experience was the fact that Burke was holding the knowledge of an even darker truth that he chose not to burden his friends or even his teachers with throughout his time on The Hilltop.
Speaking with one of his teachers during a trip to Denver for treatment, Burke’s report of the day sounded more like a report from a chairlift on his beloved Breckenridge Mountain than a hospital bed at Children’s Hospital. He chose not to talk about his health or prognosis, but rather live out his days as just another one of the kids.
Burke told stories about previous joy found in mountain biking and ski racing, and proudly shared with the community the Toyota commercial
which showcased his indomitable spirit and his new found skill on the sit-ski. At KUA, he firmly planted himself at the heart of KUA’s theater tech crew and STEM activity. As Burke wrapped his arms around everything and everyone, he encountered at KUA, every soul on campus reached back. We tried to match his grace, his self-possessed wonder and appreciation and indeed his love of people, love of adventure, love of knowledge, love of the living of life. He called on us all to be more optimistic, to be a little more independent, to understand how lucky we were to be where we were and surrounded by the people with us. Those of us who walked the paths of KUA over the past few years – we all, at some point, found inspiration to be a better person from Burke. We loved Burke and he loved us back.
Of course, many knew Burke well before us and the central cast to his journey was his amazing family, Lee, Kristin, and Teo, who supported his great KUA adventure. There is a heavy cloud over The Hilltop as we mourn Burke’s life coming to an end far too early. Burke was an expert at finding every silver lining and ours is our incredible gratitude for having him and his family in our lives.
I encourage you to read his beautifully written obituary
. At the request of Burke’s family, we have started the Burke Ryder ’23 Scholarship Fund
, so future generations of curious, brave, and resilient kids can follow in Burke’s path at KUA.
Head of School