Dear Friends of City Year:
As many of you know, on Thursday, December 10th, City Year New York's beloved Dean and Board Member, David Caplan passed away at the age of 90.
One of City Year’s central values is “service to a cause greater than self.” When I reflect on this value and what it means to consistently place the interests of others over one’s own desires and comfort, it is hard to think of someone who embodied the value as sincerely and as deeply as David did.
At City Year, we ask hundreds of AmeriCorps members annually to dedicate a year of their lives in service to help their communities and country, by working daily to improve the lives of children growing up in poverty. It is no secret that a year of service is extremely taxing, but the vast majority of AmeriCorps members complete their year of service with a sense that they have achieved something significant for themselves and for others.
David understood this concept of sacrifice amazing well. David often joked that he would happily have served in the role of AmeriCorps member, but last time he looked City Year had an age range of 17-24, which he believed (though he needed to double check his birth certificate) disqualified him. For over a decade, David showed up to work every single day in the City Year New York office serving as a mentor to anyone who needed it; acting as a critical thought partner who helped us make difficult decisions; introducing us to new champions and supporters; and just doing whatever it took to enable City Year to help more children learn and enable more young people to serve. David found companionship among the AmeriCorps members and staff who, like him, wanted to give incredible amounts of their time and energy to an important cause—for David believed that extending national service to our nation’s public schools was the great cause of our time. During his time with City Year, David’s efforts helped grow City Year New York from 50 annual AmeriCorps members to over 300 today. We are truly grateful and will be forever indebted to David’s decision to commit these last 11 years of his life to serve in such a personal way that enriched tens of thousands of lives in New York City and beyond.
More important than what he did for City Year was how he did it. Most will remember David for how much warmth and laughter he brought to any environment he was a part of. He was the type of person who could make anyone smile and treated everyone like they were special. During his time at City Year, hundreds of staff, corps members, and board members formed lasting relationships with him, which guided their professional development, and in turn kept David deeply connected to younger generations.
David meant so very much to all of us that to lose him so unexpectedly and so close to the holidays has been stunning and just sad. I will miss David more than words allow me to describe. So instead, let me share this: I have no doubt that this news has caused ripples of great sorrow in our community over the past week and a half, and that is to be expected. However, thinking about who David was, I know his wish would have been that after we shed our tears, we all find some way to celebrate his legacy by remembering all the great joy and laughter he brought into any room he entered and any group he was a part of. David was a force of nature that inspired so many of us and his life and legacy will be remembered for a long time to come.
In the coming months, we look forward to supporting David’s family in the planning of a memorial service to honor and celebrate David’s legacy in a way that allows all of us who loved him to come together and salute the lasting impact his life had on all of us. We will share this information with you once it is finalized. Until then, I hope that at some point soon, if it has not happened already, that when you think of David you find a way to smile as you reflect not simply on his loss, but more importantly on the gift his life was to all of us in the City Year community and beyond.