Carmel Rodriguez-Walter, Former Instructor in Spanish and Beloved Community Member, Passes Away at 64

Carmel Rodriguez-Walter, beloved former faculty member and wife of Christopher Walter, Instructor in Music, passed away on December 23, 2013.

In 1979, Rodriguez-Walter joined Andover as an Instructor in Spanish and Latin American History and house counselor. While at Andover, she met Walter, and the two married in 1981. The couple raised their children, Sophia Walter ’01 and Will Walter ’03, on campus.

“She was a Cuban who grew up in France, so she was superbly educated and cosmopolitan. Most remarkable about her was her tireless involvement in the lives of her students, friends, family and even strangers. She cared deeply about all the details of our lives. She had a wonderful sense of humor about people and everyone knew she had a heart of gold,” said Susan Hodgson, Director of the Learning Center at Brooks, wife of Thomas Hodgson, Instructor in Philosophy, and longtime friend of Rodriguez-Walter.

Rodriguez-Walter was born in Cuba on December 5, 1949 and was raised there until her family fled to France and then Spain in 1961 after Fidel Castro rose to power. She attended the French Lyceé in New York City, the University of California Santa Barbara and the Sorbonne in Paris.

“The Cuban flavor, even though she left Cuba, it never left her. So, she was famous for the crazy, zany things she would say, for her fabulous Cuban flan, and she was famous for keeping that tropical green thumb for the remainder of her life,” said Reverend Anne Gardner.

Drawing upon her Cuban heritage, Walter served as an early advisor for Af-Lat-Am, where she supported countless students.

“Carmel was an integral part of the small Latino community when I attended Andover in 1980-82. She helped me feel more at home and welcomed,” said Chandri Navarro ’82, P’15.

“I had Mrs. Walter as a teacher, before I graduated in 1981 she had just arrived. I reconnected with her four years ago. She was just such a giving and loving person, and I talked to her practically every day. She would reach out to me, see how I was doing, how my family was doing, clearly she always put others at the forefront. Because I’m Spanish, and she’s Cuban, and she lived a lot in Spain when she was younger, oftentimes she would talk about Madrid, and she always wanted to know what was going on in Spain. She had that Cuban sense of humor, you know that love of life, that positive attitude,” said Cristina Suarez ’81, P’12, P’17, daughter of Angel Rubio-Maroto, former Instructor in Spanish at Andover. “Her Cuban-Spanish heritage gave her a love of life and ‘chispa,’ spark as we say in Spanish,” she continued.

“My favorite memory is of singing in the gospel choir with her. She loved that outlet and opportunity to be part of a unique group involving students, faculty, staff and folks from town with no other affiliation to the school,” said Becky Sykes, former Associate Head of School in email to The Phillipian.

In 1987, Rodriguez-Walter left her teaching position at Andover. “She decided to teach somewhere else, but at the same time she continued to embrace this place. And, she came to everything, to any cultural event that was on campus, she came to pretty much every concert that I had anything to do with, which was a lot. She loved music, and she loved the Addison Gallery,” said Christopher Walter.

After leaving Andover, Rodriguez-Walter taught French and Spanish at Merrimack College and the Brooks School, and coauthored the Spanish textbook “Una Vez Más” with

Although Rodriguez-Walter no longer held an official position at Andover, she remained an active community member and a priceless mentor to many students.

Gardner said, “Here, on campus, people are always running 90 miles per hour all the time, and busy busy busy. So while people are friendly, they’re doing their own thing. They’re busy, they have their own work and their own responsibilities and things on their to-do list. But Carmel, was really someone who actually took time. She really took time. She took time to sit and have a meal with somebody, to actually talk with people, and not just chit-chat. She listened when you talked to her. She really was the kind of welcoming presence that this intentional community wants to be when we talk about non sibi, when we talk about being apart of this living organism.”

In addition to her listening skills, Rodriguez-Walter acted as a mother to many community members. She was known for her generosity, compassion and genuine spirit.

“One time I got sick in the middle of the night, and I had to go to the ER when my daughter was very young, a baby, basically. And, Carmel came over, took her in the middle of the night, and brought her home, and my daughter was perfectly happy in the morning, waking up because she knew Carmel,” said Maggie Jackson, Associate Director of Graham House.

“When we moved back here [from Spain] in 2009, she was the only person I really knew. I would go down to her house on Hidden Field and would have sleepovers and hang out at her house. We would play Monopoly and Risk and Clue and all that stuff. She would come to my soccer and basketball games,” said Natalia Suarez ’17.

Rodriguez-Walter’s kind heart and commitment to the community made her a warm presence in the lives of many students, especially those of the Fidelio Society, an 18-student singing group conducted by her husband.

“She had the remarkable gift of caring about everyone, a trait I will always admire. Her stories and anecdotes about her life ranged from the inspiring to the hilarious. I saw Carmel as a mother figure on campus; always eager to hear about how my classes were going, or the latest gossip, her interest and compassion helped me find a home at Andover. Campus won’t be the same without her,” said Anna Stacy ’13, former Co-Head of the Fidelio Society.

“She was a wonderful mystery to meet, radiating a quiet warmth of kindness. A handshake from her felt as an embrace entire and with a small smile, she could communicate her message of friendship. When I think of the dinners, performances and church services we shared, I cannot recall an instance in which I did not feel her incredible tact,” said Christian Langalis ’13, former member of the Fidelio society.

Rodriguez-Walter’s multicultural background included numerous talents and interests in art and traditions from all around the world.

“She was a really remarkable person. She was incredibly classy, and very cultured, interested in all kinds of things, trilingual, artistic, she did amazing watercolors, and she loved art and music and history,” said Jackson.

“She was very artistic and made a watercolor of the Kuhlmann’s house, Palmer House. She did that for lots of people. She had a touch with things. Her house was beautiful, her garden was beautiful,” said Terry Kuhlmann, wife of Doug Kuhlmann, Instructor in Mathematics.

Towards the end of her life, Rodriguez-Walter continued to face the world, including its medical difficulties, with the same zeal and vigor as she approached everything else in her life.

“When one door closed, diagnostically, she went on to the next, with equal discipline and optimism. She was convinced that this thing would work, and finding something that her body would ultimately respond to. And so she suffered, a lot, to try and do all of those things,” said Reverend Anne Gardner.

“No one I have ever known has had a more developed appreciation for the arts, a warmer heart, or a greater love of people,” said Thomas Hodgson, Instructor in Religion and Philosophy.

“I always liked the advice she gave me when we went to England and we were worried about having to drive on the left. She gave me the best piece of advice: follow the car in front of you. But she was right. Just do what they’re doing in front of you and you’ll be alright,” said Doug Kuhlmann, Instructor in Mathematics.

Rodriguez-Walter is survived by her husband Christopher and her children, Sophia ’01 and William ’03. Her memorial service will be held in Cochran Chapel on Saturday, January 25 at 11 a.m.