David Kahle was the chief “tech guy” at Tufts. He was also an artist, a teacher, a lover of trees and birds, a conqueror of mountains, a solver of problems, an inspirational boss, and a deeply devoted husband and father. He was, in other words, a Renaissance man, and when he passed away on May 11 at age fifty-one after a short battle with cancer, he left a legacy of creativity, vision, and commitment in both his professional and personal life.
“He was an original. There were not a lot like him,” said Tufts Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell, who’d known Kahle since he arrived on campus in 2000. “His intellect was obvious. His diligence, his passion, how well he worked across many different areas—all of those traits made him a great leader.”
But for Kahle, life was about more than his work. “He had a real sense of balance,” said Theresa Regan, Tufts’ director of enterprise infrastructure. Kahle lived in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, with his wife, Irma, and their children, August and Emerson. He volunteered as president of the organization Friends of Manchester Trees, which helped to create the canopy of trees that graces Manchester’s Lincoln Street neighborhood. Kahle also took joy in outdoor recreation. Fond of hiking and biking the trails of Cape Ann, he completed a strenuous traverse of the seven peaks of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range, and had begun his goal of summiting those same mountains in winter, hiking Mount Washington in the ice and snow with the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Kahle’s interest in how technology could help transform education started early. He received a bachelor’s degree in art history from Goddard College. His introduction to computer graphics helped foster a passion for educational technology. He earned a master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and taught there for eighteen years in the Technology, Innovation, and Education Program.
At Tufts, Kahle was appointed vice president for information technology and chief information officer in 2009. With his innovative ideas about the role of technology in teaching, research, and administration, and his emphasis on the user experience, he shaped the working environment of a generation of Tufts’ faculty and staff. Regan described Kahle’s philosophy this way: “He would say, ‘Yes, technology needs to be ubiquitous, but the experience for the user should be personal.’”
In recent years, Kahle oversaw the development of a 24/7 service desk, and coordinated the integration of seventeen IT groups to form the university-wide Tufts Technology Services (TTS). “David deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the way he led the IT integration. It was an extremely challenging process,” said Paul Bergen, director of educational technology. “What a masterful balance between empathy and assertiveness—I thought it was an amazing accomplishment.”
Angie Milonas, business director for TTS, recalled: “He had an insatiable appetite to want to know what people thought. And he asked in such a way that you felt not only was he listening, but you felt very valued. He had vision, and the ability to rally everyone.”
A memorial service was held on the Medford/Somerville campus on September 7. The university plans to name the house at 47 Winthrop Street in David’s honor, and to dedicate a chestnut tree on campus to him. Donations in Kahle’s memory may be made to Friends of Manchester Trees, getrootedmanchester.org, or the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust, mect.org.