Interview with Aaron Stern: Part 1

Aaron_blue-shirt-shorterAaron: There’s such a mystery in how I came to Seton Castle—and how I found my way to Seton. Or really, how Seton found his way to me. From where I stand in my particular role as the founder of the Academy, this arctic expedition is part of a journey that I started, an expedition to this place—out of which we’re growing here at the Academy. I feel we picked up a certain thread of Seton’s life and have taken it further.

Why did I do it? Because it called to me and I answered the call.

It was through a serendipitous set of experiences that I found my way to this place. I was in the car driving here with David Gordon (director of Academy Center Development) after actually saying ‘No.’ to the invitation for about a year and a half. I kept saying “No! Castles? 100 acres of land? No!”

When I finally found the property, I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, this place is gorgeous!’ I was so excited. And then we came around the corner and there sitting up on this hill, was a horrible looking house. It looked like it was going to collapse. Like it was from the Munsters. David and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’ It just looked so broken and fractured and dilapidated. And the garbage! Just terrible. Nevertheless, we were compelled to keep going.

Sometimes we do things that we don’t understand why. This was the most counter-intuitive thing for me to do but there was something in me that said, “I am going to restore this.” There was a beauty sitting here and I didn’t want to walk away from it. I saw something and said ‘yes’ to the restoration of this place and the stewarding of a legacy that I didn’t understand then.

I had to clear the land so I could see it. I couldn’t even see this place. Literally, it had a haze about it. Everything about the place was fractured. It was hard to find coherence. The first thing we had to do was pick up the garbage on the land. We did that for months. I think it was a total of 8 months, maybe. On the land, crawling around on our hands and knees, picking up garbage. We picked up over 280,000 pounds of garbage. We began with broken glass, first, then wood with nails, then metal. All of this was towards the question, “How do we get to see what’s here?”

There was so much trash littering our view. And I think that’s true of Seton.

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