Sue Gunderson, former Executive Assistant to the principal, succumbs to brain cancer

Steven Lim

Sue Gunderson in the 2005 MVHS yearbook. Gunderson worked as the executive assistant to principal April Scott. Used with permission from El Valedor.

Sue Gunderson in the 2005 MVHS yearbook. Gunderson worked as the executive assistant to principal April Scott. Used with permission from El Valedor.

When Sue Gunderson left Castilleja School in Palo Alto in 2000, her friend Colleen Medeiros, who was the assistant to the Superintendent of FUHSD at the time, encouraged her to apply for the job of Executive Assistant to the Principal at MVHS. According to Carol Irish, a close friend of Gunderson’s and fellow Executive Assistant at Cupertino High School, she embraced the challenge.

“She was never afraid to learn something new … She was organized in her thinking,” Irish said. “She was very practical.”

At MVHS, Gunderson developed a reputation as a dependable and helpful colleague. When principal April Scott became the new Principal, Gunderson had already established herself as a key component of the administrative department. Her dedication would prove invaluable to many people in her time at MVHS, even after she retired in 2008. 

“It was nice to have somebody that was knowledgeable, that knew the staff, that knew procedures, knew who to call,” Scott said. “And really, that helped facilitate [my transition].”

As Executive Assistant to the principal, Gunderson helped Scott manage the budget, plan meetings and manage the office. She also worked with other executive assistants on the District Management Team for seven years.

Gunderson developed friendships with many of the executive assistants in the district, like Medeiros and Irish. Social events and gatherings helped her get closer to the many people whose lives she touched, and she was eager to help anybody in need.

“There’s a great camaraderie and friendship and working relationship among and between the working assistants and the principals at each site in the district,” said Sue Larson, the Executive Assistant to the Superintendent.

When Irish became the new Executive Assistant at CHS in 2001, Gunderson helped her adjust to the position. Because she was new to the job, she needed a good amount of help and advice. Gunderson and Irish talked a lot about their jobs and how to make their respective schools run efficiently. According to Irish, they soon realized that they had a deeper friendship and began to spend more time talking, often meeting up at a Chili’s restaurant on Stevens Creek Boulevard.

“She would have iced tea, I would have water with lemon, and we would eat chips and salsa and just talk,” Irish said. “It was a great time. It deepened our relationship beyond something just professional.”

Gunderson and Irish both left their jobs eventually, with Irish moving to Southern California and Gunderson retiring. Despite the change, they stayed in constant communication. According to Irish, they emailed each other almost every day and maintained their strong friendship.  

Even in her retirement, Gunderson continued to lead an active life. She spent more time gardening, playing tennis and traveling the country with her husband Ken. Once a month, she played bridge as a member of the Tuesday Night Trumpers, and she continued to read and cook.

In spite of her retirement from MVHS, she visited often to talk with staff members. The value she placed in her relationships helped her touch many people’s lives, not just at Monta Vista, even after she died.

“The people here at MVHS knew she cared about them and that they were a very important part of her life,” Scott said. “She also worked with great heart and sincerity, and I think that will be her MVHS legacy.”