Gunn marks 50 years with three-day birthday bash

Alumni, students, families to mingle with former teachers, view memorabilia, celebrate history

Gunn High School is celebrating its 50th birthday with a bang this weekend, with events Friday through Sunday scheduled to celebrate Titan history.

The weekend was organized by a group of Gunn parents eager to call attention to the high school's 50-year track record of high academic achievement and innovation, as well as rekindle the sense of optimism that defined the era in which the school opened.

Gunn opened in the fall of 1964 to meet the area's demand after Cubberley High School, now closed, filled to capacity. The new high school was named for Henry M. Gunn, who was superintendent of the Palo Alto school district from 1950 to 1961, a period of explosive growth that saw the opening of 18 new elementary schools and two new middle schools, as well as Cubberley in 1956.

Gunn's first class of seniors graduated in June 1966.

"Through this process we've learned how much pride the initial group that came into Gunn had for the school," event organizer Miriam Rotman told the Weekly in July. "There was a feeling that they were starting something new, and they wanted it to last for generations.

Rotman said organizers were reaching out to as many alumni and original Gunn faculty as possible, including the school's first principal, Robert McLean, who now lives in senior housing in Cupertino; the first athletic director, Robert Bow; and longtime English teacher Tim Farrell. Both McLean and Bow will attend events on Saturday.

"Bow (who stayed at the school more than 20 years) said, 'I can speak about Gunn all night long. I still bleed red, white and black,'" Rotman said.

A barbecue on Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m at Bol Park will kick the weekend off, followed by a special half-time show at Gunn's football game against Carlmont High School. The show, dubbed "Parade of Decades," will tell the story of Gunn and Palo Alto over the last 50 years.

On Saturday morning, there will be a ceremony emceed by Gunn graduate and NBC anchor Janelle Wang, campus tours, an alumni art exhibit, a memorabilia display in the library and a faculty panel discussion. The Gunn band will perform around lunchtime on the quad while school clubs, including the robotics team, strut their stuff, according to the district.

Current and former Titans can mingle with former teachers at a "Golden Gala" Saturday evening. Retired art teacher Ron Cooper, former athletic director Bow and former track coach Hal Daner will attend, among others, event organizers said. Limited tickets are available, so people are asked to register as soon as possible for a spot.

On Sunday, a less structured family field day will be held with a picnic lunch (attendees bring their own) and pickup sports games.

More information and registration for the barbecue, gala and field day have been posted at

Schedule of events:

Friday, Sept. 12

• Welcome barbecue, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Bol Park, 3590 Laguna Ave., Palo Alto

• Gunn football game, 7 to 10 p.m. at Hal Daner Track and Field at Gunn

Saturday, Sept. 13

• Gunn 50th Ceremony, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Ceremony with special guest speakers and TV anchor Janelle Wang, 10 to 11 a.m.

• Art exhibit, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the library

• Music and clubs on the quad, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Gunn's "Golden Gala," 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the Palo Alto Sheraton, 625 El Camino Real, Palo Alto

Sunday, Sept. 14

• Gunn Field Day, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Gunn. There will be pickup games on the football and softball fields as well as basketball courts.

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Like this comment
Posted by rekindle the sense of optimism
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 9, 2014 at 10:54 am

"Rekindling a sense of optimism" is the key phrase in this article. With a new Superintendent and new board (hopefully with innovative ideas such as Max's) members coming on board this year I am very optimistic that we make a great school district even greater. [Portion removed.]

Congratultions to Gunn on this milestone!

Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2014 at 2:31 pm

On the one hand I do congratulate Gunn for this milestone anniversary.

On the other hand, I find it hard to congratulate what is the newest of what were 3 high schools in Palo Alto while Cubberley is still closed and no plans to reopen. Instead we have Gunn and Paly turning into mega schools which is not what many of us moving to Palo Alto before our high school kids had started kindergarten were expecting.

Should we use this milestone anniversary to also plan how to keep our high schools from getting even bigger?

Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Alum
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 9, 2014 at 4:50 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hays mom
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 9, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Paly Parent, I agree. And It's not just the high schools that are too big. Our elementary and middle schools are also too big. This do-nothing board twiddled and diddled and never opened Garland or Greendell. Our schools are now overcrowded. We also didn't get the 4th middle school or the 3d high school that we have needed for some time under this board, which was just led around by the do-nothing Skelly. Cubberley was allowed to go to pot, just a degrading mess.

[Portion removed.] It doesn't take a genius to figure out where all the bullying is coming from -- these big mega elementary schools like Hays with over 500 students. How can the teachers watch these kids at lunch and recess? It's impossible. Sounds hard on teachers too.

My child only gets 10 minutes for eating his lunch because there are so many kids. This has to stop. We need a board that is going to figure out how to act responsibly. [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 9, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I feel for the current group of students. My son started at Greendell which we loved - then it closed and he ended up at the Ohlone School - which at the time was an experimental type of teaching - not good for him. We then got him into a 3R school that was more structured. I don't think this provided a good basis for him starting out. He survived and graduated college but it was not the "leave it to beaver" I was hoping for in a relatively small town.
If I compare to my schooling in Los Angeles no one on my street went to the same schools except grammar school. From that point on students were moved around to establish a supposed mixed percentage of ethnic breakdown - that included people being bussed around. This was west Los Angeles. People on my street ended up at Beverly Hills High by request - the closest, Hollywood High, Los Angeles High, Fairfax High.
My mom was a participant in the parent/teacher association - she said people were yelling at each other as to which holidays were being celebrated - mind you this is 100 years ago.
The politics of the school system no matter what city are truly bazaar.

Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Alum
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 10, 2014 at 7:12 am

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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