Gifted by grants: Community members contribute to installations on Gunn campus


Class gifts come from the graduating year’s student body and are funded using extra money from class fundraisers. While gifts can fund material improvements to Gunn’s campus, Student Activities Director Lisa Hall has also seen classes use funds to discount apparel or fund future events. “(Funds for the class gift) come from what is left in (the class) account at the end of the school year,” she said. “We say, ‘Okay, you have this much money left—what do you want to do with it?’”


One of the first noticeable things when driving into Gunn is the giant light-up sign. With its colorful screen displaying school news and upcoming events, this new marquee replaced an older worn-down one in January.

Funds of $14,000 from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 were rolled over into the Student Executive Council budget to use toward the student body. From there, Hall consulted with administrators to decide what they could use the funds on. “Our marquee had died,” she said. “It was on its last legs, and we were in need of getting a new one.” On top of the funds provided by the two classes, Palo Alto Unified School District contributed $39,000 and the Parent-Teacher-Student Association an additional $7,000.

Principal Wendy Stratton and administrators noted the issues with the marquee and were involved in its replacement. “It wasn’t a small thing, and it wasn’t fixable,” Stratton said. “SEC became aware, and the students went through a process of deciding what they were going to do with their money.”

Hall believes the new marquee accomplishes the purpose of publicizing relevant school news. “It’s a good way to catch the attention of the riders that either go by the school or come in and out of school,” she said. “It’s also a visual way to quickly promote events and happenings on campus.”

Sophomore Sophie Brown feels the new marquee adds to the campus aesthetic despite sometimes being difficult to read. “I like it, but the news goes by fast, so it’s hard to catch,” she said. “It’s really cool otherwise.”

Titan statue

Seven feet tall and 2,000 pounds heavy, its hair flows in eternal motion and its bronze gaze holds ancient strength and fierce focus. Ten years after its installation, the Titan statue continues to greet students at the entrance of the Titan Gym when they file in for sports, homecoming and SEC events.

The Titan statue was created by former ceramics teacher Erik Bowman, Class of 2011 alumnus William Wang, Class of 2011 alumnus Charlie Yang and Class of 2012 alumnus Tony Yin. The team first started working on the project after Gunn’s principal at the time, Katya Villalobos, asked Bowman if he and his students wanted to create a statue for the Titan Gym, which was being built. Bowman agreed. “We wanted to rework the cartoonish Timmy the Titan,” he said. “We wanted to come up with a more heroic, Greek- like Titan.”

The statue would have cost $20,000 in materials and outside commissioned work. However, an art teacher who was on the committee for class gifts pitched funding its creation to graduating students. The Classes of 2010, 2011 and 2012 agreed to put their class funds toward the statue.

The statue is based on a digital illustration of the Greek Titan Cronus by a Chilean art teacher, with small Gunn- specific alterations. After receiving permission to use the drawing as inspiration, the team sketched drawings and built a maquette, a small model of the sculpture. An enlarger then digitally scanned the maquette and cut the dimensions into a 7-foot-tall styrofoam block.

The styrofoam was then sent to a foundry in Berkeley, who applied an oil-based clay on the sculpture and sent it back to Bowman, Wang, Yang and Yin for refinements. “We spent a whole summer having to resculpt the details,” Bowman said. “This whole process was super involved.”

Wang, who worked on the styrofoam sculpture’s details over the summer, described the collaboration as a fun experience. He, Yang and Yin conversed about where a hand should go or whether a muscle striation looked right. “I’m just very grateful and fortunate to have been able to work on it,” he said. “And that’s something that I’ll always be thankful for.”

Bowman estimates that this sculpture’s creation spanned around two and a half years, from idea to installation. He hopes that students today recognize the time and effort Wang, Yang and Yin invested in it. “I hope that it’s appreciated,” Bowman said. “I hope that all of our energies, especially my students’, are still valued, and that the students that encounter it are still inspired by it.”

Other gifts

Additions to Gunn’s campus can also be a product of PTSA grants and administrative reactions to campus needs. PTSA Budget Manager Silvia Griswold, who allocates funding within Gunn, works alongside parents, teachers and administrators to help meet staff and studentneeds. “The PTSA does a round of grants, and every year teachers can propose a project that they want for the school, and then they go in and decide whether (or not to approve these requests),” she said.

Small changes to Gunn’s campus can have lasting impacts on its community. Stratton sees merit in financial improvements to Gunn’s campus. “The aesthetics are always nice,” she said. “Thinking in terms of making this learning environment feel well taken care of, (we prioritize) safety, aesthetics and creating a sense of professionalism for students.”

Amphitheater table

Students returning to campus in the beginning of the school year may have noticed something different on the amphitheater: a red wooden table once belonging to the now-demolished Bat Cave.

The Bat Cave table was not a senior gift. When the demolition of the A- and B-buildings was announced, the Class of 1972 (undefeated) football team alumni salvaged a table from the Bat Cave and brought it to the amphitheater. The group aimed to preserve the essence of the Bat Cave, which had been a center of student life since the school’s opening in 1964.

At a 50-year football team reunion, current football player senior Giordano Rischmoller met with the alumni group who helped salvage the Bat Cave table. “(The team) was reminiscing about how they would draw on the tables in the Bat Cave and (how) the tables have been there for so long,” he said. “They decided to grab one of the tables before repairs (started), put a plaque on it with their note and put it on the freshman quad.”

M/N-building benches

Whether it’s brunch, lunch or even the 10-minute passing period between classes, students are constantly looking for places to sit down and talk to friends. Luckily for these students, Gunn has benches in every corner of campus. While most are gifts from former senior classes or installations by the school, the two benches in between the M- and N-buildings have an unique backstory.

The distinct benches were installed by Class of 2018 alumnus Alex Viveros. Viveros planned to give back to Gunn for his Boy Scouts Eagle Project, a project that benefits the scout’s community and the last step in their journey to the final rank. “I picked Gunn specificallybecause it was where our troop met for weekly meetings,” he said. “I remember growing up and playing ‘cops and robbers’ all across campus as part of Troop 52, so I felt like it was appropriate to give back to Gunn for what it had done for us as Scouts.”

This was Viveros’ first time working on a larger-scale project. “It took about a year of coordinating,” he said. “I’m glad that I had a bunch of people collaborating with me and (PAUSD) to help too.”

One of Viveros’ favorite parts of the project was that he could see the immediate payoff every day on campus, since he installed the benches between his junior and senior year. “(During) my senior year of school, I would pass the benches and see all these people hanging out on them,” he said. “(When students took) homecoming pictures, I would see them featured all the time. I didn’t really realize when I built them that I’d have this big, cool reminder of my time in Scouting on my way to algebra every day, but the fact that I do is awesome.”