The Rachel Gundersen Endowment for the Arts & Humanities provides annual funding for a grant related to theater, dance, music and visual art forms, or to support projects in literature, languages, global studies, geography, history, law or a host of other topics in the humanities.
Teachers apply through the usual twice-annual process for Gold Star Grants.
The endowment was established through a generous gift by Rachel Gundersen, a retired school psychologist and former president of the Board of the La Crosse Public Education Foundation (LPEF). Rachel has been supporting a similar grant for the past several years through annual donations to LPEF, and said she wanted to provide a permanent means for continuing her support. She has been inspired by the growth in LPEF grants and seeing the individual recipients who are honored each January at the organization’s Grants Award Luncheon.
“I’m just astounded at the creativity of the people who work in this District,” Rachel said, adding that “a little bit of money goes a long way for an individual teacher.” She knows taxpayer-supported funds are limited. “The Foundation enriches the School District and the School District enriches the community.”
Community service has been an integral part of Rachel’s life. In addition to her six years as a member of the LPEF Board, she was president of the La Crosse League of Women Voters and was involved in the La Crosse Community Theatre and with the Women’s Fund of Greater La Crosse, among many other efforts.
She was valedictorian of her graduating class at Logan High School, and went on to receive her bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison. She moved with her husband, Cameron, as he completed his medical training before they returned to La Crosse to raise five sons: Cameron Jr., Gregg, Adolf, Roald and Joshua.
As her children aged, Rachel became aware of increasing pressures on young people in the community and “wanted to help kids lead a healthy lifestyle.” She returned to school at UW-La Crosse and received her school psychology degree, joining the School District of La Crosse in 1978 as a school psychologist. She worked in several schools, including returning to Logan High, before retiring in 1993.
Rachel and Cameron, who is in memory care at Bethany Lutheran Homes, had previously established a separate endowment at the La Crosse Community Foundation in honor of his parents, Dr. Gunnar and Mary Baldwin Gundersen. That fund generates money for LPEF each year to support a separate classroom grant, generally in the area of the environment, the sciences and broader emotional and social issues inhibiting students from succeeding in school.