When Beth Hunkapiller learned she was named the 2013 San Carlos citizen of the year, the former school board trustee was shocked.
“I couldn’t remember half of what they told me,” she said about the day members of the Chamber of Commerce landed at her doorstep with the news. “There’s a list of things they need from you like a guest list for the upcoming reception. Of course, the most overwhelming is a good picture of yourself.”
But the chamber officials who chose Hunkapiller already seem to have a pretty good picture — figuratively if not quite a literal snapshot — of who the longtime educator is and what she has done for the city she’s called home for decades. As a former middle school reading and English teacher and administrator, Hunkapiller was “a natural” for programs she helped start like Health Cities Tutoring and she is also worthy of this year’s honor.
For Hunkapiller’s part, she feels like she’s in good company with past recipients.
“I feel truly honored. It’s just such a special thing and I’ve always been so happy for them so to have it happen for me is truly special,” she said.
Hunkapiller resigned in October from the San Carlos Elementary School District Board of Trustees five meetings shy from hitting the 20-year mark. Her move came amid questions about a hefty home loan from the district for superintendent Craig Baker which Hunkapiller recently said was similar to a movie — even the great ones have a couple of moments that aren’t.
The resignation aside, Hunkapiller’s commitment to the city goes back even before her 1993 election to the school board. The Shawnee, OK native moved with her husband to California for graduate school, lured by the excitement of the state and an uncle working as a Los Angeles Times editor, and ultimately settled in San Carlos in 1983.
Hunkapiller’s mother was a teacher, her great-grandfather a county superintendent of schools. Education may not be genetic but it certainly shows the influence of family nurturing, she said.
Hunkapiller, whose own children and now grandchild, journeyed through the city’s school system began as a volunteer teacher at her son’s parent co-op nursery school and a s a Girls Scout daisy troop coordinator. She moved into active school work as president of the Heather School PTA and chair of its Fun Day. She also served on an ad hoc committee to select a superintendent and chaired the campaign for the Committee to Defeat the Voucher.
Not content to stop there, Hunkapiller and husband Mike matched donation funds for a decade through the San Carlos Education Foundation. Their efforts, and money, helped procure science equipment, LCD projectors, smart boards, iPads, physical education needs, art supplies and musical instruments among others.
Hunkapiller said the couple started small with a first match of maybe $5,000 but over the 10 years have seen their generosity grow with that of the community.
“We just kept pace with people’s willingness to give,” she said.
Hunkapiller said many of the programs and things that make her most proud are a group achievement including teachers, parents and others involved in growing afterschool care, raising money, tutoring and closing White Oak Way.
“Its no my accomplishment. Everything is shared,” she said.
But while the 2013 Citizen of the Year honor is all hers, Hunkapiller is still humble about her role in the community and education.
“I’m just grateful for the recognition and grateful for the chance to help our schools be vibrant, healthy places,” she said.
The Recognition Gala is Friday, Jan. 24 at the Hotel Sofitel in Redwood Shores. More inforamtion and ticket purchasing is at www.sancarloschamber.org
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102