Sarah Gund died unexpectedly but peacefully in a Boston hospital on the evening of Aug. 17, 2023 after suffering an aneurysm. She was surrounded by her husband, her children and grandchildren, step-children and their children, and some beloved friends. She was 81.
She was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, on May 30, 1942. She moved with her family to Riverdale in the early 1950s. Riverdale became an important part of her youth and later life.
She met her future first husband, Bill Gray, on the first day of ninth grade at the Putney School. She and Bill were married 10 days after she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1965.
She is survived by her beloved husband of 23 years, Geoffrey; her children Sarah Rakovshik and Joshua Gray; her brothers Gilbert and J.O. Kerlin; her stepchildren Susannah, Charlotte, Geoffrey and Tyler Gund and their spouses Cedric Bien-Gund, Rick Buhr-Gund, Angela Pietschmann, Vicki Bien; and nine grandchildren.
She combined a budding career as a learning specialist with raising her two children, Joshua and Sarah. In 1984, she became an important member of the Stern Center for Learning Disabilities in Burlington, Vermont. A fellow staff member said she “could teach a rock to read.”
Two years after Bill died from cancer in 1994, she moved back to New York City.
In the early 2000s, she became a learning specialist with her own private office in New York. She became a distinguished and much admired professional in her field.
In 1996, she reconnected with Geoffrey Gund, a former roommate of Bill Gray’s at Harvard. The two married in 2000 and began a long and fulfilling life together. A teacher at the Dalton School, Geoff shared her interest in education. She became a parental figure to Geoff’s children.
She put her special enthusiasm into caring for the new family that had come into her life. This endeavor, added to the loving relationship she developed with her children and grandchildren.
Settling in Riverdale with a new large family gave her the opportunity to fill her life with charitable activities that she pursued with the same vigor and sensitivity she brought to all her endeavors.
While living in Riverdale, she developed a rich life as a key trustee of a number of organizations. She gave back to the institutions that had nurtured her. Her trusteeships included: Bank Street, where her mother had been a founding member; Wave Hill, where her father was a founding member; Riverdale Neighborhood House, and Sarah Lawrence College. She became co-chair of the board at Wave Hill and chair of Riverdale Neighborhood House.
In 2013, she won the Bernice Stern Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.
She shaped a life that made use of her early experience in education. She was able to follow up her school experience at Putney later in life with service on the board at both the trustee and presidential levels She helped Putney make immense strides in its educational development.
She was an exceptional member on all boards on which she served and developed close relationships with the leaders of both the organizations and their boards. Her counsel was widely sought and readily accepted. She was loved for her enthusiasm for each endeavor as well as for her gentle, clear and effective way of providing insight.
She combined her interest in plant life with her keen administrate skills at Wave Hill. Through the childhood Learning Center at Wave Hill she connected with the special place in her heart for children. It was like her childlike enthusiasms were encapsulated in their special childishness. Her support for the various institutions to which she gave so much enthusiastic effort was combined with funding for them that reflected her interest in education at all levels.
There will be a private memorial service on Martha’s Vineyard followed by a memorial held later in the fall at Wave Hill. Chapman Funeral Home on Martha’s Vineyard handled her funeral arrangements.