Whidbey Island legacy assured: Trudy Sundberg lecture series

Marshall Goldberg has led efforts to bring a lecture series to Whidbey Island in honor of  Trudy Sundberg. Already, $41,000 has been raised in just over two months. - Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Marshall Goldberg has led efforts to bring a lecture series to Whidbey Island in honor of Trudy Sundberg. Already, $41,000 has been raised in just over two months.
— image credit: Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

The offspring of Trudy Sundberg glow over the idea of a lecture series named on her behalf.

During a gathering in August that celebrated the life of Sundberg, a close friend announced that a memorial fund was created, making way for what will be known as the Trudy J. Sundberg Memorial Lecture Series.

The plan is to bring a prominent speaker to Whidbey Island once a year and build other events around the visit.

The idea evoked joy from Sundberg’s family, yet also just a hint of sadness.


“THIS IS one of the most incredible ways to honor mom,” said Sundberg’s daughter, Jan Whitsitt. “The sad thing is she would have wanted to be at the lecture.”

In a little more than two months, $41,000 already has been raised, just $9,000 shy of the entire first-year goal.

Retired Oak Harbor physician Marshall Goldberg, who became friends with Sundberg during her latter years, hatched the plan and worked with Oak Harbor managing librarian Mary Campbell and the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation to set up the memorial endowment.

For Goldberg, it was a fitting way to honor and keep alive the memory of an extraordinary Oak Harbor woman who impacted and inspired him and so many others on Whidbey Island.


SUNDBERG, a teacher, civic leader, author, debate coach, founder of several organizations, mother and grandmother, passed way on June 29 at the age of 88.

She was known for her boundless energy, a zest for learning and engaging with her community.

“In her 88 years, she probably had four lives,” Goldberg said.

Sundberg’s life revolved around a variety of interests and causes.

“She was a force,” Whitsitt said. “She was a dynamo.”


THE WIFE of a Navy captain, Sundberg traveled the globe before landing on Whidbey Island for good in 1976, dug in and gained many admirers over nearly four decades.

She inspired the young and old and did so in a kind, gentle way that made people who knew her feel important, according to Goldberg.

Sundberg, a longtime Oak Harbor High School English and journalism teacher and advocate and leader of the debate team, loved literature, history, the arts and valued education.

Politics and advocacy were others passions. She was a three-term president and lifelong member of the League of Women Voters of Whidbey Island, founder of the Save Our Kids Crusade anti-violence coalition in the 1990s and founded a book club that has evolved into the Whidbey Reads initiative now in its 12th year.


MEMORIALIZING Sundberg with a lecture series in her honor connected with a public library system she idealized seemed fitting, Campell said.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to be able to contribute something that’s going to do good long into the future and provide memories of someone very special to Oak Harbor,” Campbell said.

Goldberg envisions an annual event in which an eminent speaker or speakers are invited to Whidbey Island with other island-wide library events taking place to complement the visit.

The occasion would be part of an annual programming initiative for adults on Whidbey Island, promoting reading and learning and covering issues of local, national or global interest, according to Goldberg.

“She was a very eclectic person,” Goldberg said of Sundberg. “She was interested in a lot of things. I wanted to do this in a way that is fitting for her.


“THIS IS one thing that’s missing from this area. We have a lot of events on Whidbey Island and North Whidbey. We don’t have anything that I could call academic events.”

Goldberg said he believes that Whidbey Island, with its beauty and surrounding attractions, could entice prominent speakers and was planning to aim high.

“I think we can attract some big-name people. That’s my fantasy,” he said.

GOLDBERG said he currently spends his energies as a political activist. He calls himself a “progressive communitarian,” describing that role as “committed to solving problems and making one’s community a better place to live.”

He’s spoken to groups impacted by Sundberg and so far has found them eager to help raise money for the memorial fund.

“Trudy has literally influenced thousands of people,” he said.

The idea for the endowment is for it to ultimately grow to a point where the interest earned covers the costs for speakers and the fund continues to build through the years and decades.

“It’s a way to ensure a stable funding stream into the future,” Campbell said.


ONCE $50,000 is raised, draws can be made to cover a speaker. The hope is to start the series some time in 2014, Goldberg said.

Whitsitt, who lives in Seattle, said she is setting aside time lately to read her mother’s many diaries.

Trudy Sundberg was known to document most everything, often making carbon copies and filing away so much of what she learned and wanted to share.

Whitsitt is one of four children of John and Trudy Sundberg who all live in and around Seattle. Two of them, Kris Sundberg and Whitsitt, became lawyers, one, Lana Sundberg, is an artist and arts teacher, and the youngest, Dane Sundberg, is a contractor, carpenter and boat builder.

John Sundberg preceded his wife in death in 2004.

Kris Sundberg was the opening speaker before a large gathering at his mother’s memorial in late August. He immediately recognized the irony of the moment.

“I sure wish mom was here to do this,” he told the gathering. “She could do this so much better.”


-Those interested in donating to the Trudy J. Sundberg Memorial Lecture Series may read more at (under Foundation, click Giving, then click Endowment).

Donations may be sent to: Trudy J. Sundberg Memorial Lecture Series, Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation, 7312 35th Ave. N.E., Marysville, WA 98271.


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