San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame Names CAL Alumnae Sue Gonda and Olivia Puentes-Reynolds “Spirit of the Hall of Fame” Awardees
By Leslie L.J. Reilly
When Sue Gonda talks about the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame, her voice echoes the enthusiasm of a mother speaking about her firstborn. Gonda and Olivia Puentes-Reynolds, with others, developed the annual Hall of Fame event and celebrated the first inductees 18 years ago.
In essence, the seed of the idea came from each, separately. It was in 1999 when Puentes-Reynolds joined the Women’s Museum board that the plan for the Hall of Fame was set in motion. Gonda and Puentes-Reynolds shared their vision during a strategy planning board meeting and identified the potential partnership with SDSU, UCSD, and the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women. By 2001 the Hall of Fame was created with the first inductees announced in 2002.
“Represenatives from each partner and volunteers all had a voice,” Puentes-Reynolds recalled. “Our decisions were made by consensus. It was a fantastic effort by many people, and we all worked together.”
Both Gonda and Puentes-Reynolds are SDSU alumnae. Gonda received her bachelor’s degree in history and Puentes-Reynolds in economics with a minor in Chicana/o studies. Gonda also taught history and women’s studies courses at SDSU.
Gonda was president of the Women’s Museum (1998-2005), and Puentes-Reynolds was a commissioner for the San Diego County Commission on the Status on Women (under Chair Dr. Gloria Harris) where commissioners had identified their interest in developing a Women’s Hall of Fame. Their goals in creating the Hall of Fame were to shed more light on the many well-respected women in a vast array of segments in the community. During the event, inductees are honored for their decades of work within their specific communities and professions.
“We made it part of our values — to make this a very multicultural, diverse event.” Gonda said. “We wanted to honor women from all parts of San Diego society — not just ethnic or racial, but also geographic locations.” The founding committee created award categories to showcase women’s outstanding accomplishments in their chosen field of work and the values they lived.
“It is mindblowing to see the communities of support cheering on their winners. It is the most diverse, multicultural event you’ll ever attend,” she said. “It still gives me chills every time we announce the winners.”
When she was notified of the award, Puentes-Reynolds was more willing to accept the accolade, once she heard that Gonda won alongside her and that the two could accept the award as a “twin award.” The timing of the “Spirit of the Hall of Fame” award seems right for Gonda as she prepares to retire from academia this year.
Gonda said, “I am honored to receive the award, but I am thrilled for the continuation of the Hall of Fame and the museum — that it wasn't a one-off event. It is exciting for me.”
Gonda’s dream for the future of the Hall of Fame, is that it finds a physical and permanent location to house the honorees, not unlike the San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park.
The Hall of Fame celebration takes place this year on Sunday, March 15.
For more information, visit sandiegowomenshalloffame.org