Charlene Saunders, a dedicated staffer who relished working with faculty and students, died Dec. 12 from complications related to COVID-19. She was 78.
Saunders began working at Cal Poly Pomona in 2000 as the assistant for Elhami Ibrahim, the former associate vice president for Academic Programs. Ibrahim oversaw the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, which enabled Saunders to get a close-up view of faculty and student research.
After four years in Academic Programs, the California native was promoted to administrative coordinator in what is now the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion, overseeing the budget and entering classes into the system. Saunders subsequently worked in the art department for a short stint before accepting an administrative coordinator II position in the Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development in 2005.
Carol Keating, who works as an annuitant in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs overseeing grants and contracts, was a colleague and close friend of Saunders.
“We both came in at 7 a.m., and we would chat for a few minutes before the day started,” Keating said. “You get to know a person that way. And we became buddies.”
Before her career in higher education, Saunders had worked for judges in the family court system in Los Angeles, Keating said.
She describes Saunders as very politically aware and outspoken.
“She was very with it,” Keating said. “She used to come in and if political things were going on, she would tell me about it, who to vote for, and why I should care about this and that. She was very into what was happening.”
In 2017, Saunders received an Outstanding Staff Award from Staff Council. Saunders, who retired in 2020, was honored with a staff emerita designation that same year.
Saunders was preceded in death by her husband, and her son, Jason, who died in 2019.
A graveside service will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 11 a.m. at the Queen of Heaven Mortuary and Cemetery, 2161 Fullerton Road, in Rowland Heights.