One last time (copy)

Sue Ann Gruver attended her final high school commencement ceremony as superintendent of Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools in 2015.

Sue Ann Gruver, who was superintendent of Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools from 2008 to 2015, died late last month at age 72, her family announced.

Gruver died after a long illness from cancer, according to her Star Tribune obituary. She is survived her husband, Jim Gruver of Wayzata, and four children and 12 grandchildren.

Gruver oversaw an eventful seven years in the district that included the Great Recession, the rollout of the district’s 1:1 iPad initiative for several grades and the opening of the Bridges Area Learning Center, La ola del lago Spanish immersion school and other facilities.

Several people who knew Gruver remembered her as a creative problem-solver who cared deeply for students and staff.

“She never forgot people,” said longtime Five Hawks Elementary School Principal Tim Bell, who was also in the Prior Lake Rotary Club with Gruver and kept in touch with her after her retirement. “She knew your kids, she knew your spouse, she knew something about you that was important.”

Attempts to reach Jim Gruver and the Gruvers’ son James by phone and social media this week weren’t successful.

Sue Ann Wilkinson was born in June 1947 in Lafayette, Indiana, according to the obituary. She graduated high school in South Bend and went on to earn a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of St. Thomas. She and Jim Gruver married in 1970 and marked their 50th anniversary a few weeks before her death.

Before coming to Prior Lake, Sue Ann Gruver worked in education as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, among other positions. Prior Lake-Savage was struggling in some ways, such as with more residents enrolling in outside districts than coming in.

“It’s a complex job at any given moment, and I’ve loved it,” she said in a 2015 interview. “I fell in love with the people, I felt a connection to the community, and I really was excited to be there.”

Gruver kept smiling even after the first cancer diagnosis, Bell said: “Nothing was going to keep her down.”

Prior Lake-Savage Superintendent Teri Staloch, Gruver’s successor, wrote in a message to district staff that the Gruver family plans a celebration of Sue Ann Gruver’s life in the fall, per her wishes.

“Sue Ann was a dear friend and mentor to me,” Staloch wrote. “Like many of you, I am a better person because I was able to learn from Sue Ann. She was a champion of public education and deeply committed to students throughout her career.”

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