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Longtime Palisades Charter High School teacher and donor remembered for her quirks, generosity

Rose Gilbert, longtime teacher and donor at Palisades Charter High School, died Monday at age 95.
Rose Gilbert, longtime teacher and donor at Palisades Charter High School, died Monday at age 95.
Courtesy of Palisades Charter High School

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After teaching more than 50 years at Palisades Charter High School, Rose Gilbert had become a legend.

"You just couldn't forget her," said Ruth Wechsler, a teacher at the high school who was in Gilbert's English class as a student in 1969. Decades later, her daughter also was in Gilbert's class.

Wechsler recalled Gilbert's habit of throwing Cheerios at students when she was annoyed and requiring students who misbehaved to bring cookies for the whole class as punishment.

"She was a living legend and clearly it means that she really made an impact," Wechsler said.

Gilbert died Monday, nine months after retiring. She was 95.

"She's a role model because she continued to work. And she loved waking up in the morning and going to work," said Mary Cappelli, a teacher at the high school who called Gilbert a close friend and mentor. "She never, ever, ever complained about the job."

Over the years, Gilbert donated more than $3 million to Palisades Charter High School, according to Principal Pamela Magee. That money paid for several construction projects, including a pool, performing arts spaces and the renovation of the school's athletic buildings.

Gilbert had been married to a wealthy developer, who died in 1987, according to the Associated Press, leaving her a fortune.

On Tuesday, construction workers at the school were still fixing up exterior tiles of the school's renovated gym. That project was her last big donation to the school: $500,000.

"It saddens us that Rose won't be here to have us play in this new gym," said head boys basketball coach Vejas Anaya. "She was well known for her generosity. She is one of the biggest philanthropists that you ever would have known." 

Gilbert was also a major donor to UCLA, her alma mater. She funded more than a dozen scholarships and underwrote several academic initiatives for intercollegiate athletics.  Gilbert, who graduated from the school in 1940, also contributed to its neuroscience program, Powell Library and its College Honors program.