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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Don Bunce, Rose Bowl MVP, dies Don Bunce, Rose Bowl MVP, dies (April 23, 2003)

** He was former Stanford team physician and Portola Valley resident.

By Jonah D. King
Special to the Almanac

A memorial service for former Stanford quarterback Dr. Don Bunce has been set for 4 p.m. Thursday, May 1, at Memorial Church on the Stanford campus. A celebration to honor his life will follow immediately at Chuck Taylor Grove at Stanford.

Dr. Bunce, a Stanford football team doctor for more than a decade and quarterback in 1971 of the last Stanford squad to win the Rose Bowl, died of a heart attack April 15 while on vacation with his wife near Santa Cruz. He was 54.

Dr. Bunce and his wife Jennifer had lived in Portola Valley until this past year, when they moved to Emerald Hills.

"He knew he had a problem with his heart, but didn't want anyone to worry," said Pam Jasmin, younger sister of Dr. Bunce. She said she would fondly remember her older brother for his kindness to his family, especially their mother.

Born on January 17, 1949, in Redwood City, he grew up in Ladera, where he attended Ladera School and later Woodside High School.

The Palo Alto Times named him the high school athlete of the year in 1967 after a brilliant football career at Woodside that gained the attention of a number of respected college programs. As both a junior and senior, he was named first team all-league.

Dr. Bunce attended Stanford and for two years served as the backup to 1970 Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett.

Mr. Plunkett, an Atherton resident and a fraternity brother of Dr. Bunce, remained friends with him, even after both their football careers had ended. He said it broke his heart when he heard Dr. Bunce had died and remembered him as a "quiet competitor."

After patiently waiting behind Mr. Plunkett for two years, Mr. Bunce finally got his chance to shine in 1971 as he led the Pac-8 Conference champion Stanford Indians to an 8-3 regular season record, including a victory over arch rival California in the Big Game.

In the Rose Bowl, played on New Year's Day of 1972, Mr. Bunce orchestrated a last-minute drive to edge the undefeated Big Ten Conference champion Michigan Wolverines, 13-12.

After one year playing professional football in Canada, he left the game for Stanford University Medical School, where he received his medical degree in 1977.

Dr. Bunce served as a team doctor for Stanford from 1982 to 1992, and was an orthopedic surgeon at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation from 1982 until the time of his death.

Though he gained most of his accolades on the football field, he was also a star rugby player for Stanford and had recently volunteered his services as team physician for the USA National Rugby Team.

Dr. Bunce's son Cameron, a football standout at Woodside and Menlo School, is a junior wing for the California Golden Bears, winners of 12 straight rugby national championships.

California rugby head coach Jack Clark, until recently the national team coach, expressed shock and sadness at the passing of Dr. Bunce, and described him as a "class act through and through."

That sentiment was echoed by Steve Nicolopulos, athletic director at Woodside, who coached football with Dr. Bunce at the school from 1994 to 1997.

"He was a tremendous human being, very giving, and was always there to lend a helping hand. He will be greatly missed," said Mr. Nicolopulos.

Dr. Bunce is survived by his wife Jennifer; daughter Mikele and son Cameron; his parents Carole and Sid Bunce of Ladera; sisters Cheryl Berry of San Diego, Linda Keith of Paso Robles and Pam Jasmin of Ladera; and brothers Gary Bunce of Pacifica and Steve Bunce of Ladera. His first wife, Diana, died 16 years ago.

Contributions in his name may be made to Athletes in Action, 262 Rutherford Ave., Redwood City, CA 94061.


 

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