The Catholic school administrator who was slated to become principal of Justin-Siena died in a cycling crash, officials with the north Napa school announced Sunday.
Herman Shum, 40, the vice principal of student affairs at Saint Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, was killed Saturday in an accident east of Dublin in Contra Costa County, Justin-Siena president Robert T. Jordan said in an email. The crash occurred only 11 days after his appointment at Justin-Siena, effective July 1.
“He was ready, and boy, was he excited,” said Dr. Pete Imperial, principal at Saint Mary’s, where Shum worked for 11 years. “I feel so bad for our brothers and sisters at Justin, because he was going to be great. He was thrilled at having the opportunity.”
California Highway Patrol responded to a report of a collision between a vehicle and bicyclist on eastbound Highland Road about three-quarters of a mile west of Carneal Road around 9:45 a.m., CHP Sgt. Diana McDermott said.
Shum was traveling at the back of a group of about 50 to 60 people cycling through the area, and made an “evasive action” due to a collision at the front of the group, according to McDermott. He was then ejected from the bicycle and hit a Peterbilt truck, she said.
The Contra Costa County Coroner’s Division identified Shum as the victim, according to sheriff’s Deputy Chad Prior.
Another person suffered major injuries and a third individual suffered minor injuries, CHP officials said.
Justin-Siena had announced Dec. 16 that Shum would take over as its new principal for the 2015-16 school year. The selection followed an evaluation by a committee including school parents, faculty members and trustees, according to Jordan.
“We had hoped for great things in terms of Justin-Siena’s (future) and he was looking forward to serving our community, as well as becoming a member of the community of Napa,” said Jordan, who added Shum planned to move his family from Dublin to take over the principal’s position.
During his decade at Saint Mary’s high school, Shum, a graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, built a reputation not only as an effective teacher of history and social studies, but as a leader who combined discipline with compassion for students, according to Imperial, the school principal.
“Herman was able to integrate humanity and discipline,” he recalled. “Kids loved him; it’s pretty rare to have a dean as beloved as Herman is. The word ‘discipline’ comes from the word ‘disciple’ and that’s exactly what he did — he took time with the kids. Adolescence is a tough time, and he was able to walk alongside kids as they had struggles. As a teacher, he was brilliant.”
Away from the classroom, Shum was an active cyclist and a frequent competitor in Bay Area races. An online USA Cycling log lists him as a competitor in about 110 events dating back to 2009, often sponsored by the International Christian Cycling Club.
The school will not resume its search for a principal “until the Shum family and the Saint Mary’s College High School community has had time to mourn their loss,” Jordan wrote in an email to parents and staff. David Holquin, Justin-Siena’s chief advancement officer, is the acting principal for the 2014-15 school year.
Shum leaves behind a wife and two daughters, according to Justin-Siena. Funeral arrangements had not been announced Sunday afternoon, but Saint Mary’s officials are planning an on-campus memorial in Berkeley shortly after classes resume Jan. 6, Imperial said.
“We have no idea yet how much we’ll miss him,” he said. “But we know we’ll miss him terribly.”
Information from Bay City News Service was used in this report.