Our mission is to provide scholarship support for creative children who will benefit from an alternate educational philosophy, such as Montessori, as they lay the foundation for lifelong learning in elementary and middle school.
Rader's parents, William and Susan Ward, created the Rader Ward Foundation following his death from suicide in June 2017. Although he was a bright and talented student who continued to make good grades, discouragement about the rigidity of the traditional public school educational model — and a concurrent increase in social anxiety — seemed to be a factor in the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that led to Rader ending his life.
There was a time, though, when Rader was excited about school and overflowing with the love of learning: when he was a student at Montessori School of Mauldin, from age three through the fifth grade. We know that for certain children, the option of attending a school operating with an alternative educational philosophy can be absolutely life-changing. We want to offer the opportunity for a student-centered education to other creative children whose families may not have the financial means to provide it.
We started with the money we had saved for Rader's college fund, and built on that when a friend had the idea to set up a GoFundMe for the Rader Ward Memorial Scholarship Fund, resulting in donations of nearly $20,000. The foundation has now been recognized as a nonprofit organization, so we continue to accept donations with the goal of funding an endowment to keep doing good work in Rader's name.
The foundation is primarily run by William and Susan Ward. William is the president. Susan designed and runs the website and social media (see links below at right), and serves as director for the purposes of coordinating with two local Montessori schools to which we offer scholarships.
Our scholarship selection committee comprises three women with impressive backgrounds in leadership and education.
Thyra White Austin has provided leadership and consultation in human resources and diversity for almost 30 years. She has served companies ranging from small sole proprietorships to Fortune 100. Thyra has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of South Carolina. She is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources and through the Society of Human Resources. She is a fellow at the University of South Carolina and Furman University under the field of diversity, and was selected as the Human Resources Professional of the Year by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Thyra understands a quality education leads to an effective employee. As a mother of three, Thyra shares a passion for a tailored education to meet the individual needs of children. Her two oldest children attended a Montessori school in Columbia, S.C. Due to the special needs of two of her children, she has had to actively design their educational track to ensure that they received the resources to provide the best outcomes for their future.
Mary-Lynn Martin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education with an emphasis in special education from Erskine College, obtaining certification as both a K-4 regular education teacher and as a K-12 special education teacher. She taught speech- and language-delayed children, as well as children with other learning differences, in a pilot program in Charleston, S.C. Her interest in alternative education began when her oldest son started kindergarten and was disenchanted with sitting at a table doing paperwork for four hours a day. Looking for a more age-appropriate, engaging education, she cold-called a public Waldorf school in Sacramento, Calif., and took her son for an interview. Both she and her son were completely won over by the atmosphere in the classroom. All four of her children have attended Waldorf schools in California, Alaska, Germany, and Hawaii; two have graduated from high school, and the final two are a junior and senior at the Academe of the Oaks Waldorf high school in Atlanta. Mary-Lynn believes that all children should have access to education that inspires a love of learning for learning’s sake, to teachers that support, nurture and challenge, and to a community that promotes thinking and acting at both the local and global level.
Susan Taylor's mission for 44 years has been to instill in children a love of learning, and to share with them the tools needed to successfully navigate their educational adventures. She attended Furman University and ETSU for her Bachelor of Science degree, then after graduation in 1975, began teaching in a Title I school in eastern Tennessee. She earned her master's from Peabody/Vanderbilt in 1982 and pursued American Montessori Society training from 1991-93 while continuing to teach. In 1995, Susan began teaching lower elementary at Montessori School of Mauldin, where she was Rader's teacher from 2007-10. In 2011, she commenced her latest educational adventure, teaching in Laurens County, S.C., in a public school Montessori program. Susan's daughter, Katie, a Montessori student through age nine, now is a 4th year medical student at USC School of Medicine Greenville.
Susan decided at age six to grow up to be a writer, and zeroed in on journalism in junior high. She earned a B.A. in newspaper journalism from the University of South Carolina, and enjoyed working for newspapers and in public relations and publications before starting a family. Susan continued to volunteer in publications during her years as a stay-at-home mom. These days, Susan uses writing as a way to "give her grief a job." She's recently become certified with Concept2 as an indoor rowing instructor at Greenville Indoor Rowing.
William serves as president of the Rader Ward Foundation. He decided early in life to become a doctor. He holds a B.S. in biology from the University of South Carolina. After he and Susan married, he began medical school at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where he also completed residency, a chief resident year, and a fellowship in nephrology. Dr. Ward is a partner at Carolina Nephrology, serving the upstate of South Carolina. William enjoys do-it-yourself projects and craft beer. The Wards live in the Mauldin area.
One of the things we enjoy most as a family, going back to when the kids were really little, is playing Super Mario Bros. Nintendo games. We started with Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, and from there, Rader found a way to play nearly every Mario game from every era, on the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo DS and 3DS, and computer. For most of his life, Rader's daily wardrobe consisted of Mario t-shirts with basketball shorts. When it was time to come up with a logo for the foundation, Susan's thoughts immediately turned to Mario. So the four-square logo you see is a section of pixelated 8-bit Mario, taken from right over Mario's heart.
Many thanks to L. Scott Johnson of Fablegraph in Columbia, S.C., and Fiona Tipping of Fix Media Design, for making sure our family snapshots would look great on the internet; Nancy Ward of swardraws in Chicago for producing a professional quality version of the logo Susan designed; and Kelly Hazel Photography of Greenville, S.C., for photographing William and Susan Ward and Susan Taylor for our biography section.