Although Dick Wade’s departure from GFS is months away, Mayor Michael Nutter chose to get an early start on commending him for his work as the Head of School.
On October 13, myriad members of the GFS and Germantown communities attended the presentation of Cliveden’s Heritage Award to Dick Wade. The gala was held at Cliveden and was organized by Jennifer Celata, the site’s Chair of the Board of Directors and a former GFS parent. According to Celata, about 200 people attended the event, including GFS faculty, staff, alumni, current and former parents, and other members of the community.
Mayor Nutter and Cliveden’s Executive Director David Young both spoke, as did Wade. Young lauded Wade’s ability to circumvent what he called “the Germantown problem” and connect to the neighborhood’s complex network of organizations and constituencies, both as Head of School and as a neighbor. Put simply, “He is what we aspire to be,” said Young.
Nutter championed Wade’s role in developing GFS students into good citizens of Philadelphia. He also cited the correlation between Wade’s tenure at GFS and the beginning of a period of growth in the larger Philadelphia community. “When you invest in our children, you invest in our future,” said Nutter.
Wade helps the school to engage with Germantown in multiple ways, creating opportunities for students and others to learn from the neighborhood’s historic sites. “Dick has always encouraged teachers, encouraged staff members, encouraged folks in the meeting to get out and explore these places that are hidden in plain sight,” said Young. “As a man who loves history himself, he gets Germantown, that there’s a story behind everything.”
Germantown also features in the traditional GFS curriculum, namely in the seventh grade Quakerism course and some Junior-Senior seminars.
Wade has cultivated relationships with many Germantown institutions, including schools, churches, and economic associations. Notably, he helped organize the celebration of the 1928 Negro Achievement Week, in which prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance spoke and performed in Germantown. The events, which occurred in April 2011, helped bring together students and teachers from GFS and Germantown High. Wade’s initiatives show that “our neighborhood’s great history can bring this community together,” said Young.
Wade notes that Germantown’s diversity is part of its rich and complicated history, which led to its disorganization. According to Young, there are 92 churches on Germantown Avenue, 39 neighborhood associations, and 15 historic sites. GFS is now an important part of the neighborhood. While other schools left, “[GFS] elected to stay in Germantown,” said Wade.
Wade’s activism in the Germantown community extends beyond his role as Head of School. He is on the Board of Directors of his church, the 2nd Baptist Church of Germantown. He has also lived in Germantown since 2004. “We wanted to make a statement about the livability of Germantown. A lot of people think it’s a scary place, and we didn’t believe it,” he said.
He also makes an effort to walk to school rather than drive. “When you walk the streets of any community you see it very differently from when you drive the streets … you see a variety of housing, a variety of architecture, certainly a variety of incomes, and it all creates a community,” said Wade.
After he is retired, Wade hopes that he will continue to see improvement in the school’s relationship with its neighborhood, which is still going through hard times. “Like all urban communities, I think jobs are the first and most important thing to be worried about, and with that comes the necessary skills for those jobs as they become available… Beyond that, I think it’s strengthening the investment opportunities here,” said Wade.
He hopes that GFS can encourage more community members to take an active role, especially parents and alumni. “My dream would be to have a lot more volunteer investment in Germantown organizations and our work for those organizations,” said Wade.