SPRINGFIELD, MA – More than 300 student dictionaries were distributed to fourth grade students at four elementary schools in Springfield on Friday, June 1, 2018, courtesy of the Edward M. Clark Dictionary Fund.
Clark was a longtime resident of Longmeadow who passed away in November 2014, and the fund was established by his family in 2014 to “purchase and distribute dictionaries to students in the public schools in Springfield.”
According to his obituary, Clark volunteered as a tutor in Florida for more than 11 years and while there “persuaded Merriam Webster Company that they should publish a new inexpensive dictionary for the elementary and middle school students that were easy to carry in a backpack.” The result of his persuasion was the Webster’s Dictionary for Students.
The Community Foundation of Western MA, which is the keeper of the fund, now makes an annual grant to Springfield School Volunteers, which is used to purchase the dictionaries.
Fourth grade was selected as the target grade, and a few schools with the highest poverty levels were contacted to see if they needed dictionaries for their students.
The response was positive, and, with help from the Clark Family, the dictionaries were given to the students at four schools: Kensington International School; Hiram L. Dorman Elementary School; Homer Street School; and Daniel B. Brunton Elementary School. In the years to come, other schools will receive dictionaries for their fourth grade students as well, and the hope is to distribute dictionaries to students in other grades too.
Since its creation, more than 12,000 dictionaries have been distributed as the result of Edward Clark’s efforts.
After retiring to Naples, FL, Clark volunteered as an elementary school tutor at local Naples schools for over 11 years. He sponsored word competitions for the elementary school students to promote a better understanding and command of the English language – the students would capture words, their meaning, and their pronunciation in a book and try to use them in a sentence
Clark started awarding dictionaries for the word competitions after learning the schools could not afford to buy dictionaries in the classroom. As he put it, “It seemed so basic. You’re trying to learn the English language and you don’t even have the help of the most important tool you could have – a dictionary!”
Clark persuaded the Merriam Webster company of Springfield to publish a new elementary and middle school dictionary that was easy to carry and inexpensive, and ultimately, the company agreed. Through the help of the Education Foundation of Naples, more than 12,000 of these dictionaries were distributed.
Born July 30, 1922 in Holmes, NY, Clark graduated from Pawling High School in 1939 and was commissioned as ensign in the US Navy in 1943. Clark graduated from Swarthmore College in 1949 and married Janet MacLellan in September 1948; together they had four children: David, Cathy, Scott, and Andrew.
Clark was named senior partner at the Palmer, Goodell & Keeney insurance agency in Springfield MA in 1968, and he founded the Edward M. Clark & Associates insurance agency in 1980 before he retired in 1992.
His service accolades include:
• Western Mass Food Bank – Founding board member and later president of the board of directors who recognized the practicality of redistributing food to the hungry and homeless. While on the board, chaired the successful campaign for a new warehouse.
• Springfield Rotary Club – Joined in 1973 where his accomplishments lead to his being selected for the highest award a Rotarian can receive – the Paul Harris Fellowship
• Teaching Excellence Awards – Helped initiate Springfield Chamber’s Annual Teaching Excellence Awards which became a reality in 2000
• Awarded the William Pynchon Award in June 2002 for his “lifetime of enthusiastic support for programs and causes that benefit Western MA.”
• Kiwanis Club president
• Stage West Theater Company Director
• United Way Chairman of the Business Division
• Bay Path College Board Member
• Estate Planning Council of Hampden County Officer
• Baystate Health Systems long range planning committee
• First Church of Christ Trustee
• Western MA Lung Association top fund raiser for the Plymouth to Provincetown bicycle weekend event
To ensure the continued distribution of dictionaries and grow the number of dictionaries that can be distributed, the Clark Family is seeking donations to fund efforts to promote a better understanding and command of the English language to Springfield-area elementary schools. Contributions to the Edward M. Clark Dictionary fund can be made at: www.communityfoundation.org/donatenow/, direct your donation to “Another Named Fund” and select the “Edward M. Clark Dictionary Fund” fund from the drop-down list.
– By Jeff Hanouille