Paddy Wade Fostered Science and Nature, Globally and Locally

May 6, 2024
Emily “Paddy” Wade. Courtesy Image

Emily “Paddy” Wade was a citizen of the world, renowned as a passionate advocate for preserving and appreciating nature’s bounty and for expanding educational opportunities in science. 

She also was a citizen of Bedford for more than 70 years; a parent and a grass-roots volunteer whose wisdom and involvement helped build and sustain the town’s natural features and character.  

Mrs. Wade died on Feb. 29 at the age of 98. A celebration of life is scheduled for what would have been her 99th birthday at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 11, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 100 Pine Hill Road. The service can be accessed on livestream at FSTvGsRpwUo?feature=share.

A direct descendant of the 19th century railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. Wade was born in 1925 and was given the nickname Paddy from infancy, said Heidi Hughey, one of the four Wade children. 

One of seven women in the class of 1945 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she earned a degree in chemistry and subsequently served for about 30 years on the board of trustees of MIT. She was the second woman president of the institute’s Alumni Association.

Paddy and her husband, Attorney Jeptha Wade, met in college and were married in 1945. They moved to a house on Old Billerica Road in 1952, overlooking the future Northwest Expressway (now Route 3). 

“They could have lived anywhere – Boston, Cambridge, the North Shore,” said Hughey. “But they chose this nice town where they were very involved.” 

Joan (Little) Ogg grew up in the neighborhood. “We always had a gang,” she said. “I used to play with her kids.” 

Ogg remembered that Paddy “always had her hair tied back in a bun, wearing a jeans skirt and a sweater top. Her stature was aways tall and dignified.” 

She also remembered that her neighbor was “very much into bird-watching, into nature.”

Her mother was the go-to person in the neighborhood when a kid found an injured bird, Hughey said. For a while, Paddy managed the concession stand at the Franklin Park Children’s Zoo, and once she brought home a baby gorilla for the weekend, she recalled. “She taught us how to hold a snake, how to band birds.”

According to Manomet, a science-based environmental organization in Plymouth, “Between 1952 and 2010, Paddy documented 4,175 records with one or more birds logged daily in the journals she kept at her home in Bedford.”

So, it’s no surprise that she was an original member of the Bedford Conservation Commission, serving as chair throughout the 1960s. She also was a member of an ad hoc town committee that looked at ways to expand the solid waste recycling program in the late 1970s.

Paddy was active with St. Paul’s Church, especially through community service outreach programs. In 2012, she donated the “Dance Rhythm” sculpture, now a landmark on the central campus, to the town in her name and that of her husband, who died in 2008.

Dedicating Dance Rhythm ~ Image (c) Bob Dorer, 2012

In 1983, she co-founded the Museum Institute for Teaching Science with the directors of seven Boston museums to help inspire and engage elementary school teachers in inquiry-based science learning. In 2019, the organization, now based in Quincy, changed its name to the Wade Institute for Science Education.

Longtime resident David Spencer, an engineer and entrepreneur, served on the institute’s board for many years. 

“Paddy was the force behind funding the organization,” he said. “I was incredibly impressed by her love for and dedication to STEM education. She sacrificed her time and her resources.” 

He said that although “she could be tough,” Mrs. Wade was “such a nice person, kind and caring, and a wonderful role model.”

Paddy joined the Manomet Board of Trustees in 1981 and remained for the remainder of her life, serving as chair from 1993 to 2010. She took part in rustic expeditions to band birds in the rainforest and savannas of Belize and shorebird-related trips to New Jersey and Georgia. Manomet established the Paddy V. Wade Fellowship for Science to honor her steadfast commitment to science.

Paddy also was a strong supporter of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, beginning in 1949. She was a member of the board of directors for 23 years and received the Allan Morgan Award for Lifetime Achievement. She and her husband were instrumental in protecting Georgia forest properties containing significant old-growth stands that are the focus of ongoing research.

Besides her four children, Mrs. Wade is survived by 10 grandchildren and two great- grandchildren.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

All Stories

What’s Bedford Thinking about summer travel this year? I plan on:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
  • Junior Landscaping

Spring into action!

Support Bedford’s hometown news.
Donate Now

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Go toTop