A Man of Many Passions

by minton on July 23, 2018

The 2018 MCSP department newsletter (go to http://webapps.roanoke.edu/mcsp/minton/MCSP Times – April 2018.pdf) includes features on two distinguished graduates from the class of 1936. They are different in many ways. One was Army, one was Navy. One was an athlete, the other collected rare books. One was a Big Man on Campus, the other lived off campus. Both George Emery Wade and Stuart “Pete” Brewbaker were math majors, and both are outstanding representatives of Roanoke College.

Please don’t say that you think that George Wade’s double major in Math and English is a weird combination. Or that his career in actuarial science and his collections of historical memorabilia seem incompatible. Or that the writing of hymns and funding of an endowed professorship in music must have come from a different person. If you do think this, I’m worried that you might not see how George Wade’s life is a perfect expression of a Roanoke College liberal arts education.

George Emery Wade was born in 1913, went to Jefferson High School in Roanoke, and graduated from Roanoke College in 1936. He went by Emery while at Roanoke, which he attended as a commuter student. His math training helped him land a job at Shenandoah Life, where he met his wife Naomi. They were married for 55 years until her death in 1992. He earned a Master’s degree in actuarial science from the University of Michigan, then served in the Army as a crypt-analyst. He foreshadowed the new Actuarial Science major by 80 years!

His main career was as a pension consultant for multiple companies until his retirement in 1978. An active retirement focused on church work and collections of books and postcards from the Roanoke Valley. He donated a large set of valuable poetry books to the college as well as his extensive postcard collection ($32,000 worth!).

Some of these postcards are the only surviving photographs of a site. In this one, you see a rare image of the construction of the Sections dorm.

Wade was a benefactor of Roanoke College and an honored alumnus. He endowed scholarships and, befitting a pension consultant, participated in the college’s Charitable Gift Annuity Program. He wrote, “It’s mutually beneficial. I see it is benefiting the College, and it provides me with a nice income. It simply makes perfect sense.” As does his receiving the Roanoke College Medal in 1999, the highest honor the college gives to alumni. His name lives on through the Naomi Brandon & George Emery Wade Professorship of Music held by choir director Dr. Jeffrey Sandborg.

George Wade embodied what we strive for at Roanoke College. Devoted to service and successful in business, he had the skills and curiosity to pursue a variety of interests that just happened to include aspects of math, literature, finances, cryptography, history, and music.