February 8, 2011
Clare Adel Schreiber
WOOSTER, Ohio — Clare Adel Schreiber, the matriarch of The College of Wooster Nursery School and its director for 29 years, died early Tuesday morning (Feb. 8).
Born in Chicago in 1914, Schreiber believed in an intrinsic link between young people and nature. She felt that children should be outside splashing in puddles, making mud pies, coasting down hills, planting gardens, taking walks in the woods, and having picnics instead of watching television or playing video games, according to one of her former colleagues.
“Clare Adel was the heart and soul of the nursery school,” said Joyce Murphy, director of the school since 2003. “She often told new parents at the beginning of the school year that she envied them as they started out on a journey that would enable them to see the world through the wonder and discovery of their children’s eyes. She was a friend to all, and she will be deeply missed.”
Schreiber’s love of nature became an integral part of the nursery school curriculum. She filled the play area with plants and animals, and helped children transform a standard shoe box into a repository of nature — a ritual that continues at the nursery school to this day. She also organized bulb planting and leaf studies each fall, and, at the end of the year, she would give each child a packet of what she called “quick growing” seeds to plant in their home gardens.
Schreiber believed that children should have a pet because they help to develop responsibility and encourage empathy. She also wrote songs for the inhabitants of the school, including Minnie the guinea pig, Pokey the turtle, and Jam and Jelly the gerbils.
“Clare Adel was always a voice for young children and their families,” said Carol Stewart, who served as director of Wooster’s nursery school from 1990-2003. “She believed in the potential of people, and served as a wonderful mentor to all the people she knew. She had this amazing gift of being able to recognize and respond to the needs of children. She could really empathize with what was going on in their lives, and how to help them in a particular situation. She was the consummate role model.”
A graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism, Schreiber later spent a year at the Yale University Child Study Center, where she participated in a pilot project that led to the creation of the Head Start program. Schreiber convinced Wooster City Schools’ Superintendent Leroy Watt to offer such a program locally. That summer, one was established, and it continues to flourish throughout Wayne County. Today, the Clare Adel Schreiber Head Start Center at Zion Lutheran Church in Wooster honors her legacy.
In 1991, Schreiber created and developed the Building Healthy Families program for Wayne-Medina Community Action. Assisted by a group of loyal volunteers who worked with the parents of young children, Schreiber attempted to prevent abuse before it began by encouraging safe and loving environments in the home.
Schreiber was also instrumental in organizing the Wayne Association for the Education of Young Children (WAEYC) unit and was an active member throughout her life. She served as public policy coordinator and on its executive board, while holding membership in the state and national associations. She also was a popular speaker on children's issues, and hosted a local radio program that dealt with issues concerning children and their families for more than 30 years. In addition, she served as a consultant at Wooster’s nursery school up to the time of her death.
Schreiber’s many achievements were recognized in a number of ways, including an honorary degree of Humane Letters from The College of Wooster “for her role in mentoring college students in the fine art of working with children” in 1985. That same year, she received one of her most cherished honors when the nursery school room was dedicated in her name with a plaque that reads, "Clare Adel Schreiber — Master teacher who gave of herself that children might grow." In 1990, she received the City’s Women of Achievement Award, and in 1992, she received the first WAEYC Award of Excellence for her work on behalf of children.
Other activities included membership in the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the P.E.O. Sisterhood, and the League of Women Voters. She also was an active member of Westminster Presbyterian Church and a volunteer with Troop 61 of the Boy Scouts of America.
Schreiber is survived by three sons: William (Sandy), James, and Stephen (Jill), as well as four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Her husband, Willy, a longtime professor of German at The College of Wooster, and a son, Ralph, died previously.
Contributions to the Clare Adel Schreiber Memorial Fund for The College of Wooster Nursery School can be made payable to The College of Wooster and sent to the Office of Development, Gault Alumni Center, 1189 Beall Ave., Wooster, Ohio 44691. A memorial service will be held later this spring.
1189 Beall Avenue, Wooster, Ohio 44691. (330) 263-2000
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