The Heroines

Mary Rutledge

is honored with a Brick from the WSU Office of Disability Services.

 Mary  Rutledge Mary Rutledge whose lifelong quest has been to faithfully serve others began volunteering for the Office of Disability (formerly Handicapped Services and the Resource Center for Independence) at WSU in 1978 due to her friendship with a visually impaired friend named Shirley Smith. Shirley was hired by Jo Gardenhire as the student director whose responsibility it was to coordinate student testing, escorting, note taking, and textbook taping services. Shirley recruited Mary to tape textbooks for college students with disabilities which she has continued to do for the past 20 years.

Mary's volunteering journey began in Wichita in the early 1960's when her children were in school and she wanted to make use of her "spare" time. She saw an ad in the newspaper that the Red Cross was giving six month Braille lessons. Mary, who belonged to the Broadway Christian Church, began brailling music for her friend, Shirley, a member of the choir, and for other members of the congregation who were visually impaired. She also volunteered her services for the Wichita Braille Association in the Braille lab at the Kelly School. Mary, never wanting to miss a volunteering opportunity which she has described as a "blessing from God," was also involved in the tape ministry at her church. In addition to the taping and brailling, Mary and her husband, Wilford, volunteered in the church office for 12 years, typing, running errands, and working in the church kitchen. During this period of time, handicapped children were being mainstreamed into the public schools, and standard reproduced books were nonexistent, so Mary brailled and recorded books for these students.

Mary, her husband who was a contracted engineer, and children moved to St. Louis and Florida, where she continued taping and brailling books for people with visual impairments. When they returned to Wichita in 1967, she resumed her volunteering activities with people in the community, and also began teaching at Derby High School from 1967 to 1977. The WSU Radio Reading Service has also benefited from Mary's volunteering efforts. The WRRS is a special broadcasting service to people in their homes who are print handicapped. Mary diligently worked at WRRS for two years every Saturday and Sunday morning and read the newspaper for two hours each day. She has also tutored during her afternoons at the Harry Street School in the "pull out' program. Teachers signed up students to be pulled out of class and tutored for half an hour in reading, math or spelling, and Mary would work with one student, returning them to class after a half hour and going to the next student. She was also involved in the "Cities and Communities" tutoring program on Mondays which would be 3/4 hour sessions with students, and the after-school tutoring program at Lincoln School on Tuesdays. Mary worked relentlessly with school children until the death of her husband in 1995, and she currently serves on an on-call basis when people contact her for assistance.

Mary also volunteered for the KanSel Program at Morris and Broadway which assisted high school aged children in acquiring their GED. She worked with an employee of that program to develop a workbook for Spanish-speaking students who were mostly housekeeping staff at the hospitals to learn English. The workbook was also designed to help the English-speaking professionals at the hospitals to learn Spanish. Due to Mary's constant networking which produced endless volunteering opportunities for her, she was able to involve herself though an employee of the KanSel Program in the Good Grief Program, which has 12 support groups around Wichita for people who have lost loved ones.

In June 1997, Mary worked for the Franklin Graham Crusade volunteering in the office, answering phones, mailing flyers, answering questions, and guiding people in the hallways who were going to meetings. She currently visits friends and church members who reside in nursing homes, and assists people who are home-bound with grocery shopping. On April 28, 1998, Mary was honored as a finalist for the 1998 Golden Rule Award, which honors volunteers of the year and is sponsored by the JC Penney Co., Inc. and the Volunteer Center of the United Way of the Plains.

Mary has been a true servant to all people with whom she came in contact, and strove to be the best she could be. She never, ever expected or wanted recognition. Her reward has been bringing comfort, hope, joy, support, inspiration, and dreams to everyone she touched. Mary has been positive through her religious convictions, has served with integrity, grace and dignity, touched people with kindness and love, and has been totally dedicated to humanity. She truly believes there is good in everyone, and through the work of volunteerism and relentless giving to others, she has helped make this world a better place in which to live. She is respected by those who know her, admired by those who hear about her, and will always be remembered for her courage, stamina, and motivation. Mary Rutledge is a seed of the most beautiful, fragrant flower that God has ever created. No matter where she has been planted, she always bloomed.

Submitted by Mary L. Rice, WSU Office of Disability Services

August 31, 1998