The Gary Educational Development Foundation, Inc. (GEDF) traces its roots to a grant made in 1950 when Gary College, a non-profit corporation, was dissolved. The $11,153 grant remained dormant until 1956 when Acting Superintendent of Gary Public Schools, Clarence Swingley, assembled a group of high school principals to determine the best disposition of these funds. The principals organized a $10,000 scholarship endowment named in memory of William A. Wirt, the first superintendent of Gary Public Schools.
The idea of the business community participating in the program evolved during the 1969-70 school year. Frederick C. Ford, a member of the Gary School Board is remembered for his persistent support. The business community warmly received the notion and a steering committee was formed.
The steering committee consisted of Superintendent Gordon McAndrew; school board members, Ford, Dr. YJean Chambers, Joe Torres and Dr. Montague Oliver; schools business manager, Richard Bass; attorney, Fred Eichorn and Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Haron J. Battle. The committee organized the Gary Educational Development as a not-for-profit corporation in 1975. Urban Ventures, Inc. made the first donation of $28,000.
The Gary School Board pledged the support of the board and school system in 1977. The board then transferred several trust fund to assist primary teachers through workshops and a scholarship fund in memory of Catherine Hughes, who had served as supervisor of Foreign Languages for Gary schools.
The Foundation assets have grown from its modest nucleus of $38,000. A matching gift plan, begun in 1989, contributed to a doubling of the number of scholarship endowments that year from 11 to 22. The Foundation’s assets exceeded $1.4 million in 1990 and have reached over $4.5 million in 2014.
Beyond the obvious alliance with the Gary education community, the Foundation has collaborated with many other community organizations, programs and businesses in support of Gary students. In addition, gifts from individual donors have been at the heart of fund raising efforts throughout the life of the Foundation. The Foundation also offers (2) grants to assist students as well as teachers; the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) and Student Improvement Grant (SIG) Funds.
Dr. Haron J. Battle generously served as a volunteer Executive Director of the GEDF for many years. He guided the formation of most of the operating policies that endure to this day. Portia Johnson was appointed Managing Consultant in the mid-1990’s, and Barbara Cope became the first paid Executive Director in January 1998. Since 1979, ninety supporters have served on the Board of Directors, and more than 1400 students have been awarded scholarships. The Gary Educational Development Foundation is currently under the direction of Ms. Charius M. Haney. GEDF has established approximately 135 scholarships since it’s inception in 1975.