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Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Donald M. Wade, a four-term member of the Charles County Board of Education and advocate of children and education, died June 1.

During his 16-year career on the board he served three one-year terms as chairman and three terms as vice chairman.

He was a lifelong resident of Charles County.

Wade was known for his passion for providing children with a quality education and for his support of early childhood education and reading programs to help close the achievement gap. Wade also was essential in the implementation of the Junior ROTC and 3-year-old programs in Charles County Public Schools.

Most recently, Wade was honored with the Charles Willis Memorial Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education for outstanding contributions to the board of education and school system.

First elected in 1998, Wade was a champion of education. He regularly met with students, educators and the community and was engaged in the drive to eliminate the minority achievement gap through early childhood and reading programs.

In an acceptance speech for the Willis Award, Wade wrote, “I have been on the Board of Education for 15 years — longer than it takes our students to work their way from kindergarten to high school graduation. I am proud to be a member of the Board of Education of Charles County, and I have never sought any recognition for myself. I serve because my core belief is that all children deserve a good and equitable public education. I believe our children ought to have the best we can give them — our best thinking, quality instruction and well-built, safe and inviting schools. I serve because I have passion for education, and I have a responsibility to be the difference in the lives of children. It is my civic and moral duty.”

Wade drove efforts to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs by providing a vision for equitable, quality education for all children. He was the co-founder of the Charles County Think Tank for Education, a community group devoted to the thoughtful enhancement of education.

Often called the “Father” of the annual Charles County Public Schools Joint Services Military Ball for senior members of the JROTC program, Wade gained board approval for the ceremony. As a former school Parent-Teacher Organization president, he also was the founder of a movement to introduce JROTC at Charles County's high schools. He used personal time and professional contacts to help the school system gain access to and work with the different military branches. That effort led to the implementation of a JROTC unit at each high school.

As a veteran board member, Wade often mentored new members and always based his votes on the educational value to children and after consulting with students and staff members who might be affected. Additionally, he worked on both the local and state levels to support the ethical standards of boards of education and consistently attended trainings to learn more about the role and responsibilities of board members.

Wade spent 30 years on active duty with the U.S. Air Force and was a professor of aerospace studies at three universities. He was a teacher, a department chairman and a faculty adviser to 21 JROTC units in Prince George's County before retiring in 2006. He was a member of the Charles County Board of Zoning Appeals and is a distinguished graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park ROTC program and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. He also received a master's from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University.

Wade was active both with the school system and community. In recent years, several organizations honored him for his lifetime of service. Awards including Omega Psi Phi Fraternity's Tau Lambda Lambda chapter with the 2011 Outstanding County Citizen of the Year award; Ministers' Alliance 2011 Service Award for contributions on behalf of children; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's Regional Salute to Educational Excellence Award, 2013; and the Years of Service Appreciation Award, Archdiocese of Washington, 2013.

Wade also served on the board of directors for the Maryland Association of Boards of Education; the MABE Conference Planning Committee; and as a founder of the Charles County Veterans Memorial Committee.