In Memoriam: Judy McCartin-Scheide
“It is impossible to fully capture into words the legacy that Judy McCartin-Scheide leaves behind for the education field and on the worldwide Montessori community. Her tireless service, advocacy, and generous financial contributions—including the commitment she and her husband Bill made to increasing Montessori education in the public sector—have been instrumental in furthering AMS’s mission and vision. This loss is immeasurable, and we will miss her greatly.”
–Munir Shivji, executive director of AMS
On Friday, December 29, 2023, Judith “Judy” McCartin-Scheide, former member of the American Montessori Society (AMS) Board of Directors, a long-term member of the 1870 Society, and the 2019 recipient of the Douglas M. Gravel Benefactor Award, passed away at the age of 86.
Judy was an educator, activist, and philanthropist who had a remarkable influence on so many. She dedicated her life to a number of charitable causes. Her undying commitment to students, her work with AMS, and her dedication to expanding Montessori throughout the country and world began over 50 years ago.
Early Experiences with Montessori
Judy’s sphere of influence within the Montessori community was expansive. Her interest in Montessori began after reading articles by Nancy McCormack Rambusch in Jubilee Magazine. Judy later was invited by a college friend to attend lectures about Montessori.
In interviews about these experiences, she later recalled immediately being fascinated with the pedagogy. This curiosity prompted her to begin volunteering in the classroom after her daughter Kate enrolled at Wilmington Montessori School at the age of 3.
When Kate began first grade, Judy joined the Montessori teacher training program at Fairleigh Dickinson University with AMS founder Nancy McCormick Rambusch who believed that Montessori should be available to all children regardless of their circumstances and that the Montessori approach should be integrated into the American system of education. Judy greatly supported these beliefs.
Judy became an intern and later an Early Childhood teacher at Wilmington Montessori. Marie Dugan, one of Judy’s close friends, talks fondly about the memories of working with Judy at Wilmington. Initially brought together by their children, Judy and Marie formed a close friendship, teaching alongside one another for nearly a decade.
In 1970, Judy became a member of the AMS Board of Directors. When she later became the vice president of development of the board, Judy traveled around the country attending training program meetings and discussing new programs. During this time, she helped found an ethics committee and became chairman.
Reflecting back on this time in her life, Judy shared, “Being on the AMS Board was a truly extraordinary experience. It was a very exciting time.”
Close friend Maria Gravel recalls meeting Judy in the early 1970s through her work on the board. She remembers flying on the same shuttle to Mackinac Island, Michigan to attend the 1973 conference and riding around the island in a horse and carriage before the gala. Judy’s daughter Kate remembers that her first dance was on the dancefloor at the gala event.
Around this time, Judy and Marie coordinated a national Montessori conference. Held in Philadelphia in 1977, the event was a huge success with 1,800 attendees.
Her Work in the Classroom
After the conference, Judy and her husband Peter moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where she became passionate about taking Montessori into public schools. She obtained an Elementary certificate, teaching in a variety of classrooms over the next few years. She implemented Montessori pedagogy in many of these environments and even brought in some of her own Montessori materials to present lessons to the children. During this time, Judy also traveled around the country with her daughter, offering a science training she and Peter had developed at schools, workshops, and conferences.
Judy became discouraged after a few years into her public school teaching career, when the administration preferred worksheets and workbooks over concrete materials—requiring that all children in the classroom do the same activity at the same time. She resigned from her teaching position, finding it difficult to return to the classroom.
However, this experience increased Judy’s resolve to expand Montessori education in the public sector. Marie now recounts that during this time in her life, “Judy had a strong feeling—that began there—that someday there could and would be public schools that authentically implement Montessori.”
Montessori Education in the Public Sector
Kate was a student at Princeton at this time, and Judy began volunteering on the parent committee to help run telethons. Judy soon accepted a job offer from the university, working in campaign relations. Over the next 5 years, she planned dedications, dinners, and cultivation events. When her first husband Peter passed away, Judy moved into the office of annual giving. She worked with the post-50th reunion graduates, spearheading fundraising competitions amongst the classes. It is through this work that Judy met her second husband, vice president of the Class of 1936, William “Bill” Scheide.
As Judy and Bill grew closer through their work with Princeton, Bill asked her to come work for him, helping him allocate money from his private fund. She accepted his invitation, and this led to a budding romance. Just 3 years later, they were married. Judy started attending more Montessori-focused events and found herself immersed in the world of AMS once more.
After Doug Gravel’s death in 2010, Judy donated $50,000 to AMS in his memory. A majority of this donation went to further the work of the AMS Archives which was created in 1995. The Archives initiative holds immeasurable value in the Montessori community. The collection includes printed, typescript, and handwritten materials; sound recordings; films; photographs; and slides. The Archives convey the stories of AMS and provide historical information about the Montessori system of education overall.
In 2012, Judy was invited by the development committee of the AMS Board to discuss the possibility of strengthening Montessori education in public schools. Judy responded by making a significant 3-year donation of $500,000, one of the largest personal gifts in AMS history. These funds were crucial in implementing short- and long-term strategies to promote Montessori education in the public sector, leading to the creation of the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS).
In recognition of her dedication and unwavering support throughout the decades, AMS was honored to bestow the Douglas M. Gravel Benefactor Award to Judy in 2019. This prestigious award honors individuals who have contributed to the sustainability and growth of AMS.
Other Philanthropic Work
Judy’s philanthropic endeavors also extended outside the sphere of Montessori, including notable contributions to higher education, the arts, and social service initiatives.
She and Bill were consistent benefactors of Princeton University, donating major gifts to the Scheide Library and taking great joy in attending the annual spring open house event for the Scheide Scholars Program, at which they would meet the scholarship recipients.
Judy also supported the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra, donating noteworthy pieces of art and providing much of the funding for the landmark Monteverdi 450 Project in 2017. In 2020, Judy also made a sizable donation to Community Options, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides housing and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Dedication to Montessori Students, Educators, and Values
Judy’s passion for the mission of AMS never wavered. When asked about her mother’s legacy, Kate shared, “She loved the foundation and ideals of a Montessori education. She loved the children, and she especially loved AMS and all of you who advanced its work.”
AMS appreciates Marie Dugan, Maria Gravel, Kate McCartin, and other contributors to this piece for sharing events, stories, and memories about Judy’s life.
About the Author
Heather White, EdS, is a Montessori coach and consultant, content creator, and educator for adult learners, as well as a moderator and manager for the Montessori at Home (0 – 3 years) Facebook group. Formerly, she was a Montessori teacher, in-home caregiver, Lower Elementary coordinator, and associate head of school. She also has experience as a school psychologist intern. She is AMS-credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary I) and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP). Contact her at email@example.com.
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The opinions expressed in Montessori Life are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of AMS.