Today is Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Woman of Wilson: Mary Beard

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A goal of Cedars Prep is to teach children "how to think, not what to think," and one thing is certain - school founder Mary Beard thinks big.

Beard, whose family roots in Wilson County run back to the early 1800s, is an accomplished businesswoman, scholar and world traveler - and aspires for Cedar Prep students to be ready for the world, as well.

"Cedars Prep specializes in early childhood and elementary grades. With this focus, we are able to individualize the needs of each student giving them a strong foundation in order to prepare them for additional success," she said. "I sometimes liken it to riding first class on an airplane. The plane will arrive at a certain place, on a certain time, whether you ride in the front of the plane or in the back. As a first class passenger, however, you can expect more individualized attention in a smaller grouping. You are given more options to better your experience on the plane. Your ability to leave the plane in a better condition physically and mentally are enhanced and the people around you desire the same benefits."

Beard was born at McFarland Hospital in Lebanon to Walter and Zuelma Goodall. "In 1808, Parke Goodall and his wife, Frances, moved to Wilson County. The Goodall family has been here ever since," she explained.

Beard was in Friendship Christian School's first graduating class in 1977 and went on to earn her B.S. in Education from Blue Mountain College in 1981 before receiving a Masters in Education from Mississippi College.

From 1981-1991 she taught school in Tippah County, Mississippi, before returning to Friendship Christian in Lebanon - this time as a teacher. She taught at FCS from 1991-1992 before opening her own private school.

She built a school at 410 West Main Street in 1998 after "running out of space at the previous location." In 2008, Beard sold the previous school business, but kept the building. Two years later she reopened the school as Cedars Preparatory Academy.

"The most rewarding part of my job is when former students excel," Beard said. Recently she discovered three former students were valedictorians and one was salutatorian at their high schools.

Beard is the wife of Ritchie Beard, an engineer for St. Louis-based ACARA. They have four children, Ritchie Lane Beard, John Farrow, Lindsay Beard and James Farrow; and one grandson, William Farrow, who will turn 2 in August.

Although Beard has visited 15 countries and counts traveling as a favorite hobby, she said spending time with her grandson brings "great joy."

Other ventures include teaching Adjunct Education Classes for Vol State Community College and staying involved in the community. Beard served as Education Chair on the Chamber of Commerce Board from 2007-2010 and has also served on the Historic Lebanon Board from 2008 to present (servings as Board Chair in 2014) and the Tennessee Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Board from 2008-2014. She is a 2004 graduate of Leadership Wilson.

Beard said Peggy Simpson is a woman she admires "because of her willingness to give of her time to help children through Books from Birth."

"As an educator, I know the importance of reading to children at an early age. Through her volunteer work, many children in this county will have an advantage when they start school."

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at

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