Philanthropy at Its Finest

Kae Mance, Fran Welch and Kay Ciganovic

Kae Mance ’75 (M.A. ’79), the author of Reading Tricks for Jordan, is dedicating all proceeds from her book to the Matthew Scott Ciganovic Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund, in honor of a very special child and his amazing parents.  

“The scholarship is awarded to a graduate or undergraduate future teacher who will work with children having special learning challenges,” says Fran Welch, dean of the School of Education. “It is given during the clinical internship or student teaching, a time when our future teachers aren’t able to work and need financial support.”

Mance met Matthew shortly upon her return to the classroom after spearheading the Charleston County School District’s first preschool special education program. She received a call about a child with special needs whose parents wanted him to attend kindergarten in his home school.  

“When I met Matthew’s mother, I was so impressed with her understanding of her child and what he needed,” says Mance. “Matthew’s parents saw their son as a child first, who just happened to have a disability. Too often, it is the other way around.”  

Mance readily welcomed Matthew into her classroom. 

Matthew, who had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, thrived in Mance’s kindergarten class. Mance, together with other caring teachers and therapists, used creative teaching techniques to help Matthew learn. 

Of course, as a young student, Matthew had his impish side. Mance remembers him coming in from recess with his pockets full of ladybugs. “If we didn’t check his pockets before returning to class, we would have a room filled with ladybugs,” she chuckles. 

When Matthew moved to a school closer to his home, the Mance and Ciganovic families stayed in touch. In fact, Mance’s two sons bonded with Matthew, who was wheelchair bound: One served as his runner when playing soccer and the other swam with him. 

Matthew died when he was 13 years old, and Kay contacted Mance to ask if she would give his eulogy. She wanted someone who understood children.   

“It was a great honor and a huge challenge,” says Mance. “How could I write a eulogy for this child I loved so much?” 

She managed to share her love of Matthew, and, after the service, they set hundreds of lady bugs free.  

In 2005, Kay and Denny*, who served as the director of the College’s Career Center for 23 years, formed the Matthew Scott Ciganovic Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund to recognize a student teacher who demonstrates the commitment and ability to teach children with special learning challenges.  

Now Mance is dedicating the proceeds of her book, Reading Tricks for Jordan, to the Matthew Scott Ciganovic Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund. Featuring a bespectacled blond boy in a wheelchair as a tribute to Matthew, her book instructs both the teacher and children on reading strategies that are imperative to all children learning to read. Written to create independence in reading, a detailed teacher guide explains why and how to use the techniques and carry them throughout future lessons.  

“I made the book interactive to physically and intellectually involve the children with the new learning,” says Mance. “For Jordan and his classmates, reading tricks seem like magic. Presenting reading strategies as tricks makes the process fun for children. I know if teachers use this book, they’ll see it can be a great supplement and make a real difference in any reading program.”     

“I am so grateful and inspired by our alumna, Kae Mance,” says Welch. “Kae is sharing her outstanding techniques for helping children learn to read, as well as engaging in meaningful support for future teachers. This is philanthropy at its finest!” 

* Denny recently passed away. His happiness and passion were infectious. For 23 years, he shared his joie de vivre with students who crossed his path. Today there are many CofC students in career paths that Denny helped set in motion.