by Paul Rader '04
Paul Rader ’04, SFS alumnus and current faculty member, is part of the rich history of SFS. He is a member of a multi-generational expatriate SFS family, and sees Seoul Foreign School as a touchstone not only for himself, but for his grandparents, parents, extended family, and now for his own children.
Paul is currently working on the latest chapter of the 100th Anniversary History book, a tome that was updated for the school’s centennial in 2012. This will detail the history of the school for the past decade, and bring the book up to date. We asked Paul about his work on this project.
PLEASE DESCRIBE A BIT ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY HISTORY BOOK.
The 100th Anniversary History book was compiled for the Centennial Celebrations in 2012. The first chapter was originally published in 1978, and was written by former Headmaster Richard Underwood. The second chapter was published in 2002, and was written by former Middle School Principal, Dr. Jonathan Borden. The Centennial chapter was written in 2012 by former administrator Dr. Esther Myong.
These histories have served the purpose to document the history of the school; its challenges, its successes, its celebrations, and its tragedies. In essence, to tell the rich story of an incredible institution whose legacy has in many ways mirrored and been pulled along by the larger story of Korea. What comes through strongly in all three previous histories is the dedication and commitment of the school to its mission and its commitment to provide a high-quality international education in a Christ-centered context.
WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN TAKING ON THIS PROJECT?
My own personal connection to Korea and to SFS is what sparked my interest in taking on this project.
My grandparents were missionaries here in Seoul from 1963 until 1985 serving with the Salvation Army. My dad and his sisters all attended SFS during the 60s, 70s, and into the early 80s, and all came back to teach and work at SFS at different points throughout their careers. I attended SFS from 1990 until 2004, and my sisters also both attended and graduated from SFS. As a multi-generational expatriate family, SFS is a place that is a touchstone for all of us.
I also think that the history of Korea is very inspirational, and is an incredible testament to the resilience and beauty of the Korean people and Korean culture. Also, as an important connection to Korea’s modern history, I am also very interested in the impact of the Western missionaries (like my grandparents) who came here to do meaningful and impactful humanitarian and service work across the country. The visible reminders of that work are many of the universities, schools, hospitals, and churches throughout the country that are still in operation today. Since 1912, SFS provided a school community for those families, and so in many ways is a part of that history and story.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE EVENTS OF THE PAST DECADE YOU’RE MOST EXCITED ABOUT COVERING?
The past decade has been an exciting time in the school’s history. If you read the entire history of the school a constant theme is change, and the necessity of adapting to the unique challenges or opportunities of the time. The international school landscape in Korea is very different than it was even just 15 years ago, and the school has had to respond in significant ways by working hard to clarify the overall identity and direction of the school, as well as to maintain and further our reputation as the leading international school in Korea.
Another thing isn’t really a specific event, but a ‘change’ that has been happening over the last decade, which is the major shift in the political landscapes around the world and the conversations that are happening around Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice. I think it is a very timely and relevant conversation for all international schools, and we have a unique opportunity to address this as an IB school that is Centered in Christ.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU’VE LEARNED THAT SURPRISED YOU?
Because I have been here most of the last decade, I don’t think there were any major surprises, although I think that I have definitely learned a lot about the school through this process. For the first five years of my time here, I was in the High School teaching English, and so I think that most of my experiences would have been filtered through that lens. Being in the role of ‘historian’ has helped me try and see things through a bigger picture lens, so the surprises have come maybe in realizing I didn’t know as much as I thought I did before!
DO YOU HAVE ANY PREDICTIONS FOR THE NEXT 10 YEARS OF SFS?
I think in 2032, we will likely be looking back and commenting on similar themes, although I think that much of that chapter will be commenting and reflecting on how the school handled and emerged from the pandemic. The school is currently working on plans for The Way Forward, and the decisions taken over the next few years to set the course of the school will be important in establishing SFS into the future. One truth is that SFS is not a community that rests on its laurels, so I have no doubt that the school will continue to move forward and focus on school improvement.
WHO SHOULD WRITE THE ADDENDUM FOR THE 120TH ANNIVERSARY OF SFS?
I think that the addendum should be written by someone who has the past and present knowledge of the school. As crazy as it seems, so much about our school’s history would be totally lost if it weren’t for the people who took the time to write those chapters. I don’t think there are many other international schools that have the kind of history and documentation that we have at SFS, which is pretty special.
- The Banner