News Release: People

Nov. 3,  2009

In Remembrance: Judson C. "Jake" Ward

From Alumni News

“Up in Marietta, Georgia, on a pleasant April morn,
A historian made history by simply being born,
This baby boy look all around, then flexed a vocal cord—
It was the first known utterance of Judson Clements Ward.”
—Walt Davis 34C

April 13, 1912 might have seemed a day like any other to the Emory community (centered those days in Oxford), but in the years and decades to come, it would prove a date of utmost importance in Emory’s history. April 13, 1912 was the day Judson “Jake” C. Ward 33C 36G was born.

Ward was born and raised in Marietta, GA. His father worked as a grocer, but his mother, Bertie Arnold Ward, had ambitions beyond the family business for Jake and their two other children—Bill and Hazel. So, upon completing high school, Ward enrolled at Emory (which chartered the Atlanta campus in 1915) and pursued a bachelor’s degree in history.

Ward graduated from Emory College in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression, and although jobs were scarce, that fall he turned down an offer to teach history and English at Fitzgerald High School (GA) to pursue a master’s in history at Emory. The following spring, though, Walter Stancil, Fitzgerald’s superintendent, came calling once again. This time Ward accepted the offer—despite the fact he had no idea where Fitzgerald was. (For the record, Fitzgerald, the county seat of Ben Hill County, is about 180 miles southeast of Atlanta, between Cordele and Tifton.

Ward’s years in Fitzgerald were very happy ones. He became deeply involved in the community—Ward taught Sunday school and sang in a men’s chorus at the First Baptist Church; he helped out with the scout troop; co-founded the town’s Lions Club; and participated in many speaking engagements. During that time, he also completed work for his master’s degree, which Emory granted him in 1936.

Although Ward enjoyed life in South Georgia, he longed for a return to higher education and in 1937 moved to Chapel Hill, NC, to pursue a PhD in history at the University of North Carolina. Two years later, prior to completing his degree, Ward moved back to his home state to teach at the Georgia Teachers College, Statesboro, and then to Alabama for a teaching position at Birmingham-Southern College.

Like all Americans, Ward’s life and priorities changed following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. He was drafted into the U.S. Army where he was quickly promoted to 2nd lieutenant in field artillery. After serving at Fort Bragg, Ward was transferred to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, where he taught cadets history, political science, and, in the summer, field artillery. The transfer to West Point proved a fortuitous event for Ward as that was where he met Susan-Jane Weyant, the woman who would become his wife.

The two were married on April 3, 1946, and the following June, after Ward completed his military service, the couple returned to Georgia. Ward set to work finishing his dissertation on the history of Georgia during the period following the Civil War and, within a year, was granted his PhD by UNC-Chapel Hill.

Shortly thereafter Ward was named president of South Georgia Teachers College (now Georgia Southern) at Statesboro. However, the following April, the chancellor of the University System of Georgia transferred Ward to the position of assistant chancellor. Then, late in 1948, Ward returned at last to Emory as dean of the undergraduate liberal arts college and a professor of Georgia history. In 1957, he was promoted to vice president and dean of faculties, the position in which he remained until he retired in 1979.

Ward accomplished much during his time as Emory administrator. He oversaw the admission of women to all schools of the University and later the admission of the first African American student. He also served as the teacher of Glenn Memorial Church’s “Couples Class,” a couples’ bible study group that would eventually be renamed the Judson C. Ward Class in honor of his 30 years of teaching it.

In 1962, after Walter Martin stepped down after five years as Emory president, the Board of Trustees elected Ward, Chancellor Goodrich C. White 1908C, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Henry L. Bowden 32C 34L to head the University until it selected a new president. During their time in office, the three became known as “the Troika.”

After retiring, Ward briefly served as the director of the Atlanta Historical Society before resigning from the position to teach history in the Oglethorpe Evening Courses for Credit program. In 1984, Ward returned to Emory once more and took on the volunteer position of overseeing the Emory Alumni Association’s alumni travel program. The following year, when Dean of Alumni H. Prentice Miller 27C 28G passed away, Ward stepped into the position, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Ward frequently met with alumni when they visited the Miller-Ward Alumni House and answered every letter alumni wrote him. Beginning in 2006, he led the gold-robed members of Corpus Cordis Aureum (“The Golden Corps of the Heart”), the Emory’s special group of alumni from 50 years ago and earlier onto the Quadrangle for Commencement. And twice a year Ward hosted Jake’s Open House, a gather that brings hundreds of guests to the Miller-Ward Alumni House to celebrate his birthday (in the spring) and Halloween (in the fall).

Ward’s honors at Emory are too long to list—one of the most recent is the creation of the Judson C. Ward Consecutive Giving Society, which was established during the 2006 academic year. The society provides special acknowledgement to long-term donors and brings distinction to individuals who support Emory though annual giving. Ward himself had a record of 40 consecutive years of giving, which is as far back as tracking goes.

Ward passed away on November 1 at the age of 97. He is survived by his loving wife, Susan-Jane, four children (Peter, Mike, Becky, and Jonathan), and five grandchildren (Jennifer, Judson III, Andrew, Amanda, and Ansley), and one great-grandchild, Grace Elizabeth.


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