John L. Ward, author of "The Arkansas Rockefeller" and a trustee of the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust, has been named University of Arkansas-Little Rock’s 2011 "Distinguished Alumnus."
A one-time high school band director, Ward was married, the father of two children, and a full-time reporter at a state paper while finishing his bachelor’s degree requirements at night at what was then Little Rock University. He graduated in 1968, a year before Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller signed legislation creating UALR and making it a part of the state university system.
"It was the most satisfying academic experience of my life," Ward said of his time at UALR. "It was a great learning environment. They treated you the way you should be treated – that you were not out there for any other reason than to get an education and go out in the marketplace and use it."
A one-time professional saxophone player who still plays in his wife’s combo and a big band, Ward served 12 years as managing editor of the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway. He also founded the Institute of Politics and Government in Arkansas and served as its chair for several years. A native of Damascus, one of eight children of the Rev. Roy and Mamie Ward, Ward was a few credits short of a music degree from what was Arkansas State Teachers College, now University of Central Arkansas, when he turned to newspaper reporting.
Ward founded Toad Suck Daze in Conway and served as its first and continuing chair for several years before leaving Conway to join the faculty of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he taught journalism.
He became director of information services for the University of Arkansas System until 1988, when he was named vice president for public affairs at the University of Central Arkansas. During his eight years as communications director at UCA, Ward taught journalism and served as president of the UCA Foundation.
He eventually joined the administrative staff of the University of Arkansas System, where he remained until January 2005, when he was named director of marketing and public relations for the Winthrop Rockefeller Center, now Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, on Petit Jean Mountain.
Ward also served many years as chair of the Winthrop Rockefeller Distinguished Lectures Committee and also served for a time as a director of the Oxford American, a literary magazine published at UCA.
He and his wife, the former Betty Chandler of Little Rock, are the parents of a daughter and son and divide their time between their farm near Bee Branch and their apartment in Conway. Ward will be honored by the UALR Alumni Association at a ceremony May 13.
For information about the event, visit ualr.edu/alumni.