Professor Emeritus William Ward Remembered for Set Design

William Ward (photo by Bill Burkhart)

William Ward, professor of theater and design emeritus, died June 14, 2010. He was 79 years old.

Ward came to Wesleyan in 1956, as an instructor in art, and he taught at Wesleyan for 42 years, becoming professor of theater and design in 1969. He retired in 1998. Ward designed sets for more than 100 plays and concerts at Wesleyan, and he also created graphical and other design work for more than 25 exhibitions and publications.  Ward was one of the principal faculty involved in proposing the Center for the Arts complex, for which he served as design consultant.

In a 1995 interview, he explained that his vision for the CFA had the pedagogical goal of fostering conversation: “We wanted a cluster of buildings that would surround a central area of interaction, where to walk to the Music Department you would run into art people because they would be out in the middle as well.”

Ward relished teaching, saying that it kept him young and inspired, and because “you learn along with your students. You pull, push, cajole and encourage. But when you see that production happen, you get your reward.”

In this file photo, William Ward, professor of theater and design, emeritus, looks over the architectural details of a set in the Theater Department’s set shop. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

His approach to teaching was interactive: he was a constant presence in the scene shop, working with his hands, teaching students to use woodworking tools and fabricate sets. His home was an extension of his classroom; he and his wife Mary frequently hosted gatherings of students and faculty.

His departmental colleague and friend, William Francisco, professor of theater emeritus, describes Ward as “one of the best people I’ve ever worked with, a very good designer. We did difficult productions and they looked great.”

He is survived by his wife, Mary Ward, of Middletown, their daughters, Jennifer Lee Haney of Middletown, Karen Lyn Francis of Martha’s Vineyard, and Laurie Elizabeth Meyst of Martha’s Vineyard; as well as seven grandchildren.  At Ward’s request, no service will be held.