“I’m a very different person after 30 years of being around Calvin students—I came to Calvin knowing why writing is important, but now I know ways in how it’s been important to individual students as they’ve discovered who they are and can do things in the world.”

Dean Ward’s 30 years in the English department was marked not only by empowering students in their reading and writing, but by periods of serving as an academic dean, English department chair, director of the Academic Writing Program, director of the Rhetoric Center, director of the Rhetoric Across the Curriculum (RAC) Program, and a member of the Teaching and Learning Network.

Ward’s personal higher education did not begin in English, though: after growing up in Lansing, Illinois, he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at Wheaton College. Following graduation, Ward worked three years in a biochemistry lab before deciding to pursue his PhD in English at the University of Virginia.

“I had taken many English classes as a biology major to keep my GPA up, and also because I liked English, but I had never made the connection that maybe English was something I should look into further,” Ward said. “It was kind of a spur of the moment shift.”

This shift led Ward to forming close relationships with students over the years, through his various positions at Calvin. “Working closely with students was one of the best experiences of my time at Calvin,” Ward said. “Calvin students have such an intellectual hunger and energy, but they are also usually open-minded and take things seriously. Reading literature and writing and both very practical, but beyond that, it was very important to me to teach students to communicate affectively and pay attention to each other’s stories.”

As Ward himself crossed disciplines in his own education and career, he encouraged his students to remember that God does not waste anyone’s experiences or passions. “I often told students that nothing in your life gets wasted—God doesn’t waste the things you go through,” Ward said. “Sometimes we think we tried something that didn’t work out and it was years of wasted time, but I enjoy thinking across disciplines and still do; none of it was a waste of my time.”

Ward will continue as director of the RAC Program for the 2017–2018 school year and plans to spend more time gardening, woodworking, traveling, and spending time with his wife of 45 years, Nancy, and two children in Grand Rapids.