James E. Ward III, Professor of Mathematics Emeritus, dean of the college, and former director of the Senior Center program, died on November 11, 2013, in Brunswick, Maine following a recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
He embodied the spirit of the liberal arts. While his head was in mathematics, his heart was with the students of Africa—where he taught as a Fulbright scholar on two separate occasions—and with the people of midcoast Maine, whom he served as a board member for organizations supporting middle-income elderly housing, vocational education, community mental health services, Head Start, regional anti-poverty efforts, behavioral and mental health services for children and adults, healthcare, and musical theater. His humanity seeped into his view of mathematics, as well, once describing math as “a beautiful creation of the human mind.” He was active in professional activities on a national level, as an elected member of the Board of Governors of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) and in several offices in the Northeastern Section of the MAA, including chair. He delivered more than 100 lectures at colleges and universities as part of the MAA’s Visiting Lecturers Program and organized and directed several research conferences sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the American Mathematical Society. His research interests focused on nonassociative algebras, finite groups and voting theory. He co-authored, with William H. Barker, Isaac Henry Wing Professor of Mathematics, The Calculus Companion, Volumes I and II (1984). The book reflects his teaching style and philosophy, as it strives to develop in students a deep understanding of calculus and computational processes beyond the memorization and application of formulas. A native of Greenville, S.C., he grew up in Nashville, Tenn., and attended the Peabody Demonstration School of the George Peabody College for Teachers, where his father was a professor of economics. The college is now a part of Vanderbilt University, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1961, a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He served for a year as assistant to the college president. He went on to earn a master’s degree in 1964 on a Danforth Graduate Fellowship and a doctorate in 1968, both in mathematics, at the University of Virginia. Between earning his master’s and his doctorate, he studied religion for a year at Yale University Divinity School. He taught at Spelman College for one year as a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Teaching Intern and at the University of Virginia for three years. He came to Bowdoin in 1968 as an assistant professor of mathematics, was promoted to associate professor in 1973 and full professor in 1979. He served as director of Bowdoin’s Senior Center from 1971 to 1976, during which time he and his family lived at the Center and ate many of their meals with students at the Senior Center dining hall. He was a longtime member of the Bowdoin NBA (Noontime Basketball Association), and he cheered the Polar Bears at many sporting events. He was commonly seen riding his bicycle to work, regardless of the season. In 1977, he worked as a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge, England, and upon his return to Maine, he developed Bowdoin’s Self-Paced Calculus Program. He also served as chair of the Department of Mathematics for a total of ten years between 1978 and 1995. He was named Dean of the College in 1992. He loved Africa and went there twice to teach and conduct research as a Fulbright scholar. From 1989 to1990, he taught mathematics at the National University of Lesotho, and from 1996 to 1997, he traveled to Makerere University in Uganda as a lecturer/researcher. In 1994, he was recognized for his work on behalf of the College with the annual Alumni Award for Faculty and Staff. He retired from the faculty on December 31, 2009. He was equally dedicated off campus. He served four years on the Brunswick School Board, including one year as chairman; sixteen years on the board of MidCoast Maine Community Action (Formerly Coastal Economic Development Corporation), including seven years as chairman; was a member of the Head Start Policy Council; a director of the Maine State Music Theatre; a corporator of Mid Coast Hospital; a member of the Parkview Memorial Hospital Citizens Advisory Council, and co-chair for two years of the Bowdoin chapter of the Brunswick Area United Way. He was named Brunswick’s Outstanding Young Man of 1973 by the Brunswick Jaycees. He was also a member of the First Parish Congregational Church. He will be remembered for his courage and optimism under duress. He wrote in an Internet post notifying the community of his diagnosis: “I don’t think I have any real grounds for a beef about my circumstances. I’ve had a good run.” He is survived by his wife of fifty-one years, Mary Lee Parker Ward; sons James E. Ward IV and Robert Parker Ward; daughter Margaret Ward Scott; brother Harry Hobgood Ward, and eight grandchildren.