John William Ward (21 Dec. 1922-3 Aug. 1985) served as president of ACLS from 1982 to 1985. After attending Boston Latin School, he entered Harvard College in 1941, but his studies were interrupted in his sophomore year by service with the U.S. Marine Corps. Returning to postwar Harvard, he concentrated on American history and literature, and received the B.A. in 1947 (listed under 1945).

Ward attended University of Minnesota and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in American studies in 1950 and 1953. Ward’s doctoral dissertation was published in 1955 as Andrew Jackson, Symbol for an Age. It soon became one of the most popular readings in history courses on the Jacksonian period. By the 1990s Oxford University Press had sold over 250,000 paperback copies of the book.

In 1952, Ward began teaching at Princeton University as an assistant professor of English, strengthening the Special Program in American Civilization, which, as an associate professor of history, he chaired from 1960 to 1964. Ward joined Amherst College in 1964 as professor of history and American studies. Ward chaired the history department from 1967 to 1970 and received an endowed chair in 1971. He was widely recognized as a leading figure in humane studies. His intellectual stature was endorsed by two Guggenheim fellowships and two Fulbright lectureships in England.

Ward was chosen as the fourteenth president of Amherst College in 1971. The signal event of his eight-year tenure, indeed of the college’s modern history, was the introduction of coeducation in 1975. Throughout his term he was committed to racial justice and tried to help an increasing number of black students become full participants in the college’s life.

In 1978, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts appointed Ward to chair the Special Commission to Investigate Corruption in the Award of State Building Contracts in the Commonwealth. The result of the Ward Commission’s hearings and findings from 1979 to 1981 was the creation of the Office of Inspector General and the establishment of new procedures to stop corrupt practices in public housing and government projects.

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John William Ward