Thursday, May 24, 2012

A tribute to Professor E. Graham Ward

It is with great sadness that I pass along news of the passing of a dear friend, professor and mentor at Brooks School. Prof. E. Graham Ward is one of the people most responsible for my ability to write and appreciate the power of the written word. It was he who awarded me the Brooks School Journalism Award, a prize I still cherish today. Professor Ward's decades of service at Brooks School brought him in contact with approximately one-third of the entire alumni population of the school.

The following tribute, written by Professor Mark Shovan, one of Professor Ward's contemporaries at Brooks, himself a legend at the school, is fitting and worthy of a few minutes of your time. Farewell my dear and beloved Professor Ward, you are and will forever be missed.


An hour after reminiscing with Doug Burbank about Graham Ward's masterful approach to teaching, I received the call: Graham had died that morning of cardiac arrest.

E. Graham Ward (Graham, never Edgar) was so patient with those less intelligent than he; simply said, everyone. I am still dumbfounded how a man who said so little could convey so much. A man of few words both in the classroom and on the wrestling bench, Graham believed in stepping away from center stage and letting the learning process unfold through discovery aided by his moderate guidance. Forty some odd years ago, Jim Moffett and Graham Ward, both of whom once taught at Exeter began collaborating on a curriculum entitled Interaction, a student centered approach to learning. The Interaction series employed a sound theory of discourse and the use of varying levels of narrative voice. It became a widely circulated program of several varying texts published by Houghton Mifflin in 1973. Graham also wrote a biography of Frank Ashburn; Graham was a newspaper reporter; he wrote for Offshore Magazine; he most recently published a series of World War II letters from his uncle a combatant in Europe to the (McCallum) family back in Falmouth.

Graham was the Chairman of the English Department well before he hired me in 1968 until his retirement in 1997. Under Graham's leadership, the department moved from a program my grandmother might well have recognized in her secondary school education to a more forward-looking, cutting edge, much imitated but never duplicated department: The Brothers Dunnell, Todd Spader and others were all giants of this boarding school/ English Department life; it was indeed a life in this place called Brooks.

Let it be said that Graham was a gentleman too- a gentleman to all but fish: blues, stripers, bonefish and king mackerel all of which he pursued relentlessly in the waters off the Cape and off the Florida Keys. Graham died shortly after having put in his boat in Quissett Harbor. Maria, his wife said, "he was so pleased." He probably would have been out this evening to wet a line.

Graham was my mentor, my hero, my old friend without whose gentle guidance and succor, I would never have begun to have learned the little I know about teaching. Everything I ever, ever learned about teaching English, King Lear, negotiating the waters of secondary school, about honing intellect, about crafting independence and wearing an ascot, I learned from a fellow who looked more like Ernest Hemingway than Ernest Hemingway. I simply and greatly miss him so.

- Mark J. Shovan