Catawba alumnus Jack Ward awarded Order of Long Leaf Pine
Jack Ward of Mocksville, a 1951 graduate of Catawba College, was honored Sept. 7 with North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. The award presentation was made by N.C. Rep. Julia Howard (Davie County) on the campus of Ward’s alma mater during a luncheon preceding the first home football game of the season.
In front of friends and fellow alumni, a surprised Ward received the honor, presented on behalf of the N.C. governor to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state. Some of the guidelines by which recipients are selected for this award include contributions to their communities, extra efforts in their careers and many years of service to their organizations. Past recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine include Charles Kuralt, Michael Jordan, Andy Griffith, Maya Angelou, Rev. Billy Graham, William C. Friday, poet Fred Chappell and artist Bob Timberlake.
“I asked Julia Howard what she was doing there and told her that she could sit with us — I even bought her lunch,” a surprised Jack Ward said, noting how humbled he was to receive the award. “Anytime they put you with Andy Griffith and Billy Graham that’s pretty good company to travel with. My friends were all about as amazed as I was because that is the most prestigious award from North Carolina.”
During the 1944-1945 academic year, Ward, who grew up in Thomasville as one of seven children, came to Catawba on an athletic scholarship to play football for legendary Coach Gordon Kirkland. Ward’s college plans were put on hold, however, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army after that first semester.
After his discharge, Ward returned to Catawba, an older and wiser young man committed to completing his college degree and to playing football. He arrived in time to be part of Catawba’s winning team at the 1948 Tangerine Bowl where the Catawba Indians beat Marshall 7-0.
Ward, who was among four people inducted into Catawba’s Sports Hall of Fame in April 2007, played four years of football and baseball at Catawba and started every baseball game for four years. After playing professional baseball for two seasons, he served as a teacher and football coach at Cooleemee High School. Later, he served 12 years as a football coach and 17 years as athletic director at Davie High School. He also served for 12 years as principal at Davie High School. Ward retired in 1989 as superintendent of the Davie County School System, the first individual to ever rise through the ranks from coach to superintendent in Davie County.
Originated in 1980, the Jack Ward Award is presented annually to the most outstanding male and female athletes at Davie High School. Ward was inducted into the Davie County Hall of Fame in 2006. He was honored by Catawba in 2001 with its Medal of Exemplary Life Service and again in 2012 when he received Catawba’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Ward has a scholarship established in his name at Catawba. Preference for the Jack Ward Endowed Scholarship will be given to a student from Davie County or Thomasville High School with an interest in majoring in education with aspirations to work in school administration.
Ward and his wife, who died in 1982, Mary Katherine Hart, are the parents of four sons and four grandchildren.
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