Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus
James E. Ward was born in South Carolina in 1939. At the age of eight his family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and from third grade though high school he attended the Peabody Demonstration School, the laboratory school of George Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University) where his father was Professor of Economics.
He remained in Nashville to attend Vanderbilt, graduating magna cum laude in Mathematics in 1961. After a year working as assistant to the president at George Peabody College, he began graduate school in Mathematics at the University of Virginia on a Danforth Graduate Fellowship. He received an M.A. in 1964, at which point he left Mathematics for a time to enroll in the Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut on a trial-year-in-seminary program sponsored by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation.
After deciding not to complete the theology degree at Yale, he accepted a teaching internship sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and spent the 1965-66 year teaching Mathematics at Spelman College in Atlanta. While there he was active in the civil rights movement in and around Atlanta. In 1966 he returned to the University of Virginia, and in 1968 he received his Ph.D. in Mathematics. Later that year he began his career at Bowdoin College as Assistant Professor of Mathematics. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1973 and to full Professor in 1979.
From 1971-76 he served as Director of the Senior Center at Bowdoin. The Senior Center was a building that housed all the members of the Bowdoin senior class, but it was also a curricular and co-curricular program consisting of a mix of special seminars, lectures, concerts, and visiting scholars designed to make the senior year a more significant culmination of a Bowdoin education. During the five years that he directed the program, the Ward family lived in a residence in the Senior Center, entertained students and others frequently, and ate many of its meals with students in the Senior Center dining hall.
During his tenure at Bowdoin, he has served as Chair of the Bowdoin’s Department of Mathematics for a total of ten years, and in 1992-93 he served as Dean of the College.
He has been active in Mathematical activities on a national level. He has been elected to the Board of Governors of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA); he has held several offices in the Northeastern Section of the MAA, including chair; he has participated in the MAA’s Visiting Lecturers Program and given over 100 lectures at colleges and universities; and he has organized and directed several research conferences sponsored by the National Science Foundation and/or the American Mathematical Society. His research interests are in nonassociative algebras, finite groups, and voting theory, and he is the author of several papers and a book, The Calculus Companion, with W.H. Barker.
He has spent two years teaching at universities in Africa sponsored by the United States Government’s Fulbright program. In 1989-90 he was a Fulbright Lecturer at The National University of Lesotho in southern Africa, and in 1996-97 he was a Fulbright Lecturer/Researcher at Makerere University in Uganda.
Long active in community affairs, he has served two elected terms on the Brunswick School Board, and he has also served on boards dealing with middle-income elderly housing, vocational education, community mental health services, the Head Start program, and musical theater. Currently he serves on the boards of a Community Action Program Agency that operates several regional anti-poverty programs, an agency that provides behavioral and mental health services to children and adults, a medical group, and a theological seminary.
An avid sportsman, he has been a member of the daily Bowdoin NBA (Noontime Basketball Association) for many years, and he can be found on the sidelines at most Bowdoin sporting events. He is also a familiar campus sight as he rides his bicycle to work year round.