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E. Graham Ward; North Andover teacher inspired writers

E. Graham War

E. Graham War

As an English teacher and coach at the Brooks School in North Andover, E. Graham Ward was “a man of few words both in the classroom and on the wrestling bench,” said Mark J. Shovan, who teaches English and is senior master at the school.

“Graham believed in stepping away from center stage and letting the learning process unfold through discovery, aided by his moderate guidance,” Shovan said.

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Brooks School received many e-mail messages from alumni about Mr. Ward, he added, and “all have remarked upon Graham’s uncanny ability to let go and allow the real learning to take place.”

Mr. Ward, who had taught at Brooks School for 33 years and was chairman of the English department, died of cardiac arrest May 23 in his home. He was 77 and lived in the Quissett section of Falmouth.

“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,” Shovan wrote in a tribute to Mr. Ward that was e-mailed to alumni.

In the same e-mail, Emily French, interim director of alumni programs, wrote that “Graham’s years of service at Brooks School brought him in contact with approximately one-third of our entire alumni population; his influence on our community and the world beyond is immeasurable.”

Shovan also provided e-mail recollections from some of Mr. Ward’s former students, one of whom wrote:

“I remember once he asked the class to name famous women. I mentioned several women who were all women of color. One student objected and said, ‘but all of those women are black.’ Mr. Ward was not one to show any trace of a temper -- but he became incensed and scolded the student. I will never forget his dedication to integrity and professionalism in journalism, his kindness, thoughtfulness, honorable character, humor, and humble, comforting demeanor.”

Another student wrote: “I’ve quite unexpectedly made my way in the world as a writer, so it turns out the few words Mr. Ward directed my way were of great weight.”

Born in Boston, Mr. Ward graduated from Noble and Greenough School in Dedham in 1952.

He attended Harvard, where he graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, in 1956 and 1958, respectively.

Mr. Ward had served briefly in the Army Reserve, stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey, before taking a job teaching at the Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J.

“At the time, Peddie’s biggest attraction for me was its nearness to New York City,” he wrote in yearbook notes for a Harvard class of 1956 reunion. “But I stayed for five years, learned a lot, and met my future wife there.”

After leaving Peddie, he worked at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H., which he wrote was “a seminal and life-changing experience.”

In 1964, he moved to Brooks School, where he held the Prince Family teaching chair in English, retiring in 1997.

Mr. Ward also was a writer. He took a sabbatical from Brooks in the early 1980s to work for a year as a general assignment reporter for The Falmouth Enterprise, and considered becoming a reporter mid-career.

One of his proudest accomplishments was publishing in 2004 “Greatly Pursued, The life of Frank D. Ashburn,” about the first headmaster at Brooks School.

Last year, he published “The War Letters of Russel McCallum: May 20, 1944, to April 28, 1945,” a collection written by one of his uncles during World War II.

At home, Mr. Ward could be just as much a teacher as he was at school.

“Dad taught me to drive a stick shift when I was 16, a skill that has served me well,” said his daughter Grace Maria Ward Slosberg of Chestnut Hill. “Once I obtained my license and was driving in the winter, he thought it would be beneficial to know how to handle a car in the ice and snow, so he took me into an empty parking lot and we practiced steering into a skid. Doing doughnuts in an empty parking lot with my classical music-loving, English teacher father is a memory I’ll never forget.”

His other daughter, Cordelia Ward Russell of Attleboro, recalled the family’s trips to Cape Cod and said “the best memories of each summer were the trips to Big Sippewissett. My father would take us in his boat out to this beach that you couldn’t access by car. We’d anchor and then all jump off and swim to shore.”

Mr. Ward’s daughters said that although he taught English, he didn’t place undue emphasis on good grades.

“He wanted us to work up to our potential, but he never focused on a number,” Russell said. “Instead, he trusted us to challenge ourselves.”

Mr. Ward married Maria Cooper 48 years ago, and she said that their marriage was ideal.

“I’m going to miss his companionship, traveling with him, our partnership, his brilliance, and his love of music,” she said.

A service will be announced for Mr. Ward, who in addition to his wife and daughters leaves a stepdaughter, Catherine Schilling of Goffstown, N.H.; a stepson, John Friedlander of Aragon, Ga.; and four grandchildren.

After Mr. Ward retired, he and his wife moved to Cape Cod while continuing to work part-time as archivists at Brooks, where Mr. Ward also was known as an excellent fisherman.

Fishing excursions took Mr. Ward to many places as distant as Belize, Ireland, Italy, Hawaii, and the Florida Keys, his wife said.

“Graham talked lovingly about the fish he caught, lovingly while eating them,” Shovan quipped.

“He also talked lovingly about those he caught and released. He wrote postcards from Florida about his catches,” he added.

Laurie D. Willis can be reached at lauriedwillis@hotmail.com.

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