United Church of God

Tribute to a Retiring Minister

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Tribute to a Retiring Minister

They moved their family to Ambassador College in Big Sandy, Texas, in July of 1969, having given up a successful teaching and coaching career at Delta State University in Mississippi.

Dr. and Mrs. Ward have contributed greatly to the work of the Church dating back to 1969, when Don attended Ambassador College. He was ordained into the ministry on June 18, 1977. From 1970-1972, Dr. Ward was a student and faculty member before becoming Associate Dean of Faculty in 1973. Dr. Ward served for many years at the Big Sandy and Pasadena campuses of Ambassador College in many capacities, including as Dean of Faculty, Vice President, President, Academic Dean and Vice Chancellor. Dr. Ward also has pastored congregations in Texarkana, Tyler, Big Sandy (East Texas) and Houston, Texas, as well as Ruston, Louisiana. He served on the Council of Elders from 1996-1997, 1998-2008 and 2011-2021, and served as Chairman from 2016-2020.

Dr. Ward was a crucial part of the early years of Ambassador College. Because of his efforts, the college received accreditation in the shortest time possible. He also secured state certification to confer degrees, enroll international students, enable students to receive Federal student loans and transfer credits to other colleges. He also founded the Youth Education Services and Ambassador College’s intercollegiate athletic program, the Labor in the Word ministerial training program, World News and Prophecy publication and the Ministerial Journal. As an instructor, Dr. Ward taught the first class at Ambassador Bible College and has taught nearly every education and theology course in the curriculum. He also has written articles for college and Church publications and recorded 287 radio programs which were broadcast.

Dr. Ward commented, “Studying, learning and teaching has been my passion. It has been the pleasure of my wife and I to know and work with some of the most talented and committed people on the face of the earth. We continue to receive letters and phone calls from co-workers, brethren, parents and students expressing their appreciation for what we have been able to impart to them. And in turn, we have been greatly encouraged by seeing and hearing about the success of our students and all those we have been able to work with. The contributions they have made to the Church and society are music to our ears—the examples in the Church of successful families being the most encouraging.”

On June 19, 2021, the Wards were honored in the East Texas congregation. After church services, a reception with refreshments was held. Gifts were presented to the Wards from the local congregation and from Mark Welch on behalf of the Church. The gifts included a cut crystal engraved with one of Dr. Ward’s favorite scriptures, Isaiah 6:8: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’”; a framed print of “Daniel’s Answer to the King” by Briton Riviere, and a shadow box with the poem “Hoe to the End of the Row.” Members expressed thanks and encouragement in a card to the Wards. At the end of the presentation, everyone spontaneously stood and applauded Dr. and Mrs. Ward. Members shared their thanks and appreciation for Dr. and Mrs. Ward. UCG members Roger and Linda Daniels said, “Mrs. Ward, thank you for your gracious hospitality and direct encouragement in the Church’s local community outreach. Dr. Ward, thank you for the expository teaching of God’s Word, and for encouraging us as speakers to do the same. Both of you have planted seeds of hope and love in our lives . . .”

Several friends and coworkers have shared comments about their experience working with the Wards. Space does not permit us to include all, but below are some of the comments:

Tony Wasilkoff: “1 Peter 4:9 instructs, ‘Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.’ Back in those days hospitality usually entailed lodging along with sustenance for several days with no expectation of any remuneration. Being genuinely hospitable, then and now, requires personal sacrifice. For two consecutive Februaries, the Council of Elders met in Big Sandy, Texas. Each time the Wards hosted multiple Council members and usually their wives, in their lovely home exemplifying genuine Texan Christian hospitality. We thank both Dr. and Mrs. Ward for their many years of tireless service to the Church in many roles, including the many years on the Council, where a great deal of personal sacrifice was so essential.”

Gary Antion: “For over 40 years I have known Dr. Don Ward as a fellow minister, faculty colleague, boss, sports enthusiast, Council member and friend. In those interactions, I saw Don as an individual who was intelligent, decisive, forthright, hospitable and wise. One who would stand for the truth of God’s Word and doctrinal integrity. He was forceful and thoughtful in his sermons and contributions as a leader. He championed Ambassador University’s accreditation as an institution and advised the beginnings of Ambassador Bible Center (now College). We have become closer through the years with him and Wanda, his wife. Barb and I have enjoyed dinners and stimulating conversations with them over a range of topics as we have had so many similar circumstances. They gave of themselves in service to others, so congratulations to him on his retirement to take some time for themselves to enjoy their personal interests. Barb and I are honored to call them close friends!”

Mark Welch: “Dr. Ward was one of my favorite instructors while at the Big Sandy campus of Ambassador University in 1974-1977. I always appreciated his approach to learning and education. He has been a wonderful mentor and role model for many of us serving in the ministry of Jesus Christ today. His continued contributions in UCG are greatly appreciated!”

Dr. Frank Dunkle: “Dr. Ward set a standard for Ambassador College and later for ABC that we still strive to maintain. His classes were always my favorites because of the depth and thoroughness of instruction—as well as his passion for teaching God’s Word. I have striven to follow his example at Ambassador Bible College and to carry on his legacy.”

Dan Dowd: “One of the best legacies an individual can have is to have positively impacted many, many lives. To serve God and to faithfully proclaim His gospel further enriches such a legacy. This is Dr. Ward. From his service as an instructor at Ambassador College, to his service as a pastor, and from his service on the Council of Elders for a number of years, Dr. Ward has made a spiritual difference in the lives of God’s people. It has been my honor to learn from him and to serve beside him. I wish him the best in his retirement.”

Don and Wanda have been married for 65 years. They have two daughters and tragically lost their oldest daughter, Sherrie, to breast cancer two years ago. The Wards have four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. After retirement, Dr. Ward plans to keep studying the word of God, preaching and teaching the word of God, and serving the brethren as opportunities present.