Gold Rush Feature: Becky Ward's Retirement
Becky Ward retired from Wake Forest in April.

June 6, 2011

This article was originally published in the May 21 edition of Gold Rush.

By Jay Reddick

You may not know Becky Ward, but you almost certainly know her work.

You know something she has built, some process she has improved, some person she has touched.

Ward most recently held the title of associate athletics director for special projects, but really, she's been part of the heart of soul of Wake Forest athletics since she started work in 1967. Ward, 66, retired from the department on May 1, and she said her future plans include "days of leisure."

"After 44 years, I think leisure sounds pretty good," Ward said. "Not having a 9-to-5 job, not having to worry about work 24/7, not having an itinerary. I get to be a little more loosey-goosey. That sounds pretty good."

Ward's titles during her tenure have included assistant director of compliance, director of ticket operations, director of marketing and assistant athletics director. She's also played a crucial role in human resources for the department.

Many people she worked with on all levels, from current and former staffers to construction contractors, came together for a retirement dinner April 21 at Bridger Field House. An architectural firm put together a skit poking fun at her attention to detail, but many others paid tribute in more straightforward ways.

"It was very special," Ward said. "There were 120-130 people in attendance, and it was a beautiful, wonderful evening. They didn't roast me very hard."

In perhaps her most visible role, Ward helped to supervise the design and construction of virtually every WFU athletic facility since the mid-1990s, from the Manchester Center to the Dailey Golf Learning Center. Among many other things, this involved dealing with coaches and administrators on office design, then communicating that to contractors -- a delicate balance requiring a certain flair for negotiation. Ward had that, for sure.

"I always said, if you have a dream (for a facility), dream your dream, and then we'll keep that the best we can -- within a budget," Ward said. "You might not get everything, but it's about hearing what they need and interpreting that onto a blueprint. It's very rewarding."

As assistant AD for internal operations, Steve Adams has worked closely with Ward on capital projects for the past five years. He said he's always admired her skill.

"Her way with people is a lost art, not only in athletics but in society," Adams said. "She has an amazing way of dotting all the i's and crossing the t's, while keeping everything together and moving forward. But she did it without tasking people to do this or that; she brought everyone together in a community, a team effort toward a common goal. That's the biggest thing I learned from her."

Ward sometimes made it look easy, but she said that seeming effortlessness took a lot of work.

"I have to stay positive... a can-do attitude," Ward said. "We will find a way. You had to laugh sometimes when things got tight or stressful, to keep a sense of humor."

Ward was hired into an athletic department that had 45 full- and part-time employees. She leaves a group of 256 behind, and she said parts of her job will now be done by seven different people in the department. It's no wonder she said she worried about work 24/7.

"It's very gratifying, knowing I've helped coaches and athletes be successful, to help with recruiting and with current teams," Ward said. "That, along with graduating students, is what we're all about."

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