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George Morgan Ward (1859-1930):

Clergyman, Educator, 3rd President

George Morgan Ward, born to Sullivan Lawrence Ward, a practicing dentist, and Mary Frances Morgan Ward, on May 23, 1859, in Lowell, Massachusetts, descended from William Ward, who fought in King Phillip’s War.  After graduating from Lowell High School, Ward studied for two years at Harvard University and later at Darthmouth College, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in 1882.  Ward then engaged in the contracting business for two years, during which time he studied at the Law office of Judge George H. Stevens.  Two years later, he graduated from the Law School of Boston, and later passed the bar exam.  During this time, the United Society of Christian Endeavor elected Ward to replace Reverend S. Winchester Adriance as general secretary to the society. Ward maintained this position and took over the duties of editor of the Golden Rule, the society’s official magazine, until 1889, when he resigned due to his failing physical strength.  Soon after, he entered a mercantile business firm at Lowell University, and later enrolled in Andover Theological Seminary and John Hopkins University simultaneously as a post-graduate student. 

After obtaining several college degrees, Ward was offered pastorates in several congregational churches and presidency of more than one college.  He accepted the poorest paying position at Rollins College, a young institution in Winter Park, Florida; just one year after the State had suffered its most devastating financial blow, the Big Freeze of 1895, which destroyed practically all the citrus groves throughout Florida.  Through heroic efforts, Ward kept the College open during the emergency, stating to his students, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be, the last of life for which the first was made.”[1]  Under his leadership, Rollins, hitherto a congregational institution, became inter-denominational in control, and won recognition as a pioneer in higher and religious education in Florida. During his first term, Ward supervised the construction of one new building, and witnessed the growth of faculty from fourteen to twenty-three, and an increase in the academic department from fourteen to thirty-four. Also during this period, on June 17, 1896, he married Emma Merriam daughter of Reverend Franklin Monroe Sprague of Springfield, Massachusetts (they later had a child, who died as an infant).  Just a few years later, in 1899, Ward became pastor of the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach, Florida, preaching regularly to thousands of men and women.  Ward later resigned from Rollins in 1902 to become president of Wells College in Aurora New York, where he remained for eight years.  In 1916, he resumed his presidency at Rollins, and after a period of two years of Dr. Calvin H. French presidency, the College reelected Ward, where he remained without pay for four years.  During that time, he headed a movement which added $500,000 to the endowment fund and paid off an indebtedness of $200,000.  Ward made his final retirement from Rollins In 1922, and became the pastor of Elliot-Union Church of Lowell, Massachusetts the same year. 

George Morgan Ward, clergyman, educator, president emeritus of Rollins College passed away December 28, 1930 in Palm Beach, Florida.  An academic procession that included the members of the faculty and the senior class marched to Recreation Hall, where an impressive of music and tributes were conducted under the direction of President Holt.  “In the death of Dr. Ward,” President Holt said, “Rollins has lost a great leader and a steadfast friend.”  [2]

- Alia Alli

[1] George Morgan Ward, Department of Archives and Special Collections, Box 20D-E: 2 of 4, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida.

[2] Hamilton Holt, “President Holt Pays Tribune to Noted Educator,” Department of Archives and Special Collections, Box 20D-E: 2 of 4, Olin Library, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida. 

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