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Dec. 17, 2013/For Immediate Release, high res. photo available

Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891, whitakerl@uncsa.edu



‘Music is at the very core of who I am,’ said concert pianist and Duke University professor

WINSTON-SALEM – The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) community mourns the loss of Benjamin F. Ward, Jr., a beloved member of its Board of Visitors. Ward, an adjunct associate professor of philosophy and associate dean for the faculty program at Duke University, died Saturday at Duke University Hospital in Durham. He was 65.

“The School of the Arts and all who love music have lost a great friend,” said UNCSA Interim Chancellor James Moeser.

A concert pianist, Ward performed for the last time in UNCSA’s Watson Hall in October 2013, said Music Dean Wade Weast. “I invited him to perform with our string faculty in an open reading of the Brahms F minor Piano Quintet and the Mozart G minor Piano Quartet for an invited audience of friends and students,” Weast said.

Moeser recalled his conversation with Ward that evening. “It is one that I shall always remember,” Moeser said. “Ben’s love of music was infectious.  His personality was incandescent, even though his body was already ravaged by cancer. His spirit was strong.” 

Benjamin Ward, seated at piano, performed at UNCSA’s Watson Hall in October 2013, accompanied by faculty artists, from left: Kevin Lawrence, violin; Janet Orenstein, violin; Bailey Gilliam, student page turner; Sheila Browne, viola; and Brooks Whitehouse, cello.

Weast took UNCSA students to Ward’s apartment on the Duke campus to visit and perform on several occasions. “It was a joy to see him light up upon hearing our students talk about their love of music,” Weast said. “His passion for music inspired students to be their very best.

“I will always remember fondly our deep discussions about music and the enthusiasm he had when describing his favorite composers and pieces,” Weast added.

Ward began playing piano at the age of six, performing regularly at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., where Martin Luther King, Jr., was the minister. In 1964, at the age of 10, he performed at a dinner honoring King as recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He also played at King’s funeral in 1968.

Ward spoke of his love for music in a 1998 article in the Duke Chronicle: "Music is probably the one thing I could not live without. If I could no longer play or hear others, it would remove a substantial incentive for living. Music is at the very core of who I am."

A private burial service will be held at a later date. A Service of Remembrance is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, in Duke Chapel, with a reception following at the Penn Pavilion. Both are located on Duke University’s West Campus in Durham. Written memorials and photographs can be posted to www.benwardtribute.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Benjamin F. Ward Endowment for the Arts at Duke University at www.gifts.duke.edu  Click the link that reads:  "Add an unlisted designation" and type in fund code 615-9006.

Gifts may also be made to the Benjamin F. Ward Endowed Fund for Music at www.uncsa.edu/donate.  Please select “Other” for the designation, and type in “Benjamin F. Ward Endowed Fund for Music,” or send your gift to the UNCSA Foundation, 1533 S. Main Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27127.

Gifts of time in honor of Ward would be graciously appreciated by Urban Ministries in Durham, where he was an active volunteer, or to the donor’s choice of nonprofit organizations.

About Benjamin Ward

Since 1980 Professor Benjamin Ward taught various courses in philosophy, Arabic language, and German studies at Duke University.  In addition, he was extraordinarily active in many aspects of undergraduate life.  He was Duke’s first faculty-member-in-residence and continued to nurture and expand the program over the years.  He directed and performed with The Pitchforks, Duke’s oldest a cappella group. Ward became an active supporter of several varsity athletic teams at Duke, including men’s and women’s cross country, track and field and soccer, and he served as a volunteer faculty athletic associate.  Beyond Duke, he was a passionate fan of the Durham Bulls Baseball Club and the Wake Forest University baseball program.


A graduate of Yale University, Ward participated in many aspects of musical life in New Haven, Conn.  He was often called upon to collaborate with string students at the Yale School of Music in their degree recitals, participated in master classes with Pierre Fournier, Joseph Silverstein, Janos Starker, Donald Weilerstein, and Mstislav Rostropovich, and performed on several occasions with the legendary Yale Quartet.  He also founded the Berkeley Chamber Players in Berkeley College at Yale.  Through the Chamber Players, he worked with many undergraduate musicians whose careers have subsequently placed them in major positions in orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout the world.  Among his protégés are the music director of the Baltimore Symphony, members (including principal players) of the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.


One of the special highlights of Ward’s performing career was the chance to perform in recital with Mstislav Rostropovich in Amsterdam’s famed Concertgebouw.  He has also performed as soloist with the New Haven, Atlanta, North Carolina, Tucson, Houston, and Seattle symphonies.


Ward was a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and took great delight in seeing UNCSA’s students thriving and learning.  He had a special enthusiasm for inspiring young people to listen to the great works of chamber music, participate in making music, and attend concerts. 


For the past 20 years, Ward worked with members of the homeless community by organizing and preparing evening meals at what is now Urban Ministries of Durham.  For nearly a dozen years he was active with Rites of Passage, a mentoring group for African-American boys in Durham. He has received several awards for his involvement in community service.



As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.