In memoriam: G.T. Ward, distinguished architect and dedicated alumnus
July 15, 2020
George Truman “G.T.” Ward recently passed away in his home in Marshall, Virginia, at the age of 92.
Ward was an advocate for architecture studies at Virginia Tech, a devoted supporter of the university in a variety of roles, and a recipient of the university’s highest honor, the William H. Ruffner Medal.
“G.T. was a living historian about all things Hokie, and his pride was immediately evident when he shared stories and anecdotes about his seven decades of love and commitment for Virginia Tech,” said Jeanne Centracchio DaDamio ’75, ’76, who met Ward while serving on the Alumni Association Board of Directors and remained close friends with him for more than four decades. “He was the ultimate embodiment of the spirit of Ut Prosim, whether it was by mentoring architecture students and alumni, leading capital campaigns, or cheering for the Hokies in his home or the President's Box in Lane Stadium. And he rarely left his house without his Virginia Tech hat. Despite having received every major award given by his beloved alma mater, including being namesake for the class ring of 2010, G.T. remained a humble role model.”
Ward entered Virginia Tech in the fall of 1945, but his studies were interrupted by military service as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Japan during the efforts to rebuild that country after World War II. When Ward came back to Virginia Tech to earn his degrees, he elected to remain in the Corps of Cadets even though it was not required of returning veterans. He earned a bachelor’s in building design in 1951 and a master’s in architecture in 1952.
While enrolled, Ward helped lead a group of students who raised $1,000 to bring renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright to lecture on campus — a fond memory Ward took pride in for decades to come.
After completing his master’s degree, Ward became a licensed architect and, in 1964, co-founded the successful architecture firm Ward/Hall Associates with his business partner Charles E. Hall.
In recognition of his unique talent and dedication, Ward was eventually awarded the prestigious title of Fellow by the American Institute of Architects. Ward/Hall Associates designed four buildings for the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and a recruiting room addition to Virginia Tech’s Jamerson Athletic Center.
As an alumnus, Ward maintained an active engagement with his alma mater. From 1984 to 1987, he helped lead Virginia Tech as a member of the Board of Visitors, and would go on to serve in additional leadership roles including president of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, director of the boards of the Virginia Tech Foundation and the Virginia Tech Athletics Fund, and as the inaugural chair of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies Advisory Council. He was also a proud member of the Old Guard Society of Golden Alumni.
“G.T. Ward ranks among the model alums who university leadership across many decades have considered a gift to our university,” said Tom Tillar, former vice president for alumni relations. “He has been an active volunteer for nearly 70 years. His long and varied service to Virginia Tech, coupled with his personal warmth, compassion, and generosity, has been honored with every major award the university has to offer. No one could be more deserving, yet he was very humble. He will truly be missed.”
Ward has been recognized on several occasions for his dedication and generosity to Virginia Tech. In 1988, he was an Alumni Distinguished Service Award winner. Ward received the Ruffner Medal in 1996. At the time Charles Steger, who would later go on to become university president, said “G.T. Ward sets a wonderful example for us all. He has not only distinguished himself in his profession, but also in leadership and citizenship. He can and does make things happen.”
In an interview about the history of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Steger cited Ward as one of several key alumni whose generous support made it possible for the university to acquire property in Switzerland to facilitate international study. Ward’s philanthropic contributions are felt by students and faculty throughout the university and especially in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, where he endowed scholarships as well as a professorship in the School of Architecture + Design.
“G.T. was an inspiration to many, always refreshing the notion of education,” said Donna Dunay, the G.T. Ward Professor of Architecture. “I am honored to have received the professorship that bears his name. G.T. radiated pride and commitment to Virginia Tech, the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and Blacksburg — all this was eminently clear during many conversations and encounters with him. On one occasion, I had an opportunity to present my research on the architecture of Blacksburg to the college Board of Advisors, and was very thankful that this provided an opportunity to learn so much more from him. His care was clear and authentic as he asked about my concerns for the town. As an accomplished architect, his breadth reached well beyond what anyone would imagine.”
Ward’s generosity also includes endowed scholarships for student athletes, help for Hokies wishing to study abroad, and support for Virginia Tech’s Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. He was a member of the President’s Circle within the Ut Prosim Society of the university’s most generous donors. He was also a member of the Virginia Tech Legacy Society of donors.
Ward passed away on June 27. He is survived by four children, Carol Dickson, Donna Ward, George T. Ward Jr., and Robert Ward; daughters in law Cheryl Ward and Dawne Ward; a brother, Richard Ward; and a sister in law, Sally Ward. G.T. Ward is also survived by eight grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Funeral services were held on July 2 at the Marshall Baptist Church, to which Ward belonged.
— Written by Brian Snell