The Ward Brothers shape DePaul history

Lisa Geiger
March 30, 2017

How different was the DePaul of 1910 from that of 1970? The Rev. William Ward, C.M., and the Rev. Ferdinand "Joe" Ward, C.M., witnessed and shaped seven decades of DePaul's growth through the 20th century. The two brothers from Lincoln Park saw the university initiate coeducation, experience two World Wars, host social movements and engage in massive expansion in their roles as students, administrators and Vincentian priests.

William and Ferdinand Ward were born in the early 1890s, just before DePaul's 1898 founding as St. Vincent's College. The Ward family's nine children grew up on Fullerton Avenue, four blocks from the school's small campus adjoining St. Vincent de Paul Church. Like their six brothers, William and Ferdinand - known by his middle name, Joe - attended DePaul Academy, a high school run by St. Vincent's Church out of the university's College Building that would later become Byrne Hall. While the boys attended the Academy, St. Vincent's College re-chartered as DePaul University in 1907. William and Joe both enrolled in the university within the following four years. 

DePaul's campus environment was still developing when the Wards enrolled. In 1911, about 300 individuals made up the student body, including the first 90 women admitted to summer and extension classes. Lacking residence halls, DePaul attracted a mix of neighborhood residents, like the Wards, and commuter students. The Wards sparked campus camaraderie when they helped found the Alphi Chi fraternity. One of the first campus fraternities, the group organized social events, and many members wrote for "The Minerval," the school's first chronicle of social life and graduate information. In 1912, Joe, older brother Cyril, and younger brother Albert all played for the varsity football team, helping to popularize the "D-men" name with the school initial's prominent place on their uniforms. Joe was also a gifted student, delivering the valedictory speech at his 1915 graduation. 

Ward brothers

William (second from left) and Joe (second from right), with family members in 1917. (Image courtesy of DeAndreis-Rosati Memorial Archive)

St. Vincent's Church was a powerful force in William and Joe's lives. After graduating from DePaul in the church's shadow, they solidified their religious commitment by entering the Vincentian academy at Perryville, Missouri. Education at Perryville kept the two from active duty in World War I, though five other Ward brothers entered the service.

Ordained in 1918, William Ward travelled to California to serve as deacon at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Los Angeles, but returned home to act as principal of DePaul Academy in 1924, followed by a trip to China. His later work for the order involved travel back and forth to positions in Los Angeles and Chicago into the 1980s.

After his 1920 ordination and three years teaching in Dallas, Joe returned to DePaul as an English professor. Fr. Joe remained a campus fixture over the next five decades. He led the Poe Society, assisted with drama classes and chaired the Department of English. During the World War II, at the age of 48, he volunteered for service and spent two years as a chaplain with troops in Italy. When he retired from teaching in 1960, Fr. Joe became coordinator of College Alumni for the university and also worked with the Apostolate of the Handicapped until the 1970s.

The brothers saw DePaul grow from a small college to an internationally known university. When Fr. Joe passed in 1978, DePaul's total enrollment topped 12,000 students in over 100 degree programs, a far cry from the 300 students with whom he and his brother studied. DePaul had expanded its facilities from three Lincoln Park buildings and one Loop office in 1910 to dozens of holdings across Lincoln Park, the Loop, and a suburban campus. What didn't change was students' dedication to investing in their communities. Student service groups, charity campaigns, and dialogues showcasing alternative viewpoints have been the hallmarks of DePaul social and academic life since the Ward's early days.

For more information about the Ward family and the DePaul community during the World War I, visit Special Collections and Archives' upcoming exhibit at the Richardson Library "Glimpses of the Great War: Faith, Family, and Community during World War I." The opening reception will be held April 12, 4 to 6 p.m.  on the library's first floor. Stay tuned to the Library's Full Text blog for more details.