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John William Ward Papers

Identifier: MA.00087

Scope and Contents

Speeches, lecture notes and course syllabi, articles and other personal papers documenting Ward's career as a teacher, scholar and administrator at Princeton University and Amherst College. Many of the speeches are from Ward's tenure as Amherst College President (1971-1979), including statements regarding his involvement in an antiwar protest at Westover Air Force Base in 1972 at which he was arrested. The collection also includes lecture notes for courses in English and American literature that Ward taught at Princeton University, research notes and other miscellaneous papers.


  • Creation: 1952-1985


Conditions Governing Access

Generally, there is no restriction on access to the Ward Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Ward Papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Boston in 1922, John William Ward was educated at Harvard University (A.B., 1945) and the University of Minnesota (M.A., 1950; Ph.D. 1953). He taught at Princeton University (1952-1964), where he started as a professor of English but later changed his primary intellectual interest to history. At Amherst College, Ward was professor of History and American Studies (1964-1971) and served as the 14th President of the College (1971-1979).

Perhaps more than anything, Ward's presidency at Amherst was marked by the introduction of coeducation. The Trustees of the College voted in favor of it in November 1974, the first female students were admitted in the fall of 1975, and the first women graduated in June 1976. Ward will also be remembered during his presidency for participating in a 1972 antiwar protest at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, where he and 471 other protesters blocked traffic for more than thirty minutes. The protesters, including Ward, his wife Barbara, several Amherst faculty members and several hundred Amherst students, were arrested for disturbing the peace. Ward's participation stirred both approval and outrage, as well as a large volume of media coverage and commentary, related to the appropriateness of a college president's involvement in individual acts of civil disobedience.

Ward's publications include the books Andrew Jackson, Symbol for an Age (1955); Red, White, and Blue: Men, Books, and Ideas in American Culture (1969); "Tocqueville and the Meaning of Democracy," in: Tocqueville's America (1982).

From 1978 to 1980 Ward headed a special Massachusetts commission to investigate corruption and mismanagement in the construction of state and county buildings. The "Ward Commission" issued a report in 1980 that resulted in new state legislation to oversee public sector contracting. Ward also served as president of the American Council of Learned Societies from 1982 to 1985.

John William Ward died on August 3, 1985.


2 Linear feet (2 records storage boxes)

Language of Materials



Educator and 14th President of Amherst College. Collection consists of speeches, lecture notes and course syllabi, articles and other papers documenting Ward's career as teacher, scholar and administrator at Princeton University and Amherst College.


This collection is organized into four series:

  1. Series 1: Speeches and Talks, 1964-1985
  2. Series 2: Writings, 1956-1985
  3. Series 3: Princeton Course Materials, 1952-1964
  4. Series 4: Miscellaneous, circa 1956-1985

Related Materials

  1. Non-Alumni Biographical Files - Ward, John William
  2. President's Office Records - Ward Administration

Processing Information

2003 December
David Schaich 2006, Student Encoding Assistant
Yang Cao 2006, Student Assistant
Peter A. Nelson, Assistant Archivist
David Schaich, Peter A. Nelson.
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299