The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE faculty member dies of apparent heart attack

By Shelly Williams/editor in chief

Bill Ward, NE associate professor of government and department chair for government, economics and paralegal studies, died as his class was about to begin Sept. 8. He was 56.

Ward fell ill on NE Campus before his 8 a.m. class. One of his students, Natalie Cener, passed by, noticed him and sought help.

He was then rushed to North Hills Hospital where he later died of an apparent heart attack, possibly brought on by other medical issues, said Linda Wright, NE business and social sciences divisional dean.

“He was a real fun-loving guy, and he was kind of a practical joker,” Wright said. “His students really liked him.”

Several students said it was his humor and passion to teach that made them feel comfortable and welcome in the classroom.

Cener said Ward would introduce himself on the first day and then have the students do the same.

“His response was always, ‘Glad to have you. Glad to have you,’” Cener said. “You know, ‘My name is such-and-such. I’m studying kinesiology.’ ‘Glad to have you.’

“And how many teachers do you know that will talk about Saturday football, eating hamburgers on the grill and drinking adult beverages? I can’t remember a day where he came in mad or anything. He always had jokes.”

Cener took Ward’s class last spring but had to drop it for outside reasons. She enrolled in Ward’s class again this fall to finish and learn from the only class she enjoyed.

“I’m not usually motivated for school. It’s not something I like. I can’t stand sitting at a desk,” she said, tearing up. “But I always got really excited to come to his class. I may skip my first one, but his was the one I always attended.”

Ward graduated from Arlington High School in 1972 with a football scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin, playing on the Longhorn team as a lineman. Ward was an assistant to the Texas Speaker of the House from 1977 to 1980. He also co-wrote several books.

He was a part of TCC since 1996 and served as an adjunct instructor for 11 years. Three years ago, he became a full-time instructor at TCC. He had also taught at the University of Texas at Arlington since 1991.

Now, Cener and the rest of Ward’s students have a new instructor.

For Sarah Lambert, learning government was like pulling teeth until Ward made it something more. Though she had known him for only three weeks, Lambert said she was heartbroken over the loss of her teacher.

“God, the way he taught, he was just so funny. He made it interesting,” she said. “The way he taught was just amazing, and he was a really sweet guy.”

A day after his death, faculty set up a memorial outside of Ward’s office. Three photos and a bouquet of flowers sat on a table covered in handwritten remembrances.

“Bill was a very special person who was always willing to help colleagues and students alike,” NE history instructor Mary Buinger wrote on the table.

“I can’t believe you’re gone, Bill. I’ll always carry a part of our discussions in my heart,” NE government instructor Yvonne Crocker signed.

Two days after he died, Wright and NE counselor Anita Peters spoke to students in Ward’s classes. Wright told students what happened while Peters offered comfort and help options for those struggling with the loss.

Wright said Ward was hunched in a chair by the Skills Center on campus. Cener passed by, trying to find a printer for the research paper due in Ward’s class.

She asked if he was OK, if she could do anything, but every question was followed by an “I don’t know.”

That’s when she went for help. As others arrived, Ward was struggling to breathe.

“You could tell he was trying to be really tough,” Cener said, crying. “There was something in his eyes that made him look uncomfortable about being weak.”

But after others arrived, Cener couldn’t stay. She had class. As she walked away from Ward and the others, she heard the sirens. That’s when she realized this was more serious than she thought.

Not long after, Ward was carried away on a stretcher, NE instructional assistant Rowena Tart said. She was the second to respond to Ward and thought it was possibly food poisoning. She thought he’d eventually come back after he was checked out.

“EMS arrived and asked him several questions. They asked him what medications he was on, and he told them,” Tart said. “He was responding, you know?”

After class, Cener went back to the Skills Center, worried about her instructor. She was told he went to the hospital. That was the last she’d heard until Sept. 10 when Wright and Peters announced Ward’s death.

Cener began to break down.

“I don’t normally cry. I really don’t. It just kind of hit me. I don’t know,” she said, her hands shaking as she trailed off.

 
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