William (Bill) Ward, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology succumbed to pancreatic cancer on November 3. He had retired from a 42-year career as a professor of biochemistry at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences in January 2020.
Ward earned his doctorate in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University and joined the faculty of Rutgers University in 1977. He had an early interest in characterizing green-fluorescent proteins (GFP), a unique class of proteins involved in bioluminescence of many cnidaria and was a key member of the team that discovered and developed the use of GFP. Ward later founded the company Brighter Ideas, Inc. to design and create commercial products which utilized GFP and fluorescent protein technology. He developed methods for protein purification and taught undergraduate and continuing education courses on this topic.
For many summers he went to the University of Washington, Friday Harbor Labs, to collect jellyfish; which played a big role in his award–winning GFP work and also contributed to his unique jellyfish art. Over the years, in addition to his regular teaching, he taught hundreds of industry professionals with his short courses and both designed and instructed a course for gifted and talented pre-college students.
Ward was for many years a strong advocate for faculty governance at Rutgers and vigorous advocate for the value of undergraduate instruction. He was passionate about his teaching and loved to challenge his students to solve problems by understanding the basic science behind a discovery such as GFP. He put a lot of effort into making his classes engaging. For several years until his retirement in January, Ward taught the summer course “Experiments with GFP: The Art and the Science”, engaging gifted and talented youngsters from area middle schools and high schools in the field of biochemistry. He wrote several children’s books and loved to sing among other hobbies. At times he would sing for his students in class, and in so doing encouraged them to be proud of and to find their own voices, as he found his own.
Donations in Bill’s memory can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 220 E. 42nd Street New York, NY 10017, stjude.org.