In Memoriam: Randy Ward, 1945-2021

Amid the clamor and excitement of the day in May 2011 when the NC State Veterinary Hospital’s Terry Center expansion officially opened, Randy Ward found time for a quiet moment.

Alone, he walked over to the statue of his beloved Newfoundland, Hannah, now standing watch outside the cardiology service. He looked up at Hannah and gently put his hand on the side of her face.

It was a gesture that embodied Randy’s kind spirit that inspired many at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. He believed in kindness and practiced it. He instilled it in others.

From that moment, Hannah, who lived for another five years rather than the expected five months after the hospital treated her for a faulty heart valve disease, has stood watch over the cardiology service entrance that now bears her name thanks to the generosity of Randy and Susan Ward: the Hannah Heart Pavilion.

Since then, countless companions like Hannah have their hearts mended at NC State. And the hearts of anxious pet owners have been made full again.

When Randy Ward died June 7, just a few days shy of his 76th birthday, he left an indelible legacy of support and generosity that uplifted those who knew him and elevated the college he and Susan loved so much.

“I believe the realization of the Hannah Heart Pavilion provided a lasting tribute to Hannah — who was simply an amazing being — as well as a transformational gift to NC State,” says Bruce Keene, the Jane Lewis Seaks Distinguished Professor of Companion Animal Medicine who worked closely with the Wards on Hannah’s surgery and post-operative care. “It provided a brick-and-mortar foundation for a world-leading cardiology service, but also served as a leadership gift and a kind of spirit guide that has helped us in many ways as we’ve continued to grow and prosper.”

Hannah’s statue outside of the Hannah Heart Pavilion. Photo by Marc Hall.

 

The Hannah Heart Pavilion is merely one of the Wards’ investments in NC State. 

They funded scholarships at the CVM and throughout NC State. They passionately advocated for the college and its hospital, helping to fund the CVM’S mobile veterinary surgery unit, which cares for animals in rural areas, supports natural disaster relief work and helps train countless veterinary students.

“This university has lost one of its greatest advocates and friends. I am very grateful I had the chance to get to know him,” says CVM Dean Paul Lunn. “One of my warmest memories of coming to NC State in 2012 was meeting Randy and Susan Ward.

“Their love for and commitment to the college of veterinary medicine was always extraordinary. Certainly, their gifts have had a phenomenal impact on our program, but their greatest gift was their time.”

The Wards also honored extraordinary clinicians with white coats of excellence, recently awarding them to Dianne Dunning, associate dean for advancement, and Steve Marks, associate dean and director of veterinary medical services. Marks and Dunning, who are married, treasured Randy. 

“Susan and Randy Ward have been great friends to NC State, the CVM, and to my family,” says Marks. “My memories of Randy will always include his warm smile, firm handshake, and his love of animals and Wolfpack sports. 

“This is a devastating loss, and his memory lives in all who were fortunate enough to know him.”

Marks’ and Dunning’s work may have impressed the Wards, but the Wards were the ones who impressed them.

“Randy was a spectacular human being. He loved his wife, his dogs, and NC State. He was a true friend of the college and an amazingly intelligent man,” says Dunning. 

“He always took time to sit down and talk with you and never forgot a single thing you told him. He always started a conversation with me with, ‘How you doing, girl?’ He was so incredible and kind in that way.”

The Wards’ generosity continued outside of the CVM. Randy, an NC State alumnus, was always eager to bolster the college in ways small and large. They funded multiple academic, athletic and arts scholarships across the university and were fervent supporters of Arts NC State.

Susan is the current president of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation (and a two-time past president), which works tirelessly to support all the college’s clinical, research and educational endeavors.

In 1998 and 2011, respectively, Randy and Susan were honored with the Watauga Medal, NC State’s highest non-academic honor recognizing significant contributions to advancing the university.

Randy Ward embodied the spirit of the Wolfpack,” says Warwick Arden, NC State vice chancellor and provost who served as CVM dean from 2004 to 2009. “For decades, Randy and Susan’s support has impacted the lives of so many NC State students and hospital clients — and will continue to do so for years to come. 

“The Wards’ generosity is contagious and their drive and passion continue to inspire so many. I am saddened by our loss, but Randy’s strong legacy will always be a part of NC State.”

Randall Lee Ward was born June 13, 1945, in Oakland, California, into a military family. Randy grew up in Durham and attended Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia for his last two years of high school. 

He returned to North Carolina in 1964 to attend NC State, was a proud member of the Sigma Nu fraternity and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in textiles in 1968.

Randy was a spectacular human being. He was a true friend of the college and an amazingly intelligent man. He always took time to sit down and talk with you and never forgot a single thing you told him.

After graduation, he worked in Virginia, New York City and Boston, but North Carolina kept calling him home. Returning to the Triangle, he and his business partner, Steve Robertson, a fellow NC State alumnus, founded This End Up furniture company in 1974. When it was sold a decade later, the company had stores in almost every U.S. state.

Randy retired from business but not from his support of the college, which started soon after graduation as an active member of the Alumni Association. He served on many NC State University boards and was a lifetime member of the Wolfpack Club.

“Randy always struck me as someone who had such an amazing college experience that he never wanted to leave,” says Lunn. “The way he showed this was through his support for students across NC State. It was generous and unconditional.”

The Wards weren’t just longtime NC State supporters — they were longtime clients of the veterinary hospital. A plaque at the hospital documents their experience with Hannah and her innovative care, which involved open-heart surgery to replace a heart valve because of a complex congenital heart defect. Hannah’s ashes are buried under her statue.  

Keene first met Randy and Susan Ward in the late 1990s, when they first realized Hannah was ill. After surgery, Hannah required a great deal of follow-up care, and the Wards visited her every day in the hospital, Keene says. 

“They were both dedicated, but also absolutely smart, and they never lost their sense of humor — not then and not in the 25 years I’ve known them since then,” he says. “Randy was a perceptive, highly accomplished person who had an impish sense of fun, an unfailingly generous spirit and an incredible soft spot in his heart for animals.”

For the past four decades, Randy enjoyed a quiet life with Susan on his farm, where a reception for friends and family was held following his funeral service on June 16.

This university has lost one of its greatest advocates and friends. I am very grateful I had the chance to get to know him.

His farm, populated by dogs and llamas, was often visited by fourth-year DVM students honing their clinical craft, says Oscar Fletcher, who met Randy and Susan in 1992, when he first began serving at CVM dean, a position he held until 2004.

“Randy and Susan were a team and almost always together, always very friendly and easy to talk with,” says Fletcher, a professor of poultry health management. “I remember that they made me feel welcome here.

“Randy was a natural people person. He could entertain without dominating the conversation.”

Leading up to the opening of the Terry Center, Fletcher worked frequently with the Wards as they regularly contributed to the college. The initial collection of artwork in the Terry Center is the result of Susan and Randy’s efforts. They hung most of the paintings themselves, says Fletcher.

“Randy and Susan were major contributors to creating an engaged, energetic veterinarian medical foundation board that attracted similarly dedicated supporters, including Randall Terry,” says Fletcher. “The collection of artwork is just another way the Wards have blessed the college in a special way, going beyond just their financial gifts.”

Ward is survived by his wife, Susan Parrott Ward; his sister, Jan Ashby Martin and husband Dan Martin; brother-in-law William A. Parrott and wife Delphia Turner Parrott; sister-in-law Mary Parrott Jones; sister-in-law Susan Herring; and numerous nieces and nephews.

He is also survived by Mae, his Newfoundland who rarely left his side.

In honor of Randy’s memory, the family urges those to consider a gift to the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine or the SPCA of Wake County. Condolences may be shared at www.cremationsocietync.com.

“I will most remember Randy’s sparkling blue eyes as he recounted an adventure or escapade with Susan and the dogs,” says Keene. “His love of his family, his farm and his animals always shone through.”

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine