Colleagues mourn loss of longtime computer operations manager 

Colleagues are remembering Earl Ward, who worked for 40 years as computing operations manager at Pittsburg State University in an era that saw significant change in infrastructure and systems. Ward died on Oct. 29 in Pittsburg at age 88. 

A U.S. Navy veteran who served during the Korean War, he began work at PSU — then called Kansas State Teachers College — in 1960. In 1969, he earned a degree and would serve the university until he retired in 1999. 

Colleagues say he brought about order in the operations of the computing center.  

“He worked with folks from all areas of the university and seemed to have a gift for making plans that pleased most, if not all, end users,” recalled Jim Butler (BSEET ‘85, BSCS ‘86).  

Ward hired Butler as a student employee in August 1980, just as PSU was starting to move from an IBM mainframe to prime computers. Butler’s job initially involved installing hardwired computer terminals across campus. 

“I learned from Earl how a project like that can involve extensive planning for coordination between office personnel, facilities, and the computing center, and working around the academic calendar," Butler said. "We also had to keep in mind the date when the steam heat was activated, which made work in the tunnels under campus impractical.” 

It paved the way for Butler’s entry into Information Technology as a career. 

“At the time, I didn’t realize the skills he was using and sharing, but as I found myself leading projects, I know I used the skills learned,” Butler said. “I just retired and can honestly say working and learning from Earl set me on a great and rewarding career. I used Earl as an example and tried to emulate his success.” 

Randy Winzer, a professor in the Department of Engineering Technology, was first hired by Ward as a student employee in 1985. 

“While I didn’t realize it at the time, Earl had a tremendous impact on my work ethic and approach to a task,” Winzer said. “He imparted so much knowledge that I still use every day. Sayings like, ‘Plan your work and then work your plan’ didn’t have much meaning to a 19-year-old kid, but in hindsight there is a lot of wisdom there. Fortunately, I had a chance to tell him this about 10 years ago.”  

Ward was united in marriage to Betty Lou Lauber in 1954; she preceded him in death in April 2020. He was active in the First United Methodist Church, Pittsburg Kiwanis, and as a member of the City of Pittsburg Planning and Zoning Board. He also was a dedicated motorcycle enthusiast. 

He is survived by one son, Phillip Dean Ward and his wife, Cara, of Frontenac, Kansas; one daughter, Sharon Lynn Hilton and her husband, Aaron, of Aurora, Missouri; as well as two siblings and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 3 at Brenner Mortuary, 114 E. Fourth St., with Rev. Mark Chambers officiating. It will be livestreamed through Ward’s obituary page at Burial will follow in Uniontown, Kansas, where Ward was born and raised.   

The family suggests memorials to the Wesley House and/or PSU Athletic Scholarship Fund. Memorials may be left at or mailed to Brenner Mortuary. 

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