Exit Interview: Lawrence P. Ward Looks Back

Lawrence P. Ward stands behind a podium in a cap and gown.

When he looks back at his time at Babson, Lawrence P. Ward has much to reflect on. 

He thinks about the barbecues for students he hosted at his home, and he thinks about the new College parents at the family orientations he has addressed every year. 

Ward thinks about the kinship he has felt with the College’s students of color, a group that has always made him feel included, and he thinks about the many students he has run into on campus, in Horn Library or Trim Dining Hall or along College Drive, and those moments listening to them and hearing their stories. 

And, he thinks about Commencement, an emotional event that was even more so this year, as Ward winds down his time at Babson. The College’s undergraduates gave him a particularly warm reception at this May’s ceremony. “Their response to me was just incredible,” says Ward, Babson’s vice president and dean of campus life. “If you ever wanted to know how students felt about you and your work, they made it clear.” 

After a decade at Babson, a consequential tenure that saw a significant impact on student wellness and engagement, Ward is leaving in early June to become the president of the University of Hartford

The new role represents a homecoming for Ward and his wife, Katerie, both of whom grew up in the Hartford area. “It is incredibly meaningful,” Ward says. “My family has been in Hartford since the 1940s.” The move also signals a new chapter for the couple as empty nesters: their son Aidan lives and works in New York City, while daughter Emerson is starting college in the fall. 

In his final days as dean, Ward sat down for an interview in his Hollister Hall office, reflecting on his career, his time at Babson, and his new role to come. 

Why did you make a career in higher education? 

“I think it became clear to me that it was not just a vocation but a calling. I felt like I could add value, and make a difference in people’s lives, as an educator within and beyond the classroom. That became very clear to me at my previous institution at American University.  

Lawrence P. Ward
Lawrence P. Ward (right) expressed pride in his work with both students and staff during his 10 years at Babson. (Photo: Paige Brown)

“I was actually considering leaving higher ed to go work for an investment bank as sort of the head of college recruiting. I probably would have tripled my salary. I would have been traveling a lot, and it would have been glamorous. So, I was preparing for this set of interviews with this investment bank, and one night I was leaving campus, and two students were sitting on a bench right near the exit to the parking garage. They were both students of color. I knew one of the students, I didn’t know the other. One said, goodnight, Dean Ward. The other said, goodnight, sir. And it hit me in that moment that this is where I’m supposed to be. I called the bank the next day and withdrew from the search.  

“Sometimes you just have these moments of clarity. You realize the impact that you’re having whether you know a student or not. They know who you are.” 

What are you most proud of in your time at Babson? 

“I think probably the relationships with my staff and the quality of those relationships and their growth and development. I think you measure a leader not by what I do, but the people that I’m responsible for. And we’re a really strong team across many areas, so I’m really proud of the staff that we have built and developed, their evolution, and the real positive relationships that I have.  

“And then there’s the quality of our students and the student experience. When our students look back at Babson and say, ‘I was really well educated and I had a great experience,’ I’m really proud of that.” 

“This institution was here long before I arrived, and we are caretakers for moments in time. And then we hand it back to the institution and the institution continues to evolve, and that will certainly happen at Babson.”
Lawrence P. Ward, vice president and dean of campus life at Babson

You’re becoming a university president during a challenging time for higher education. 

“It’s a tough time to be a college or university president, perilous times, when you look at enrollment and financial challenges, the value proposition of higher ed, some of the political tribalism and strife, and then just running a contemporary institution or organization.  

“I go into it viewing it as a daunting but important challenge. Not daunting in the sense of my knees are shaking. But if you were going to scale a mountain, or you’re out on the deep ocean, if you’re not in awe of the power of that, that if you’re not careful this could go very badly for you—I’m very conscious of that. I don’t want to just be a college president. I fully intend to be a successful one. 

“To be successful, it’s going to require all my skills and experience and capabilities, each one of my superpowers. It’s going to require me to stretch and grow in important ways. I’ll have to be at my best. And that’s what makes me the most excited. Like any great artist or performer or athlete or executive, when success requires you to be at the top of your game, that’s the kind of opportunity that you look for. That’s what I’m facing. And that’s what I’m most excited about.” 

How have your experiences at Babson prepared you to become a university president? 

Lawrence P. Ward
One of Lawrence P. Ward’s favorite Babson memories is speaking at the new family orientation at the start of every school year. (Photo: Jake Belcher)

“The experiences that I’ve had at Babson, from my first interactions and moments on campus through this past Commencement, have prepared me for the University of Hartford. Full stop. I would not have had this opportunity were it not for the experiences I’ve had and the support that I’ve had—people taking an interest in me, not the least of which is our Board of Trustees here at Babson.  

“So, as a result, I view this very much as a ‘we’ moment and not just a ‘me’ moment. I hope that the College feels positive about sending me off to the University of Hartford. Because that’s the way I feel. It’s a moment that I think the whole community can feel good about.  

“Yes, I recognize that I will be missed. I recognize the impact that I’ve had here and that people will miss that and wonder what it will be like going forward. But I’m not concerned about the future of Babson, because this institution was here long before I arrived, and we are caretakers for moments in time. And then we hand it back to the institution and the institution continues to evolve, and that will certainly happen at Babson.” 

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