BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Since 1986 over 4,000 student-athletes that have competed for Moravian College have had one thing in common, Robert Ward has been leading the Athletic Training department. That era will come to an end on May 31 after the men's and women's track & field teams and softball squad finish competition in the NCAA Championships when Ward retires after 32 years at Moravian.
"I felt it was the right time," Ward said of his impending retirement. "I have been at Moravian for 32 years and have been working as an athletic trainer for almost 40 years. I have reached the point where I am now working on the children of former athletes. During admissions open houses, I run into former athletes who introduce me to their sons and daughters who are graduating from high school and looking at Moravian. I have even worked on President Bryon L. Grigsby, when he was a student athlete here. Yes, this all makes me feel old! I have enjoyed my time at Moravian, but it's time to start a new adventure.
"I am looking forward to spending more time with my wife and family," continued Ward. "This past December I became a grandfather so I hope to spend a lot of time spoiling my grandson. If all goes well, my golf game should also improve."
Ward joined the Moravian staff in 1986 after serving as an Assistant Athletic Trainer at Lehigh University, Head Athletics Trainer at Freedom High School, and Head Athletics Trainer for the American Soccer League Pennsylvania Stoners professional soccer team. In 2011, he was elevated to an assistant athletic director for the Greyhounds in addition to running the athletic training department.
"Bob is the ultimate team player who, though never actually competed on a team here at Moravian, exemplified every day what it means to work together, perform your work at a high level and maintain a healthy and happy environment," stated Director of Athletics & Recreation and Head Women's Basketball Coach Mary Beth Spirk. "I have been blessed to work side by side with Bob for 30 years. I am grateful to call him a colleague and friend. His skill as an athletic trainer are second to no one in the profession. Bob knows how to deal with any injury, big or small, quickly and efficiently, though his best attribute is that he knows how to treat each student-athlete individually as if each person was the only person he needed to see that day. He is kind and compassionate which is often lost on many professions in the athletic training field.
"While Bob is a top notch trainer, his contribution to Moravian Athletics cannot be measured," continued Spirk. "In his position as Assistant Athletic Director he has held many roles. From compliance to scheduling to supervising to counselor, Bob has fulfilled each responsibility professionally, enthusiastically and efficiently. Quite frankly, he is irreplaceable. His contribution to the Athletic Department and Moravian College has been critical to our growth over the last 30 years. He will be greatly missed by myself personally and by our entire department in general. I cannot thank him enough for his service, commitment and dedication to our department and Moravian College. I am quite confident he will continue to do good things in his retirement."
Ward has seen quite a few memorable moments during his time with the Greyhounds and listed the following as his top five memories – the football NCAA playoff game versus Widener University in 1988, hosting the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Final Four in 1992, hosting the NCAA Division III Cross Country National Championships in 1994, going to the NCAA Division III World Series with the softball team in 2010 and watching the 2017-18 men's basketball during its run to the program's first automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"You have heard the saying "if you enjoy what you are doing, it isn't work", well that is the way it has been for me," Ward noted for his longevity. "Throughout these years, I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful athletic trainers, coaches and student-athletes. After a while, you don't notice the years going by."
Ward has been active outside of Moravian as well, serving as President Elect, President and Past President of the Eastern Athletic Trainers Association from 2006 through 2012. He was inducted into the EATA's '49 Club (Hall of Fame) this past January. In 1998, Ward did an internship at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY. Ward had the opportunity to work and travel with the USA Junior National Men's Volleyball team. With this team, he traveled to Canada (1999), Cuba (2000) and Brazil (2001).
"When I first started at Moravian, I was the only athletic trainer," mentioned Ward when asked about what has changed the most with his position during his tenure. "It was interesting trying to cover everything. I can remember Saturdays at the end of October covering basketball practice in the morning, a football game in the afternoon and a wrestling match that night. As the responsibilities increased, as we added more sports, and the athletic programs grew, so did the position. We now have four full-time athletic trainers and I believe the athletic training staff provides our athletes the best possible care available."
He is a 1980 graduate of East Stroudsburg University where he majored in athletic training, health, and physical education. In 2003, he obtained his Master's Degree in Sports Management from East Stroudsburg University. Ward holds current certifications from the National Athletic Trainers Association and is licensed to practice as an Athletic Trainer in the State of Pennsylvania.
Ward jokingly said he won't miss the paperwork and the hours. What he will miss the most after retiring – "I will miss the coaches and athletes. It has been a real joy watching these kids come in as freshmen and leave as adults with great futures ahead of them. This is a testament to the great job our coaches do mentoring these individuals along the way. I have developed long lasting friendships with the people not only in athletics but throughout the campus. I will miss them.
"I have truly enjoyed my time at Moravian. Over the years we have been able to grow the program into, what I feel is, one of the best in DIII. To accomplish this, it has taken a team. I have been fortunate to work with some wonderful assistants over the years, Diane Torres, Lorrie Radcliff, Anita Fanelli, Frank Jackson, Nick Smull, Abby Bedoya, Kelcey Holcomb, Megan Kurzec and Brian Gloyeske. We were also blessed to have a very talented and dedicated team doctor, Bret Godbout. Dr Godbout devotedly worked with our athletes for over 25 years. The coaches and athletic administrators at Moravian have always been supportive of the athletic training program. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best athletic directors around: Rocco Calvo, John Makuvek, Jim Walker, Scot Dapp and Mary Beth Spirk. They were great mentors and leaders. The coaching staff at Moravian has always been top notch. I will miss the day-to-day interaction and I truly respect their dedication to their athletes," finished Ward.