TV writer Robert Ward ’65 endows $30,000 scholarshipTU graduate also bequeaths manuscripts and screenplays to Albert S. Cook Library
TOWSON, Md.—Novelist and television writer-producer Robert Ward, class of 1965, has made a $30,000 gift to the university to create the Robert Ward Endowed Scholarship in Creative Writing for graduate students. He has also pledged to bequeath his manuscripts and screenplays to the Albert S. Cook Library.
“When I got to Towson I had three teachers who told me I had talent as a writer if I would just work harder: Frank Guess, Donald Craver and Raymond Franke,” Ward says. “They insisted I learn how to shape an essay, back up what I had to say with research and be tough minded. They believed in me. My idea for the graduate scholarship is to kick start a student’s talent. It's a way of saying ‘You have the goods. Your school believes in you. Now get to work and create terrific original writing.’ Having people believe in you is everything to a young writer.”
Towson University officials are happy to accept Ward’s offer. “When an alumnus who has found success reaches back to help another generation make its mark, we are witnessing the best traditions of learning that make colleges and universities such vital institutions. Robert Ward is enriching the context for writing at Towson with both the scholarship and the donation of his manuscripts for students and scholars to examine,” says Terry Cooney, Dean of the College of Fine Arts.
Those of a certain age, have probably seen Ward’s work. A ton of it. Ward wrote and produced for two of the biggest TV shows of the 1980s – “Miami Vice” and “Hill Street Blues.” He later worked on other shows including “New York Undercover” and “NYPD Blue.”
“It was a blast,” Ward says. “It was overwhelming at first…I was sitting there panicking, so worried I was going to be fired for half the year.”
But he wasn’t. Within three years, he graduated from story editor to co-executive producer – a meteoric ascension in Hollywood.
Ward’s journey to Hollywood and success was a circuitous one. After graduating from TU with a degree in English, Ward worked as a social worker in Baltimore, won a scholarship to the University of Arkansas Writer‘s program, moved to San Francisco where he was sidetracked by the usual 1960s distractions, returned to Baltimore, witnessed the riots, and wrote a novel, “Shedding Skin.” Published in 1972, the semi-autobiographical account of living on the wild side received rave reviews from the New York Times and Publishers Weekly, and is still referred to as the quintessential 60s novel.
As most writers do, Ward made his way to New York where he worked as a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. His heart wasn’t in it. He wanted to write, not talk about writing.
With encouragement of fellow novelist Tom Wolfe, Ward decided to write a piece about the Geneva, New York Police Department. That first piece, a tongue-in-cheek article, nearly got Ward a fat lip.
“I rode along with the cops and they got an emergency call. The sirens were going. They had their riot gear. All I had was my sweater. They raced down the street for all of three blocks - to faculty housing. There was an old woman with cat in a tree. It was unbelievable. The cops were hitting each other in head with the ladder. One guy hurt his arm another hurt a leg. It was like the Keystone Cops.”
Ward named the article “The Yawn Patrol,” a nod to the classic movie “The Dawn Patrol” about the dangerous mission of a group of British Royal Flying Corps pilots. The police were not happy. Ward thought he might need his own Geneva Convention when one evening he was encouraged by a couple of officers to take a ride on highway 520 with them. The road led to the woods.
“I was scared. I didn’t know what they were going to do.”
The road also led to the Amy Joy Donut Shop. Seems after some reflection, the cops eventually saw the humor in the piece and treated Ward to his favorite donut.
Ward’s career flourished with writing assignments for notable magazines such as Rolling Stone, GQ and Esquire. In 1978, Ward’s second novel, Cattle Annie and Little Britches, was published and later made into a film starring Burt Lancaster and Diane Lane. Ward also wrote the screenplay, leading to more opportunities in Hollywood.
Ward has acted in four films, one of which, “The Bronx Is Burning,” about the New York Yankees aired on ESPN.
“In the 70's I interviewed Reggie Jackson and when the piece came out in Sport magazine a few months later it caused ’a furor on the Yankees.’ Reggie said the famous lines to me ‘I'm the straw that stirs the drink. Thurman Munson thinks he can stir it, but he can only stir it bad.’ This quote and the ensuing ego fest from Reggie caused insanity on the Yanks. So much so that when they made a miniseries of the team from that year (1976) they had me play myself,” Ward says.
That film will also be included in the Cook Library collection.
Ward continues to write. His third book “Red Baker” won the 1985 Pen West Award as the best U.S. published – a particularly sweet victory for Ward given that the manuscript had been turned down by 30 publishers. Joyce Johnson, Jack Kerouac’s ex-girlfriend and herself a novelist and essayist, bought the book for Dial Press.
Ward recently returned from Italy where he was on a reading tour of “Red Baker” which is popular among Italian youth. At 74 years young, Ward says that he is still “having a blast.”
About Towson University (www.towson.edu)
Founded in 1866, Towson University is among the nation’s best regional public universities, offering more than 100 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in the liberal arts and sciences, and applied professional fields. With close to 23,000 students, Towson University is among the largest public universities in Maryland. Towson combines research-based learning with practical application and its many interdisciplinary partnerships with public and private organizations throughout Maryland provide opportunities for research, internships and jobs. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Towson University one of the nation’s best and most efficiently run universities. An NCAA Division I school in athletics, Towson University is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association as well as the Colonial Academic Alliance.
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