September 19, 1982 – June 23, 2019
Kenneth Ward (known to friends as Jacob), 36, passed away in late June 2019 in North Bethesda, Maryland. Services will be held Saturday, June 29, at the Thos. L. Shinn Funeral Home, located in Manahawkin, N.J.
Ken was born September 19, 1982 in Euclid, Ohio to Anne and Michael Ward. His gift for mathematics started early in his upbringing in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where he excelled not only in his high school courses, but also at a myriad of activities. Ken was a multi-hyphenate in its highest form — he was exceptional at every challenge he took on, from Odyssey of the Mind to Eagle Scouts to junior varsity baseball, and beyond. A superb piano and guitar player, he also dabbled in the arts, even starring in opera productions while attending the University of Chicago, where he graduated with degrees in Economics and Mathematics. During his senior year in 2006 Ken presented one of the top papers — Equilibria in Games with “Auction-Like” Discontinuities (https://repository.library.georgetown.edu/bitstream/handle/10822/559576/CRP-I.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y) — at the Carroll Round at Georgetown University, where he was very excited to have met John Nash, who attended the conference that year, and whom Ken admired greatly.
Most recently, after obtaining his Ph.D. in Mathematics at Oklahoma State University, Ken was a valued member of American University, where he served as a professional lecturer in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics. There, he worked, among other things, in mathematical gaming and arithmetic algebraic geometry, impressing colleagues and industry leaders with published works boasting titles that rivaled the brilliance inside. Ken was particularly excited about his current work in the theory of circles in modular arithmetic (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1071579719300425?dgcid=author), a completely new approach. Ken had a true passion for teaching mathematics and exploring the boundaries where math spilled over to the visual arts, music, social science, and language. He believed that mathematical research and teaching mathematics were not two separate undertakings, but were one and the same. Ken was a central member of the DC Math Circle (https://edspace.american.edu/dcmathcircle/about/), where he taught young aspiring mathematicians. Just recently, at the 2019 National Math Festival, Ken introduced Triumph (https://www.nationalmathfestival.org/2019/new-math-game-invented-at-2019-nmf/), a game he created where graph theory meets fun, reflecting a beautiful piece of mathematics that is destined to entertain many for years to come.
Above all, Ken will be best remembered for his drive, intellect, and eccentric and contagious sense of humor, which he deployed regularly while sharing Internet memes, bad movies, and delightfully corny jokes with family and friends.
He is survived by his parents, Anne and Michael Ward; sister, Kate Ward; and brother-in-law, Peter Schlendorf, as well as extended family and friends and his published works.
In lieu of flowers, please visit Kenneth (Jacob M) Ward Memorial Fund's Go Fund Me page (https://www.gofundme.com/f/kenneth-jacob-m-ward-memorial-fund), which is accepting donations to establish an undergraduate scholarship or award in American University's Department of Mathematics & Statistics.
To leave online condolences for the family, please visit www.shinnfuneralhome.com
- Kenneth Jacob M Ward Memorial Fund
- Memorial Service Saturday, June 29, 2019
June 28, 2019
I got to know Kenneth Ward when he came to Oklahoma State University. He chose OSU on the advice of the great mathematician Paul Sally.
At OSU, in his first year, Kenneth took PhD level Algebra with me and it was clear that he was very talented and was at the top of the class. He then studied Neukirch's Algebraic Number Theory under my guidance. I say under my guidance, but he just mastered that challenging book by himself. I supervised his Master's thesis by research. I suggested a problem on Artin L-functions on which he proved some very nice results. He was simply one of the best students I have had the pleasure of advising.
For those who came into contact with Kenneth, it was impossible to miss his very intense and eccentric personality. He sometimes dressed in an old fashioned-almost Victorian English-style, complete with an umbrella that doubled as a walking stick.
In my mind is etched a moment from his Master's thesis presentation. There was some minor point about which I asked a question, which then became a longish discussion. Kenneth wanted to end the discussion to move on with his presentation, and he went with a very dramatic "Sir, if I may, I would like to suggest an explanation" said with his one hand behind his back, and the other flaying very theatrically. I remember mumbling to the professor beside me: "Yes, you may, my lad". Kenneth could jolly well have had a pipe in his mouth and worn a tweed jacket at that moment and the presentation could have been played on some London stage.
After he left OSU (and after I moved back to India) he kept in touch occasionally writing on progress he made on some problem. I last saw him at American University in the Fall of 2017. I was happy to see him settled into a regular job.
I had no idea he had some health issues. His passing away comes as a shock. My deep condolences to Kenneth Ward's family. I attach a photograph of mine with Kenneth on his graduation from OSU.
June 26, 2019
In Kenneth's final year of his PhD, he asked me if I would be willing to supervise a reading course to meet his requirements. Having known him and his abilities over the previous two years, I said I would rather treat him as a colleague and suggested we work on a problem that I had in mind for a few years and of which we both had not much expertise (a learning experience for us). After six months, we had a nice result and it was subsequently published in IMRN. It was a very enjoyable six months brain storming with lots of blind alleys. I am grateful for the experience and much saddened with our loss. We had continued with a followup paper but it is as yet unfinished ... perhaps I will finish it soon and publish it posthumously.
My sympathies to his family.
June 26, 2019
I am truly saddened RIP Kenneth