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1918 - 2014

L. Emmerson Ward, M.D. (I ’50)

L. Emmerson Ward, M.D., age 96, former chair of the Mayo Clinic Board of Governors and a consultant in the Division of Rheumatology and Internal Medicine, died on Oct. 17. He was the oldest surviving executive officer of Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Ward was chair from 1964 to 1975 and oversaw the opening of Mayo Medical School, the establishment of the Mayo Clinic’s Development program and early diversity and inclusion programs. His tenure was marked by a willingness to embrace change — a tenet he advocated for the long-term vitality of Mayo Clinic.

Though he was unable to attend, Dr. Ward was honored at the “The CEOs of Mayo Clinic,” a sesquicentennial panel discussion on Oct. 10 with physician leaders from the past 50 years.

John Noseworthy, M.D., president and CEO, Mayo Clinic, shared his recollections of his first meeting with Dr. Ward. Immediately after greeting Dr. Noseworthy, Dr. Ward told him, ”Your job is to make sure that you never lose sight of the Mayo Clinic values … If you don’t have the quality, you don’t have Mayo Clinic,” recalls Dr. Noseworthy. “It was absolutely extraordinary. First thing out of his mouth … He got right to business, and I’ll never forget it.”

Robert Waller, M.D., CEO, Mayo Clinic, from 1988 to 1998, shared stories about being a mentee of Dr. Ward. “He was kind. He showed me where I could improve. He showed me where I made mistakes,” says Dr. Waller. “There is something called the tarsal tunnel syndrome on the foot. Emmerson Ward taught me that. Now, I don’t see many foot problems anymore, but I’ll never miss another tarsal tunnel syndrome, nor will I miss an umbilical hernia, which he showed me in a very gentle and kind way.”

Dr. Ward was originally from Mount Vernon, Illinois. He earned an A.B. degree at the University of Illinois and an M.D. degree from Harvard University. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1944 to 1946. After his service, he joined Mayo Graduate School of Medicine as a fellow. He was appointed to the permanent staff as a consultant in 1950.

Dr. Ward was elected to the Board of Governors in 1960. He was named vice chair in 1963 and chair in 1964. This position is equivalent to today’s CEO role. In 1976, he transitioned to chair of the Mayo Board of Development.

One of his lasting legacies is the orange and blue Mayo Clinic calendar. In 1964, Mayo switched from a five-and-a-half-day work week to a five-day work week. A color-coded calendar ― similar to what dairies used to track home delivery of milk ― was developed to indicate surgery and office days. When the committees involved became deadlocked over color choice, Dr. Ward proposed orange and blue, the colors of his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Illinois.

After a 33-year career at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Ward retired in 1983 and moved to Port Ludlow, Washington. He returned to Rochester and moved into Charter House in 2001.

Dr. Ward’s son, Louis Ward Jr., M.D., Primary Care Internal Medicine, and daughter-in-law, Linda Ward, M.D., Primary Care Internal Medicine, and grandson, William Ward, M.D., Primary Care Internal Medicine, practice on Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus.

A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 10 a.m. at Charter House, 
211 Second St. N.W., in Rochester.

The above article was originally published in Mayo Clinic’s News Center on October 31, 2014.

Dr. Ward’s obituary can be found in the Rochester Post-Bulletin.