Beloved East Central chemistry teacher Pat 'Weird Ward' Ward dies at 76
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Thursday, February 21, 2013
2/21/13 at 9:51 AM
Even three or four decades removed, Pat Ward's former chemistry students can still rattle it off on command: "Me Eat Peanut Butter."
"I don't know why I remember it, but I do," says James Aydelott, laughing as he recites.
A memory aid that helped him keep straight the first four alkanes - methane, ethane, propane and butane - it's just one of many "Weird Ward expressions about chemistry," he added, that still pop frequently into his mind.
"And you couldn't just learn something for an exam and forget it," said Aydelott, chief meteorologist for KOKI-Channel 23, who, as a sophomore at East Central High School, had a class with Ward. "The way he presented the material, it just stuck."
Like peanut butter, as it were.
But the most unforgettable thing, Aydelott and other former students agree, had to be the man himself - "Weird Ward," as he was affectionately known.
Aydelott said: "You went into his class every day anticipating that something different, weird and completely original was going to happen. Unlike anything else that might happen to you that school day."
An iconic chemistry teacher who inspired a devoted following among students, who now keep his quirky memory alive through regular breakfasts and a tribute website, Raymond Patrick "Pat" Ward died Feb. 13. He was 76. Johnson Funeral Home in Sperry handled the arrangements.
A party, as Ward insisted any memorial be called, is planned for 2-4 p.m. Saturday at the Rucker Warehouse in Tulsa. Anyone planning to attend is asked to RSVP via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Decorated with an odd assortment of toys, posters and other items, many of them gifts from admiring students, Ward's longtime classroom offered a bizarre menagerie, and presiding over it all was "Elom" the scarecrow.
But not even Elom - "mole," an increment of molecular weight, spelled backward - could upstage Weird Ward.
A website dedicated to the loveable eccentric, who taught at East Central from 1959 to 1987, was created a few years ago, the brainchild of a former student, the late Dana LeMoine.
The site, which can be found at tulsaworld.com/weirdward, preserves many examples of Ward's deliciously warped sense of humor.
A born quipster, he was always quick with the turns of phrase. Pop quizzes were "interrogations," major exams "Days of Judgment."
Every student got their own nickname, too.
And then there was Ward's chemistry club, the Fellowship of Heathen Chemists - heathen, as he stressed, in the sense of unenlightened or ignorant - which many of them went on to join.
But for all the zany antics, Ward was uncompromising as an educator.
"I've never known a teacher who had the impact he did," former student Robin Teter said. "He taught us chemistry, but he also taught us life."
A native of Lindsay, Ward had teaching in his blood. He grew up attending a small two-room country school, where his mother and father were the only teachers. He went on to obtain bachelor's and master's degrees from Oklahoma State University.
"He was really the perfect teacher," said Dave Stauffer, a Union Public Schools administrator who spent his first years as an instructor at East Central next door to Ward.
"He knew everything there was to know about his subject, but also everything about his kids. And he was the bridge between the two."
Stauffer, who was the principal at Union High School for nearly 20 years, learned from Ward that "you've got to enjoy your kids, you've got to understand them. He did that so well. They would come in before school, during lunch just to be with him. He was so positive."
They still liked to be with him.
When Ward had a birthday recently, 45 students showed up at his nursing home, to his delight.
"He never had children of his own," Teter said. "He said more than once that he looked at all of us as his children."
Ward's survivors include a sister, Louanne Trueblood.
Original Print Headline: Teacher's chemistry with students was ideal solution
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Pat Ward: "You went into his class every day anticipating that something different, weird and completely original was going to happen. Unlike anything else that might happen to you that school day," one of his former chemistry students at East Central High School said.