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Ward first to receive honorary degree at CWC

May 10, 2018 by Laura Phagan

Audrey Ward sits at the table with Ivan Posey

Audrey Ward will be Central Wyoming Colleges’ first person to receive an honorary degree during commencement May 11.

The Associate of Humane Letters honorary degree was created to recognize those who have made significant and enduring contributions to the culture or quality of life in the communities that CWC serves. The degree is given to those of great integrity and who inspire others through example.

“So many businesses give service awards so we wanted to honor people in a way that other agencies and companies were not able to,” said Connie Nyberg, registrar for student records. “We thought having an associate degree that honored but didn’t conflict with other degrees was the way to honor this achievement. We also wanted the honor to be academic.”

Nyberg said a committee was formed that researched other institutions and found the humane letters honorary degree. Once a person is nominated, the honoree is selected by faculty, staff and students and is then confirmed by the president.

Ward was nominated by her distant nephew and CWC diversity coordinator, Ivan Posey, who said Ward has contributed to the community through her knowledge of the Shoshone language and history. Ward has been instrumental in efforts to keep the Shoshone language and customs alive for present and future generations. Ward attributes her dedication to the community to her grandmother.

“I was taught the ways of my grandmother,” Ward said. “I watched her and learned from her.”

Ward said she has always been independent and willing to help others. She spent much of her time doing research on the history of the Wind River Reservation. And through her work she helped reinstate a church and make a historical marker for the mission, as well as contribute a memorial for Reverend Roberts, who was the first superintend at the government school. Ward also spent time collecting information and photos for the history of the area and the people.

“There’s so much history on the reservation,” she said.

Not only did Ward help restore history but she also contributed her time helping others where they needed help. She would help people garden and plant flowers, she taught others to knit, crochet, embroider and make cradle boards. She spent time at the Cultural Center where she taught beading and the Shoshone language. Ward said she remembered when they couldn't teach the language; they could talk about their history but not the language.

Once they were allowed to teach language again, Ward taught Shoshone at Lander Valley High School. She also worked in the library at Fort Washakie School for more than 20 years. Ward served on the Shoshone Fair Board for more than 40 years. She taught crafts to youth as a 4-H leader and was recognized for being an outstanding homemaker through the Wind River Extension.

I taught them what I knew and what I had learned from my grandmother. My grandmother always appeared in my mind. ”

Audrey Ward

Ward was also a member of the Culture Board, where she provided guidance and mentorship for many tribal members.

“Meetings were about 45 minutes but we would stay for two hours after just to listen to stories Audrey and the others would tell,” Posey said. “I learned a lot. She’s a wealth of knowledge.”

Ward will be presented with her honorary degree during CWC's graduation commencement May 11 at 7:30pm.