Griffin Mayhew, a student who has worked closely with Regional School Unit 9 Superintendent Tom Ward, stands next to Ward as he thanks the students and staff for dedicating the 2018 yearbook to him. Class of 2018 President Kayla White looks on in the school gym in Farmington. (Stacey Damon photo)

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” 

                                                                                   ? Henry Adams, American historian

I will miss wandering the sidelines with him this fall.

Any time I spun around at a Mt. Blue High School sporting event, former RSU 9 Superintendent Tom Ward was standing in the background, watching the action and calling out to athletes by their names.

To him, it didn’t matter when or where the Cougars played. Ward, known as Dr. Tom, sometimes traveled great distances to see Mt. Blue athletes perform — morning, noon or night.

It seemed like he was on call 24/7 for his school district. His enthusiasm for RSU 9 was a clear sign that he was a dedicated public servant who knew what really mattered to citizens who do the living and dying in Franklin County.

Mention his name to teachers and parents on Dr. Tom’s turf, and warm smiles appear, followed by endless praise for this man about town. When I wrote a column or story about the Cougars, I often received a handshake and a “well done” from a man who really enjoys handing out genuine compliments.

“The message he sent to the community and the athletes by supporting them made my athletes feel that they were important as students and athletes,” Mt. Blue girls’ basketball and soccer coach Fred Conlogue said. “Dr. Ward is one of a kind.”

It didn’t take me long to figure out that the good doctor was the real deal.

I started covering the Cougars extensively two years ago. I noticed this well-dressed man at events. The first thing that came to my mind was ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.”

I thought to myself: “Who is this well-dressed guy whose attention was sharply focused on the game? I must learn more about this debonair man.”

If GQ was looking for an older gentleman to model quality men’s attire, Ward was the guy who could pull it off in front of the camera.

We finally introduced ourselves and eventually engaged in many fireside chats during events. I enjoyed his insights and his sense of humor. He was someone I wanted to know and I came to appreciate his dedication and support for teachers and students.

As a Mt. Blue graduate, he is and always will be one of the Cougars’ supportive fans, even though he retired in June because of health reasons after a stellar career as a devoted superintendent, teacher, coach, athletic director and principal.

“Consequently, my doctors have informed me that I am at stage 3 kidney disease and need to find something less stressful to do to slow it down,” he wrote in his retirement letter, according to the Sun Journal, in December 2017.

Ward added that he “would truly like to do more, but his doctors tell him otherwise.”

Dr. Tom was everywhere he didn’t have to be, but despite long hours as an administrator, he made time for his school district outside his office. His presence at events meant a great deal to parents and teachers.

“Dr. Tom was a huge support to all activities at Mt. Blue,” field hockey coach Jody Harmon said. “His support to my team was outstanding and greatly appreciated. He not only was on the sidelines cheering the players on, but he also knew every player’s name.

“I think it meant a great deal to all the players knowing that he really cared and was interested in what was happening at Mt. Blue. It makes it very easy to talk about how great the district is when you are hands-on, seeing and being a part of it. He will be very missed.”

I am betting everyone has a Dr. Tom story to tell. My recollections of him are numerous.

He stood proudly next to the wrestling mat when Jagger Bullen copped his 100th victory in February. He rarely missed a football game. He was also a fixture at track meets and field hockey games, where he rooted right along with the rest of the crowd.

But my fondest moment was at the Nordic state skiing championships at Quarry Roads in Waterville in February 2017.

Tucker Barber and Julia Ramsey each glided off with first-place finishes in the classic and skating competitions during the two-day event. The Mt. Blue girls won with 34 points and the boys came out on top with 41.

During that event, Dr. Tom joined me on the course and began pointing out Mt. Blue skiers as they crossed the finish line.

“Look, there’s so-so. Talk to her or him,” an excited Dr. Tom said.

His enthusiasm was infectious and I nearly spoke with every Mt. Blue skier that day. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

I doubt the now-retired Dr. Tom will stay away from games. This community, its students and teachers course through his veins like the blood that circulates through his compassionate heart.


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