Just before Christmas of 1945, Captain Marion "Moe" Ward returned from three years of service in World War II as an air force navigator on a B17 bomber. A year and a half earlier, he had been shot down over Munich and captured, spending nine months as a German prisoner of war before Germany's surrender in May 1945. When the war finally ended in August, he knew he would be going home.
Moe was ready to start college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in January. The last thing he wanted to do on Christmas night was to go on a blind date, but his friend Eddie insisted. Eddie already had a date, and she would only go if Eddie could find a guy for her friend, Shirley Tison. Moe reluctantly agreed, and the foursome went out for burgers and a movie.
Shirley was a student at Queens, where she had quickly established herself as a leader. In the coming years she would become editor of the Blues student newspaper and serve as vice president of student government. She would be on the Honor Council and the May Court.
"As soon as we dropped the girls off," Moe says, "I told Eddie that I'd just met the girl I was going to marry. I never dated another girl after that night. That's called serendipity-you open a door that you didn't even know was there, and you find the prize of a lifetime."
Moe was true to his word-he and Shirley were married in September 1949, just after she graduated. Queens' President Hunter Blakely performed the ceremony, and the couple spent sixty-two joyful years together. Over the next three decades, Moe's career with the air force took them to fifteen new homes from Omaha, Nebraska, at Strategic Air Command, to Washington, DC, at the Pentagon. At each, Shirley's natural leadership brought her responsibility, from head of the 800-member Officers' Wives Club to hostess for the families of foreign officers. "Once she had $100 to hold a reception for eighty guests, with all of the dietary restrictions of many cultures, and it was perfect," Moe remembers with admiration. "She was a versatile and talented lady, wasn't she?"
In 1966, the couple adopted a five-week-old girl, whom they named Tison. Soon after, Moe was called to serve in Vietnam. Shirley and her beloved daughter went to live in Charlotte with her family, a challenge Moe says she bore with courage and grace.
When Moe retired from the air force, they returned home to Charlotte in 1973. Moe led the city's strategic plan and then worked as head of marketing for Odell Associates, an architectural firm, while Shirley invested her leadership skills in local organizations that included Wing Haven Gardens, the Mint Museum of Art, the Charlotte Symphony and Queens. Moe's job required travel, and he often took Shirley with him so they could see the world together.
In September 2011, Shirley passed away. Moe misses her daily, but says, "My gratitude for our life together is so much greater than my grief." He began his quest to make sure that Shirley's legacy was remembered. Calling Adelaide Anderson Davis '61, associate vice president of alumni relations at Queens, he told her he wanted to establish a scholarship in Shirley's name because she had loved Queens, and the school had helped her to grow into the woman she became.
Serendipity struck once again - Adelaide shared that a new initiative, the Byrum Endowed Scholarship Challenge, could enable Moe to double his investment with a 1:1 match (see sidebar). Colonel Ward accepted the challenge and set his sights on a Presidential Scholarship, which requires a $600,000 endowment. The prestigious scholarship is merit-based and covers full tuition. He would contribute most of $300,000, and the Byrum Challenge Fund would match it. He approached some of Shirley's close friends to ask for their support, and they gladly joined the effort.
Moe and Shirley Ward's connection to Queens continues: their daughter Tison married Chris Carmack MBA '03, a graduate of the McColl School of Business, and granddaughter Christina Carmack graduated in the class of 2011. The new scholarship honors the memory of this extraordinary alumna of Queens, ensuring that her legacy of leadership and talent will endure for generations.