Educational ties: Journalist's name placed on wall named after mentors at Potomac State

Special to the News Tribune
Ken Ward Jr., formerly of Piedmont and Keyser, was honored with his name inscribed on the Duke Anthony Whitmore/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Wall at WVU Potomac State College.

KEYSER - West Virginia University Potomac State College alumnus Ken Ward Jr. (Class of 1987) was recognized this spring by the Alumni Association and the college with the inscription of his name on the Duke Anthony Whitmore/Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Academic Achievement Wall.

Ward is a native of Piedmont but also grew up in Keyser during his formative years.  He graduated from Keyser High School in 1985 and earned his degree from WVU in 1990.

“I have been remarkably fortunate to have a very large village of mentors and supporters. I’ve stood on a lot of shoulders to get where I am today, and many of those shoulders belong to people I met and professors who taught me at Potomac State College,” Ward said.

Adding, “Even back in 1985, Dr. Tony Whitmore was the one person who thought I was going to end up as a journalist.  He made me work, think and stretch my mind, then gave me more guidance when heading off to Morgantown.”

Ward, who served as an investigative and environmental reporter with The Charleston Gazette for nearly 30 years, has accumulated a long list of accomplishments and accolades during his time as a reporter.  

He is a three-time recipient of the Scripps Howard Foundation’s Edward J. Meeman Award for Environmental Reporting.  In 2000 he received the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for reporting on the environmental damage caused by mountaintop removal coal mining.  Then in 2006, he was awarded an Investigative Reporters and Editors Medal for his work investigating coal mining deaths.

In 2018, Ward received a MacArthur Fellowship for revealing the human and environmental toll of natural resource extraction in West Virginia, and for spurring greater accountability among private stakeholders.

After being awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, Ward was contacted by another PSC alumnus, Henry Louis Gates Jr.  Ward and Gates not only shared a hometown and both became MacArthur Fellows, but both have credited Professor Whitmore as a mentor during their time at Potomac State. They also share a connection with the nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica. Ward is a distinguished reporting fellow with ProPublica and Gates serves on the organization's board.

Additionally, Ward is a co-founder and editor of Charleston-based Mountain State Spotlight, a new nonprofit newsroom serving West Virginians.  

Ward currently resides in Charleston with his wife, legal aid attorney Elizabeth Wehner, their son, Thomas, and their cat, Henry.

He offered these words during the induction ceremony, “It’s a huge honor to receive this award named for two men who have influenced me and who I have such a strong connection with through Potomac State.  Although I’m unable to be with you in person today, know that in my heart I am never far from home.”