“I learned that with the right leadership, a good idea, and a volunteer spirit, you could accomplish wonders, and those are the principles we applied to the AFS exchange programs.” –Ward B. Chamberlin, Jr.
AFS is saddened to announce the death of AFS World War II volunteer and Life Trustee Ward B. Chamberlin, Jr., who passed away on February 23, 2017.
Born on August 4, 1921, Ward grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and was studying at Princeton University when World War II broke out. He volunteered as an ambulance driver for AFS in the autumn of 1942 and went on to serve in North Africa, the Middle East, Italy, India, and Burma during the course of the war.
After the Battle of Monte Cassino in the spring of 1944, Ward took over command of his platoon and was promoted to lieutenant. He became captain and later major and commanding officer of 485 Company in June of 1945, and was honored with the British award “Mentioned in Despatches.” Toward the end of the war, Ward led two AFS ambulance units to India in preparation for the invasion of Singapore by the British army.
Following World War II, Ward became actively involved in the creation of the AFS secondary school exchange programs. He was elected to the AFS Board of Directors in 1947 and served as the general counsel for AFS in the 1950s and 1960s. He also served as chair of the AFS Board of Trustees between 1968 and 1974, and was elected as an AFS Life Trustee in November 1966.
In addition to his immeasurable impact on AFS, Ward was also a pioneer in public broadcasting, playing a major role in creating PBS and NPR and serving as Vice President and Managing Director at WNET for eight years. Over the course of his long career Ward was a mentor to many, including filmmaker Ken Burns, who featured Ward in his 2007 PBS documentary The War.
Ward received numerous awards and distinctions throughout his life including the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Cassandra Pyle Award for Leadership and Collaboration in International Educational Exchange and the Dean’s Award at the 2008 Hubert H. Humphrey Public Leadership Awards.
Ward was predeceased by his wife, Lydia Gifford Chamberlin. He is survived by his daughters, Lynn and Margot, and four grandchildren.
You can read more about the life and legacy of Ward B. Chamberlin, Jr. in the November 2010 issue of the AFS Janus, in The New York Times, and in The Boston Globe. To hear more about Ward’s AFS experience in his own words, watch the oral history video created in 2002 for the AFS Archives as part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project here.