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David Emerson Ward passed away on Sunday, May 24, 2020, at Dunedin Hospital; in his 80th year.

Dearly loved husband of Sheila, beloved Dad of Lizz and Matt, loving, proud and ever attentive Grandad of Lucy, Paige, and Cooper, loved brother, brother-in-law and uncle of family in Canada.

Much respected and fondly remembered colleague of the Philosophy Department at the University of Otago.

David agreed with Spinoza that “the wise man thinks on nothing so little as death” and he showed us all how to live a happy life as we were guided by his “delight in the contemplation of beautiful things”.

A private farewell has taken place and a Memorial Service was held on October 10, 2020 at the University of Otago Staff Club, Dunedin, NZ.

The family are now respectfully declining flowers but would welcome donations to the Pûtea Tautoko Student Hardship Fund at

Charles Pigden


Dear Sheila,

I am still coughing a bit too much to be fit company in a Covid-conscious age, and I don’t want give anyone the remains of of my cold. I am very sorry about this as I really wanted to pay my tribute to David in person. He was such a fun person and such a kind and loyal colleague and it was a privilege working with him for all those years. ( Zena and I have not forgotten how kind you both were to us especially during our early years in Dunedin). As I have said already and so many other have said, David was remarkable for his joie de vivre, but during his working life this was partly due to his joie de philosophie (which he managed to impart to to so many of his students) as well has his joie de so many other things (including Golf). It was not just that he possessed the supreme gift of knowing how to be happy. He also played an important part in creating and sustaining Otago’s philosophical culture which has led to so many successes, both on the part of his former colleagues and on the part of the many students who remember him with fondness. The world is a poorer place because he has ceased to be but it benefited a hugely (at least around here) from having had him in it. I can’t raise a glass to his memory in person but I shall certainly be doing it in absentia. Farewell David, friend and colleague.

Charles Pigden

Michael Tooley


David and I were undergraduate Philosophy majors at the University of Toronto through 1964, at which point David went to England for graduate study, while I went to America. Later, I wound up at the Australian National University, and at the Australasian Association of Philosophy meeting in Melbourne in 1978, I was surprised indeed when I looked across the room after a talk and saw a very familiar, smiling face. I then got together with David again at another Australasian Association of Philosophy meeting, this time in Perth in 1984, where David urged me to visit New Zealand before, as he said, he and I both wound up needing walkers. The idea was very appealing, but, mainly because of my peripatetic ways, I never made it to New Zealand before setting off to the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1992.

After retiring, I thought of trying to get in touch with friends from the past, and the first person who came to mind was David – the extraordinarily warm, lively, and upbeat person with whom I had had many delightful conversations when we were undergraduates. So I wrote to David in April of 2019, following which we had some Facetime visits, along with email correspondence in which David sent along many interesting and amusing things, including “45 Pictures that Perfectly Sum Up Canada,” which my wife and I, and also our granddaughter, Sofia, very much enjoyed.

David was one of the most likable people I have known, and his death is a great loss, most of all to his family, but also to all of us who were lucky enough to have known him.

Martin Durrant


From their arrival in Dunedin, David and Sheila were great and loyal friends of my parents Bob (David's colleague) and Peggy Durrant. Bob and Peggy had bad luck with their health in their last years and became largely housebound. David and Sheila visited faithfully, David bringing university news, his inexhaustible interest in ideas and what was going on in the world, and the terrific cheerfulness that others have paid tribute to.

I know that my parents would have wanted their gratitude and affection recorded at this sad time. We all also always warmly recalled the kind hospitality of the Ward and Craig families when we visited Toronto.

Martin Durrant

Craig Brown


It was my great fortune one day about 30 years ago to encounter David on the first tee at St. Clair golf course. He happily agreed to play with me and there began one of most memorable and valued friendships. Thereafter, on all my many visits back to NZ, we enjoyed many rounds together. It was something I looked forward to with fond anticipation every time.

Like others who have written here I thought of David as the happiest person I knew. And it was contagious. Golfing with him, regardless of score, I was happy too.

Visits to Dunedin will never be the same.

RIP my friend.

Michael King


Dear Lizz,
I have enclosed two photos of David in our school days. The earlier picture was taken at a birthday party for Willy (Brian Williams) before we were taken to a Maple Leaf hockey game, in an age when the Leafs were a force to be reckoned with.  The later shot is in a restaurant in Montreal, the day before the three of us (Dave, Willy and I) boarded the Homeric on a two month tour of Europe after we had completed grade 12. That picture includes my parents, Craig Waddell who was on the basketball team with us, Ernie Cooke, who was, I believe, Dave’s best man, and my sister, Sherry.

In public school, Dave, Willy, and I, were a triumvirate, and in  high school, Ernie made the fourth. In the early days we explored the Humber River valley, climbed under trestles, to Dave’s and my terror, but Willy’s delight, took bike hikes, and later when we got wheels, annual trips to Tremblant to ski, and weekends at Ernie’s or Willy’s cottage, and of course, « the Property », the Ward retreat on Airport Rd. Friday nights were reserved. Movies early on, poker games as we struggled through adolescence. Saturday was the time to try to get a date. We all attended University of Toronto as undergrads, and then followed diverging paths with Dave going to England and then Dunedin. 

As adults, we were rewarded by David and Sheila’s almost annual visits to Ontario, often with a ski trip back to Tremblant, or a visit to a cottage in Muskoka, or by the pool at our house in Mississauga. A wonderful life shared!

All those memories weave a common thread of David’s always sunny personality, inevitable jokes, tolerance, and patience with our philosophically less developed minds.

He was the only one of us to take piano lessons, and sing in the choir, and I am deeply indebted to him for the love of classical music he instilled in me. I still have, and play, a vinyl he gave me of Vaughan-Williams. He loved golf, a passion which we both share, and always seemed to have the particular instruction that completed the game’s puzzle.

He was always able to laugh at himself. What a gift, to himself, and to all of us, to take ourselves less seriously.

He loved his family, his friends, and we have all been better for our times with him.

A wonderful man! A wonderful life! You will always be remembered with love.

Thanks Dave. I hope you improve your short game.

With love, Joyce and Mike. 

Janet Maxwell


My deepest sympathies from Toronto. We saw David too little.

Love from Janet Maxwell

Ian and Caroline Gentles


Dear Sheila,

I was greatly saddened to hear about David‘s passing. He was a very long time friend, from our years at UTS. We became closer after 1965 when we both crossed the ocean together and ended up at Kings College London to do our PhD‘s. I will never forget going to a couple of public dances in London at David‘s suggestion. We also shared Christmas dinners together at our flat in Mecklenburg Square. Despite the great distance that separated us when David moved to New Zealand, we still maintained a long distance friendship, and I have fond memories of visiting you both in Dunedin shortly after my marriage to Caroline in 1996.

I will be following the service in celebration of David‘s life on October 10.

Meanwhile please get in touch when you are next in Canada, And we will have you over for dinner.

Fond regards,
Ian and Caroline.

Charles Pigden


I was sorry to learn of the recent death of Dr David Ward who taught Philosophy at Otago for thirty-seven years. I thought that his many friends might like to know what we say about him in our Departmental History. ‘A graduate of the University of Toronto, who did his doctorate at King’s College London, David was appointed in 1968 and retired in 2005, styling himself in his retirement as a ‘gentleman and scholar’. He was notable for his sunny temperament and his passion for philosophy in general and Kant in particular, running successful and popular course on Kant for many years. Feeling in a good mood one morning, I accosted him in the corridor. ‘Hallo Lucky!’ I said. David caught on immediately. ‘You mean because I get to teach philosophy?’ ‘Exactly’ I replied. For David teaching philosophy (like golf, skating and many other activities) was a blast, and he had a gift for communicating his enthusiasm to the students.’ The philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) defines a virtue as a mental action or quality useful or agreeable to the person himself or to others. Judged by this standard David Ward was a man chock-full of virtues, possessing above all the supreme gift of knowing how to be happy.

Jordan Furness


I have very fond memories of David's positive and humorous outlook on life. On a challenging 100 km hike in Ontario's Killarney Provincial Park, he introduced a game of the lead hiker being the lead hiker until they saw something that elicited a "Isn't that remarkable" response. Once properly admired by the group, the lead hiker would go to the back and the second in line would be next up to notice something remarkable. My father went to school with David and so through various family dinners, either in Muskoka or Dunedin, I remember genuine interest from him, jokes and a person who made everyone feel at ease in the room. I also played one of my best 9 hole rounds with David and my dad in Dunedin! My memories of him, and what I learned from will always pop up from time to time for the rest of my life.

Chris Rous


Dear Sheila,

So sorry to hear of David's death. I hope you are doing as well as can be expected. Thinking of you in Ontario.


Jeremy Waldron


I think David Ward was one of the happiest people I have ever known. Since my second year studying philosophy, he showed how it could be fun--most particularly in a class he taught for a few of us on the metaphysics of Spinoza. He had an enthusiasm for the subject that might have been naïve, but which was highly contagious, and it was matched by an abiding interest in what others made of the materials he was immersed in. And all of it framed with chuckling good humor and wry self-consciousness. I owe a huge debt to Otago's Philosophy Department, and David's teaching and friendship are a large part of it. Sleep well my friend. Love to Sheila -- Jeremy

Elizabeth Harris


To Sheila and all of the Ward family,

From our family to yours, we are very much thinking of you at this time. It was only a little while ago that we were so grateful to have David officiate for Ma's Memorial.
He was a wonderful person and I know a great friend of my parents and will be very much missed.

With lots of love
Elizabeth Harris and the Harris and Eccles families.

Edna Cogger


Please accept our deepest sympathy on the loss of David whom we met while playing Bridge on Wednesday evenings.Sheila and he were a great pair and David's cheerfulness left one feeling much better even in defeat! May he rest in peace.

James Kalmakoff


I have known David and Sheila since we met at some ballet performance in Dunedin some 50 years ago. As fellow Canadians we kept in touch through mutual interests in philosophy, chess, Leonard Cohen poetry, Carole King music and our families.

David always displayed a great enthusiasm for life and his glass was always ‘half-full’. He was able to find pleasure in the simplest of things and awe in the works of nature. He would recommend a recent book he had read with the comment, “ If you haven’t read it yet, you are lucky since you have something great in store for you”.

It will be difficult to face the world without his sense of anticipation of good fun to come.

Rowena Cullen


David was a dear friend of our family for many years. His “delight in the contemplation of beautiful things” was infectious, and made him a wonderful companion whether at the dinner table, camping in the rain with kids, bush walking, going to concerts, or simply admiring his strawberry patch. It was always a pleasure to spend time in his company, and he will be remembered with great affection by everyone who knew him. His life was a testament to his passion for philosophy. A warm-hearted and generous-spirited man who will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to Sheila, Lizzie, Matt, Lucy, Paige and Cooper in their great loss.