App State Dean of Libraries steps down as ALS diagnosis progresses

Cameron Stuart, News Reporter

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After two successful years, Dane Ward is leaving his position as Dean of Libraries at App State due to his Lou Gehrig’s disease diagnosis.

He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in October 2017, two months after starting his position as dean of libraries.

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease affecting nerve cells that causes progressive brain function loss and muscle movement control loss, according to the ALS Association.

Ward said the first symptoms began in his left leg. He now has limited functions in his legs, arms and speech, and relies on eye-tracking technology that allows him to type and access computers.

“I have become increasingly aware of the endless potential for continued growth and action,” Ward said. “I may be limited with physical motion, but I am continuing to be very involved and growing into new areas of influence and communication.”

Ward said he got involved in the ALS community by writing articles and working with neurologists to evaluate alternative treatments. Ward has also worked to unite librarians and people suffering from ALS.

Ward said he believes a cure for ALS is close, as it has grown in public awareness due to more large-scale publicity from the ice-bucket challenge and public figures’ diagnoses, such as Steven Hawking.

Darrell Kruger, provost and executive vice chancellor, said libraries are a student-centric center of campus, and Ward has helped App State’s evolve.

“He’s a seasoned librarian, so he’s brought new thinking to the university,” Kruger said. “He’s a great and decent human being.”

Kruger said Ward had a profound impact on both himself and the university, stating that he was enriched through his direction with Ward.

“He’s a quiet, thoughtful, deliberate leader when he’s leading in his challenges or when things are going well,” Kruger said.

Ward said he has enjoyed his tenure as dean.

“The university has a great reputation, as does this library, so it was just a wonderful move for us to have this opportunity,” Ward said.

Ward said the people are what he will miss the most about his job, including students, faculty, administrators and staff, but particularly the chancellor, provost and deans.

“In general, the support that I’ve had across the board, especially since my diagnosis, has been amazing,” Ward said. “The university and library have really gone out of their way to support me and help me to do the job, despite the disability.”

Kruger said he looks forward to his continued interaction with Ward, as Ward will continue his affiliation with the university, regardless of his exit as dean.

“(ALS has) made it very difficult to continue. However, when a door closes, another opens,” Ward said. “I have had a great opportunity to talk about and research ALS for an audience I never anticipated working with.”