The center announced this week that Laurie Ward will take over as interim executive director beginning Nov. 16.
Ward, an open lesbian, most recently served as the interim executive director of the Center for Responsible Funding, and in the past several years has also worked in an interim-director capacity at other local social-service agencies like Education and Training Determined by You and the Philadelphia Senior Center.
Prior to her interim work, Ward served for 12 years as the executive director of Youth Service, Inc., a child-welfare agency where, in addition to developing foster-care programs and prevention efforts, she said she worked to support the disproportionate amount of LGBT youth who came through the organization’s doors.
Ward left the agency about five years ago to retire, and although she took some time for leisure activities like learning to ski, she returned to the field to help lend her support to organizations undergoing organizational changes.
“I get to use my management skills, keep people on target and reassure them that they’ll have support through the transition time,” she said.
Ward, a native of Massachusetts, moved to the city in the 1970s to earn her master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania and later attained her master’s in business administration from Drexel University, an educational mix that Goldenburg noted will serve the center well.
“That’s a remarkably unique combination that means she can keep her eye on the mission at the same time she keeps her eye on the bottom line,” he said.
Ward said she realized the difference that having a keen business sense can make in the social-work field and works to fuse both of her interests into her leadership positions.
“I was always interested in social work,” Ward said, noting that she grew up in a family that placed an emphasis on giving back to their community. “After I got into social work and got my MSW, I worked for a family-service agency, and I found that I was very interested in the management side of social work, so I thought that getting my MBA would be a good degree to combine.”
Ward spent some time living in the suburbs but moved back to the city about two years ago to, among other things, reconnect with the LGBT community.
She became an active member of the center, taking Way Gay U classes and participating in Philaventures’ Fairmount Park hikes, and also met with Goldenburg to share ideas about how the center can better serve the aging LGBT community.
“When I learned that ’Dolph was leaving, it seemed like a natural fit for me to go ahead and apply,” Ward said. “I’ve seen firsthand how important the services are that William Way provides.”
Goldenburg said the center interviewed 12 candidates before deciding on Ward.
The board will launch its national search for a permanent director soon, and it is expected to take up to eight months.
Ward said she’s eager to lend her talents to helping the center maintain its programs and services, and plans to work to heighten donor support this winter to secure funds for a bathroom renovation project and also to assist in the national search for a permanent director.
The center will host a farewell reception for Goldenburg after its next board meeting, at 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at the center, 1315 Spruce St. For more information, call (215) 732-2220.
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.