Derek Ward (DNW) retires

Mr Derek Noel Ward (OS 1978) retired in 2021 after 30 years of extraordinary service to Sydney Grammar School.
The following tribute was extracted from Mr Tom Watkins’ farewell speech.


Derek started teaching at College Street in 1991 when the Headmaster, Dr RD Townsend, initially offered him a one-year teaching position. At the time of his employment, Derek had completed his postgraduate study at UNSW where he reconnected with Dr Bill Pender. Dr Pender had taught Derek in Form IV.

Derek maintained a strong philosophy with his teaching, knowing his subject in depth and continuing to work on how to teach it, all at the highest level. Naturally and rightfully, this approach led to boys and masters having a special respect for DNW. Whether in 6A or 3I, the boys being taught by him were always given a remarkable and thorough mathematical experience.

Colleagues will remember Derek for his integrity, hard work, brilliant mathematics and his influence for good. He is a humble man who cares deeply about colleagues and boys. As a first-class mathematician he is meticulous in everything he does; it must be done right. He has an amazing ability to study the tiny details of a topic without ever losing sight of the global picture. In his Cambridge textbook, he used this knowledge to transform the syllabus into a clear and systematic development of the subject. His perfectly accurate diagrams stand out. His co-authoring of the senior mathematics textbooks for the HSC and his internal mathematics notes will stand the test of time. The masterclasses he ran for the department on Extension 2 over a number of years provides a window into the School at its best.

To quote the mathematician GH Hardy, directly from the Form V Extension 1 textbook, “the mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s, must be beautiful. The ideas, like the colours or the words must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test.” Derek leaves behind a body of work with a professional beauty that will endure.

(Pictured: Mr Tom Watkins, Deputy Headmaster, delivering his tribute address for Derek)

Derek is also a programmer and IT specialist. Over 25 years, he has improved database systems used at Grammar, regularly sending corrections and changes to the program developers. He programmed the School’s database to do the examination scaling and HSC statistics.

As a Tutor, Derek was known to bring his order and style to his Tutorial. Having the notable achievement of being in the role since the Grammar House system began in the early nineties, he has been the common factor of the Black and White House as it moved from Mr Andrew Yabsley to Ms Sharon Ditmarsch to Mr Jason Slater. Derek has taken six Tutorials over this time. As ever, he was the ultimate professional in this role, getting on well with his tutees and their parents.

In football, Derek made his mark as a coach from the 14s to the Opens and he was Master-in-Charge of football for six years during a successful sporting period for the Grammar Football (Soccer) Club.

We wish Derek and his wife Keryn the very best of luck and good health in this next phase of their lives as they relocate permanently to New Zealand to enjoy plenty of photography, singing and a few more sums for good measure.

Derek’s legacy at Grammar will be a lasting one for boys and masters. We are proud to have worked with Derek and it is no surprise that colleagues refer to him as “a scholar and a gentleman”. Indeed, a true master.