Mitch Ward has had an illustrious career as a small business owner, public servant and philanthropist since he left the University of Arkansas in 1983.
Ward started his education in Arkansas’ public schools in the 1960s. He grew up in Magnolia, Ark., where his family encouraged him to participate and stay involved with the community and the church. He came to U of A in the late ’70s and graduated in 1983 from the Sam M. Walton College of Business with a Bachelor of Science in business administration in information technology and quantitative analysis. He was the pledge president and student government representative for Kappa Alpha Psi.
“[I] started my education under Arkansas’ segregated school system in the 1960s, even after it was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in the 1950s. Yet here I am having overcome that barrier. Education, now as then, is empowerment and that empowerment should be afforded all,” Ward said.
After graduation, Ward was a top recruit out of college and immediately found work in IT. He worked for Conoco as an IT development expert in the early ’80s in Ponca City, Okla., and as an IT consultant for several years in New York before moving to his current home in Southern California.
“It was very comforting to know I had employment once I graduated,” he said.
In 2003, he started his own IT company, pC? Help Professionals, in Manhattan Beach, Calif., serving as its CEO. His company largely serves and services the entertainment industry and regional municipalities.
“One of the reasons that I did IT under the business college was that it focused on the marketing aspects; that was what I really enjoyed. The accounting aspect also, not one of my favorites, but it is also part of the business. I got a well-rounded curriculum from the U of A as a business owner with an IT emphasis,” he said.
He has done little looking back since he graduated, but with the success of his business, Ward, along with encouragement from his friend and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother, Oliver Sims, donated to the Black Alumni Society scholarship. “I remember receiving a small scholarship while I was in school. It wasn’t a lot, but it stuck in my mind–it was someone wanting to help,” said Ward, remarking on why he felt the need to pay it forward.
Ward, a man of calm demeanor, recalled an Arkansas Alumni Association newsletter he received in the ’80s that inspired him, seeing how U of A graduates could be leaders in business around the nation and the world. He said that as important as his alma mater is to him, he doesn’t want to spread himself too thin because “you may dilute yourself of the accomplishments you’re trying to achieve.”
In addition to his company, he has had a prolific civic career that eventually developed into philanthropy. His civic career started in California on the Manhattan Beach Cultural Arts in 1995. Ward has served as a Manhattan Beach city council member, was elected twice as mayor of Manhattan Beach, and has been part of numerous boards and committees all serving Southern California.
In 2004, he started the Manhattan Beach Youth Recognition Award scholarship, an annual scholarship given out to two juniors or seniors in Los Angeles County with academic excellence and financial need.
“I established the Manhattan Beach Youth Recognition Award scholarship 10 years ago to make education more affordable and the right of every American citizen who desires to be educated,” Ward said. “I am absolutely positive that a well-educated populace will continue to move our society and nation forward in this globally competitive and connected world.
“In the end I am very fortunate to have been educated at both the University of Arkansas and University of Southern California,” Ward said.