Photos Courtesy Of NDSU and Ron Ward
Ron Ward was on the scout team for the Bison when they won the 1985 Division II Championship. Today, he’s a district sales manager for Cardiovascular Systems, Inc.
When Ward played football for NDSU in 1985, the Bison Pyramid of Success listed the top priority as becoming national champs. Now working for a medical devices company out of Fargo, positive patient outcomes have taken over at the top of the pyramid in his work incorporating revolutionary technology into the operating room.
Unpacking folders full of papers from his time as Bison, Ron Ward sifted through memories over 30 years old. Among playbooks, media kits and photos is a laminated piece of yellow paper. The top right-hand corner reads, “We approach this season with a singleness of purpose.” Parts of the document where the letters overlap onto the boxes of the pyramid hint at a bygone era of typewriters.
Just days before NDSU would go on to win their most recent championship in 2018, Ward revisited his experience as a part of a national championship team in the ‘80s. Wearing a shining reminder of the accomplishment on his finger, the former wide receiver explained the part he played on the championship team in 1985. As a newcomer to the team, he ran a scout offense in practice, trying to emulate the opponent’s offense against the Bison defense.
“Our No. 1 offense doesn’t practice against our No. 1 defense,” Ward said about the scout dynamic present during his years and even now. “You have those young guys, the freshman and sophomores doing everything they can to break the lineup and play, but at the same time pretend they’re a James Madison player and be as good as they can at creating a situation that looks game-like to the defense.”
While he didn’t hit the turf in the 1985 Palm Bowl where the Bison defeated North Alabama, he wasn’t just a fan on the sidelines either. Alongside his fellow underclassmen, he was an essential part of the team’s foundation, adding immeasurable enthusiasm to the magical moments just before victory.
“As we watch this run to Frisco, a lot of people are pretty excited in Fargo about how things have gone in the recent years,” Ward said. “But once you’ve strapped it on as a Bison, it just brings it to a whole other level of how proud you are of what they’re doing.”
The second national championship Ward experienced was at Frisco in the 2011 season, the moment NDSU made a name for themselves in Division I football. This time, the pride he felt was amplified by the company of his son, Joshua, who shared in the nostalgic victory.
“We sat in the south end zone with almost all players that didn’t get to dress and other students in the area, and that was a lot of fun being near those guys because they’re so passionate,” Ward said. “Even though they’re not on the field, they have a different perspective on what’s happening.”
His football career with the Bison may have ended after the 1985 victory, but that didn’t stop Ward from continuing to make connections at NDSU. In fact, a chance meeting in the living room of the old Farm House Fraternity would eventually end up in 29 years of marriage to Carrie Mears.
“The funny thing is Carrie and I were both born in Rolla, North Dakota, same doctor, same hospital only 45 days apart, and I didn’t meet her until my third year of college,” Ward said. “My parents lived in Bisbee and she lived in Rolla, but we moved away to Austin, Minnesota, where I actually grew up and graduated high school.”
Shortly after Ward earned his business degree with a minor in economics and marketing, the couple got married at St. Mary’s in Fargo before picking up and moving to Grand Forks. Starting out in sales, Ward went on to work for pharmaceutical and medical device companies, taking him to the Twin Cities and then back to Fargo again.
Servicing ten hospitals in the area, Ward is currently a District Sales Manager for Cardiovascular Systems, Inc. In addition to providing hospitals with technology that facilitate stent delivery in patients with coronary artery disease, Ward also works in the hospital’s catheter labs, training physicians how to use the technology he supplies.
Being Good At Doing Good
Using a tiny, diamond-tipped drill bit strung through an extremely durable wire, patients can be treated for severe heart issues via their veins. Moving through the body like bead on a string, the device spins at a high velocity across calcified arteries to remove any blockages in the heart or outer extremities.
“You can be good at what you do, but is what you do really good?” Ward said. “For me, it’s really rewarding every day to go to work and save someone’s foot or toes. Or in some cases someone comes in with a heart attack and instead of them either dying or going to open-heart surgery, we can go in through the wrist to open up the vessels and put in a stint. They’ll go to cardiac rehab and be just fine.”
Using this minimally invasive technology recovery times, risk of infection and expenses for both hospitals and patients are reduced, and in some cases, the last resort of amputation in patients with diabetes can be avoided through early intervention.
“Our response is we’re canceling your amputation,” Ward said. “The cascade of morbidity that occurs when you start cutting things off, people’s chances of dying become astronomical. When we can save someone from an amputation, that’s a huge thing.”
Building trust with the facilities he services, Ward’s job goes beyond just sales. As an integrated part of each hospital, he sees the inner workings of hospitals around the region, offering medical solutions and guidance on how to operate the technology.
But in a field focused on hard figures, Ward makes his position about more than just profit by giving, rather than getting. Building up the foundation of his own personal Pyramid of Success, Ward continues to lay the bricks of his life even after playing for Bison Football.
“It’s about being the person who wants to be a go-giver rather than a go-getter, who gives way more than they ever expect to get,” Ward said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s family, relationships, work, whatever it is, give them more than they ever expected to get. People will go above and beyond for you when you’ve demonstrated a track-record of you doing that for them.”