Chris Ward ’76

2012 Distinguished Citizen Award

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On September 11, 2011, thousands of family members gathered at the 9/11 Memorial in New York to remember their lost loved ones on the 10th anniversary of the events. Only three years before, construction at the World Trade Center site had been stalled by competing interests, an economic recession, and the sheer complexity of what is arguably the largest public works project in the United States. Then someone with a talent for forging cooperation and a zeal for public service took over and made things happen, transforming a site of devastation into a beautiful memorial where families—and the nation—could focus their remembrance. That someone was Chris Ward.

As executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 2008 to late 2011, Chris was responsible not only for the World Trade Center site, but for Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, the PATH rail transit system, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, all critical to the 17 million people who live and work in New York and New Jersey.

Chris modestly downplays his personal role in all this. “Sometimes public service comes down to convincing people to say yes. People’s natural instincts are to say no, because yes will bring about change. For whatever reason, I’ve become good at getting people to say yes.” Without probing, you would never know that on September 11 Chris himself was trapped by debris from the North Tower until rescued by firefighters.

Chris recently turned over the reins of the Port Authority and became executive vice president of the large international construction company Dragados, which specializes in infrastructure, including tunnels, bridges, roads, and dams.