Gary and Sandy Ward talk about their first date and their growing family.
How did you meet?
Gary: My college roommate said he knew this “real country girl,” so he set us up on a blind date. We were married eight months later.
Sandy: Gary’s college roommate was a fraternity brother of mine in Delta Sigma Pi at Oklahoma University. He thought Gary and I would be a good fit. We talked on the phone a couple of times before our first date. He was a great conversationalist, so I was basically hooked before we ever went out.
What was your first date?
G: Red Lobster followed by an evening of dancing at Charlie’s Nostalgia.
S: Red Lobster was a big deal in Norman, Oklahoma, and Charlie’s was one of my favorite places to dance.
Tell us about your family.
G: We have a daughter, Lauren; her husband, Rusty; and our granddaughter, Clara, who all live here in Columbia. Our son, Matt, lives in Tokyo. And we have a yellow lab, Nala.
S: Lauren and Rusty are staying busy with work and raising Clara. Matt loves Tokyo and is pursuing a career in IT. Nala is our lovable and high-maintenance yellow Lab.
What keeps you busy during the week?
G: I came to Columbia a little over 14 years ago as the associate vice chancellor of facilities here at MU. I am now the vice chancellor for operations.
S: In Pennsylvania, I worked for Mount Nittany Medical Center in human resources. After moving to Missouri, I continued working with them as an independent contractor. Now, I’m back on staff as an administrator of their electronic performance evaluation system.
What is the key to a lasting and healthy relationship?
G: Have a Christ-centered home. Loving and obeying the Lord above all else teaches me the importance of putting Sandy above myself.
S: Shared faith, values, a commitment to make it work, and a few common interests you can talk about.
What is the best quality of your partner?
G: The most important goal for a Christian is to live a life in continued growth to be Christ-like. Sandy is closer to that goal than any other person I have ever met.
S: I admire Gary’s boldness in sharing his faith — he doesn’t hold back.
What is unique about your relationship?
G: Sandy and I are very compatible. We enjoy traveling, eating, and spending time with our family. But we also understand there are some things we do not enjoy doing with each other.
S: Our personalities are different, but complementary. We can always find something to talk about.
What is your favorite Columbia restaurant?
G: The top of our list right now is Barred Owl.
S: Barred Owl. It has such a unique menu.
What does the future hold for the two of you?
G: Watching Lauren and Rusty raise Clara and seeing what great things she will do.
S: My future is focused on being the best wife, mom, and Gigi I can be. I’m just enjoying the journey.
How are Lauren and Clara doing?*
G: They are both doing great, in no small part due to the prayers from this community. I will never forget that horrifically beautiful experience, and every day that I get to see my three girls, it reminds me of how blessed I am.
S: You would never know by looking at Lauren that she went through such a traumatic experience. The experience taught her so much, and she has grown as a result. She is a great mom, and Clara is flourishing under Lauren’s and Rusty’s loving care.
*Read “The Deal,” written by Gary on for the backstory to this question.