Dr. Willard Cates Jr.
Dr. Willard Cates, Jr.

Chapel Hill

The world has lost one of its champions of public health and a pioneer researcher in the fields of HIV/AIDS and women's reproductive health as Dr. Willard Cates, Jr. 73, passed away peacefully on March 17, 2016, surrounded by his loving family. A husband, father, grandfather, educator, and mentor to many in the field of family health, Ward was preceded in death by his father, Willard Cates, his mother, Dorothy Sands Cates, and his sister, Margot Cates Kagen. He is survived by his wife and the love of his life, Joan Roberts Cates; two daughters, Deborah Cates Knighton (Tim) and Sarah Cates Parker (Andy); and four grandchildren, Charles Watts Knighton, Henry Sands Knighton, Katherine Elizabeth Parker, and Addison Margaret Parker.

Ward was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 16, 1942 and grew up in Rye, New York. He graduated from Rye High School in 1960 and Yale University in 1964 with a Bachelor's degree in History. After graduation, Ward traveled to England to further his studies during a fellowship at King's College at Cambridge University. While in England, Ward experienced two unexpected events that shaped the trajectory of his life. First, he met his future wife, Joan, and pursued her throughout the capital cities of Europe. And secondly, Ward was injured during a rugby game, which subsequently sparked his interest and lifetime passion in medicine and public health. Shortly thereafter, Ward returned to Yale University where he was the first to complete a combined M.D./Masters in Public Health degree in 1971. After a stint in the United States Army where Ward achieved the rank of captain, he began a two year fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Epidemic Intelligence Service, a fellowship that helped to launch his long and storied career in reproductive and public health.

Ward began his fellowship shortly after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and became engrossed in the field of women's reproductive health. He served as the first permanent Chief of the Abortion Surveillance Branch at the CDC where he quickly emerged as the world's leading abortion epidemiologist. After nine years in the Family Planning Evaluation Division of the Abortion Surveillance Branch, Ward became the Director of the Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases at CDC, a position Ward took at the dawn of the HIV epidemic in the United States. Working on the Kaposi Sarcoma/Opportunistic Infections Task Force proved challenging yet rewarding for Ward who became an HIV/AIDS expert. This experience helped to shift his career path as he became interested in the international epidemic.

In 1994, Ward was recruited to work as a researcher at Family Health International (now FHI 360), a leading global development organization. Ward was the President/CEO of its Institute for Family Health and was serving as the President Emeritus of Research at the time of his death. During his time at FHI 360, Ward worked as principal investigator on many microbicide trials including the CAPRISA 004 trial of 1% tenofovir gel, a trial which showed a 39% reduction in HIV acquisition among women using the gel. From 1997-2002, Ward was a scientific investigator for the HIV Prevention Trials Network and was a principal investigator for the Microbicide Trials Network. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine.

A renowned leader and mentor, Ward has inspired two generations of leading scientists, public health officials, and clinical practitioners and provided much guidance for those in the fields of family planning, STD/HIV prevention, and epidemiology. Perhaps the best documentation of his leadership is his co-authorship of eight editions of Contraceptive Technology, widely regarded as the standard textbook in family planning. Ward was also a regular speaker at the twice-yearly Contraceptive Technology conferences and he co-edited two supplements on family planning and HIV for the journal AIDS.

As accomplished as he has been in his professional life, Ward found his greatest joy from his family. Known as Bompa by his grandchildren, he loved hearing about and following the interests of his children and grandchildren. Whether on the sidelines watching his family excel on the fields or on the comfort of his couch while following Duke basketball, the L.A. Dodgers or Red Zone, Ward was always the loudest fan cheering for the things he loved.

A private interment will be held at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. A celebration of Ward's life will be held later in the spring. In Ward's memory, contributions would be much appreciated to The Guttmacher Institute, 125 Maiden Lane, 7th floor, New York, NY 10038, Guttmacher.org
Published by The News & Observer on Mar. 19, 2016.
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48 Entries
I have waited awhile to send a message after learning of the passing of my dear friend and colleague. It just impacted me so much... I couldn't find the right words to express how much this very special colleague and human being meant to me.

He recruited me to CDC and changed my life! This was a bold and visionary move as there had never been a health psychologist at CDC before Ward recruited me into the CDC EIS program in 1987. I will be eternally grateful for his unwavering support . He was my very first mentor on the road to public health and the global fight against infectious diseases like AIDS and the real fight against the human fear and misunderstandings and politics that go along with it. I was so incredibly lucky to have Ward as my leader, mentor and warmest friend and colleague. His sunny disposition helped to minimize problems and lighten the load.

He lives on most vividly in my memory and in the memoirs I am now writing... There will be a special section devoted to Ward!

With my deepest sympathy and the loving kindness he spread everywhere he went in this world and with every soul he touched. I honor the role model he was by trying to imitate his enthusiasm and cheerful optimism for life that will forever inspire me! I have thought of him often...especially when faced with complex political challenges like the ones I often face leading controversial evaluations of the UN's effectiveness. Ward was the kind of open-minded leader so necessary in these challenging and changing times. I know he will be missed dearly and remembered forever by those who knew him.

My deepest regards,
Deborah Rugg PhD
CDC EIS class of '87 - Wards's HIV/STD Division
Deborah Rugg
April 6, 2016
My first encounter with Ward was in the hallway of FHI...he welcomed me by using my name despite the fact we had never been introduced. As a new employee (my first real job after graduate school) I can't describe how welcomed that made me feel. He will truly be missed.
Holly Hawthorne
March 31, 2016
I worked closely with Ward and came to love and respect him very much. He will be greatly missed.
Schatzi McCarthy
March 31, 2016
It's easy to see giants in fields like sports or politics. But in the world of people helping other people, it is harder to see them. The people who knew Ward, who worked with Ward, saw that he was a giant humanitarian, with a giant personality and a giant heart.
Patrick Murphy
March 31, 2016
Dear Joan and family, Sincerest condolences for your loss. We know Ward is at peace. Will always remember his happy positive mood and how it affected all he knew. Thinking of you,
Norma and Paul Herd
March 30, 2016
Throughout my professional career, it has always been refreshing and inspiring to meet a down-to-earth colleague who was an "out-of-the box" thinker and dedicated to improving the quality of public and community health especially in STD/HIV prevention and reproductive health. Therefore, I am deeply saddened by the news about the passing of Dr. Willard Cates, Jr.

Dr. Cates was indeed an "out-of-the box" thinker within the STD/HIV prevention and reproductive health communities as well as a down-to-earth person. It was in the early 80s when I first met "Dr. Ward". He attended one of my STD Clinicians' Laboratory Methods Training classes after he had been named Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Dr. Ward's positive assessment of my technical knowledge and training skills has always been a highlight of my 35 years as a STD/STI instructor in CDC's National Network of Prevention Training Centers. Dr. Ward's professional evaluation and follow-up comments were deeply appreciated because they helped to validate the STD Laboratory Methods curriculum and "hands-on" training techniques used for the national STD/STI Clinicians training program in Baltimore, MD.

As we bid farewell to our visionary colleague, I extend my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr. Cates. Indeed Dr. Willard (Ward) Cates, Jr. has left an amazing medical and public health legacy that will continue to impact the lives of numerous people worldwide.
Sally S. Cherry, BS, MT(ASCP)
March 26, 2016
My condolences to the family. What a fine man... a champion for me and women the world over. I have heard him speak many times at CT conferences. Thank you Ward Cates for your lifetime of work, dedication, and passion for women health and abortion rights!
Cindy Dinsmore CNM
March 26, 2016
On behalf of the entire American Airlines Admirals Club staff at Reagan National airport we offer our deepest
condolences. Over the many years he flew AA Dr. Cates became one of our very favorite passengers. He will be truly missed.
Georgina Pennie
March 25, 2016
I intersected with Ward for only a brief time at CDC during the 1980s, but I will never forget his effervescent enthusiasm and commitment.
Jim Buehler
March 25, 2016
The Global Health Community has just lost a public health giant whose untimely passing will be felt by all. During his tenure at CDC, Ward embodied the best core values of public service and public health. His contributions in advancing reproductive health and HIV have inspired generations of public health practitioners who have followed in his footsteps.
Patricia Riley
March 23, 2016
Joan, Cindy and I send our sincerest condolences to you and the family. Ward as such a wonderful friend as well as colleague, and his inspirations to me extended to my students, post docs and fellows. We smile in gratitude remembering Ward, knowing that his impact on us, and our commitments to women's and men's reproductive health, endure.
David Katz
March 23, 2016
Ward was a champion--he was clear about what was important and pursued it with energy, courage, grace and humor--whether it was fighting for women's health in difficult political circumstances, tweaking bureaucracy, or being clear about the priority of family and friends. He will be greatly missed.
Claire Broome
March 22, 2016
We've lost an outstanding colleague: dedicated researcher, talented speaker and inspiring teacher. Condolences to all his family and friends
Dennis Christensen
March 22, 2016
Joan: I am so sorry to learn of Ward's passing. Like countless others I considered Ward to be among the very best in public health and a treasured colleague and friend. No one was more effective and inspiring to us young and old. Condolences and best wishes....Jim curran
James Curran
March 22, 2016
I am so sad to hear of your loss. Ward was my first, and my brightest intern at the University of Virginia and I followed his subsequent career with enthusiasm and pride. I wish I could claim credit but it was Ward, his enthusiasm for medicine and science, his judgment and insight. The world is a better place (at least a little) because he was in it. He leaves a legacy and something for all of us to try to emulate.
Jay Hoofnagle
March 21, 2016
My condolences to your family. We heard of Ward's passing on Saturday at the Contraceptive Technology conference in San Francisco. Jim Trussell let us know and there were many tears in the room. I learned a lot from Ward at these conferences and am keeping an email I got from him with advice from a few years back. A grateful fan from the contraceptive world....
Amy Reichbach
March 21, 2016
My sincerest condolences to the Cates family, I am so sorry for your loss. Ward was my first Division Director at CDC and I'll never forget the pride I felt when I got my first "Kudos!" from his famous blue marker. He was such an inspiring, warm and generous leader, a true champion of women's reproductive rights, and a cherished colleague. He will be greatly missed.
Christine Galavotti
March 21, 2016
So sorry to hear about Ward's untimely passing. I remember Ward from when I first came to CDC after my master's degree way back in 1980, then again with EIS in 1983. He was so dynamic and fun, working in a field I was interested in. My condolences to families and friends--and the PH world leading this champion.
Gayle Windham
March 21, 2016
Farewell to a brilliant thinker, a committed public health leader, a generous colleague, and a wonderful man. I wish I had a recording of Ward's "job talk" for dean of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health - the best autobiography and vision presentation I've ever heard. Joan and family, my heart goes out to you.
Victor Schoenbach
March 21, 2016
Joan, Deborah and Sarah,
I am so sorry for your loss! Ward was a great man with a wonderful laugh. He will be missed by many!! We shared many fun times on the tennis courts and at the pool watching swim meets.
Gail Roper
March 21, 2016
I am very sad and shocked to hear ward Cates passing away. I met him at a workshop in Nairobi 30 years ago. I met him again at CDC in 1991. He always had a smile and kindness in him which I will remember.
May God bless his soul.

Viny Bhullar
March 21, 2016
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I am so sorry for your loss. May God continue to lead and guide you in the days ahead.
Catherine Forbes
March 21, 2016
Ward was a charismatic, inspirational EIS mentor -- quick witted, funny, and highly supportive to the EIS Class of 1989 - he and Polly Marchbanks were our EIS Guides...and he was our introduction to CDC. His work in women's reproductive rights is a great legacy.
Bruce Bernard
March 21, 2016
My deepest condolences to Ward's family and friends. I'm one of the many whom he inspired by his example -- not only his scholarly expertise, but his fundamental civility and kindness.
Anjani Chandra
March 21, 2016
So sad to hear of this. My thoughts are with his family. He was so kind, committed to public health, and a wonderful leader.
Kata Chillag
March 21, 2016
Ward always had a smile and a compliment -- a fantastic mentor and leader to decades of epidemiologist. He will be missed by many
Wick Warren
March 21, 2016
Thank you Ward for being there for us. I will always be grateful for your mentorship at FHI. Boaz Otieno-Nyunya, CDC Kenya
March 21, 2016
I feel very privileged to have known and been mentored by Ward Cates during my one year 1998/1999 fellowship at FHI's RTP stint in North Carolina. He was indeed a towering figure and very jovial personality. He bestrode the narrow public health world like a colossus. I remember very clearly when he personally signed the copy of the CTR publication. May he RIP. Prof Boaz Otieno-Nyunya
Prof. Boaz Otieno-Nyunya
March 21, 2016
So sorry for your loss. Ward was a friend and inspiration to me and many others throughout our public health careers.
Joel Greenspan
March 21, 2016
Thanks Ward for shining your light so brightly. You are already being missed by many at CDC.
Deblina Datta
March 21, 2016
Ward was my cousin. I will remember his huge smile and infectious laugh! And his perpetually boyish face! Gone too soon!
Gretchen Japhet
March 21, 2016
Ward was an inspirational teacher, mentor, and a wonderful human being.
Tracey Wilson
March 21, 2016
I had the privilege of working with Ward in one of the many public health organizations he supported and to which he shared his time, energy, and expertise. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to learn from him. May your fond memories of Ward bring you comfort and ease the pain of your loss.
Lisa Strader
March 21, 2016
It was an honor to work with Dr. C. He was a mentor and the best Duke fan ever. My prayers for the family.
Jennifer Capps
March 21, 2016
So very sad to hear of Ward's death; I met Ward in 1980 and always looked forward to running into him at professional conferences. A brilliant man, but also a warm, kind-hearted, generous man. That combination is all too rare.
Michael Klitsch
March 21, 2016
Sending warm thoughts to the family at this time. I know you have many, many good memories, and I hope they help sustain you during this time.
Pat Curtin
March 20, 2016
Dr Cates was such an inspiration to so many of us who worked at FHI. He always was so positive and encouraging and made everyone feel special. He was a true advocate for global health. He will always be remembered fondly.
Maddy Marasciulo-Rice
March 20, 2016
Love you Uncle Ward!! You're were the kindest man I've ever known. Thank you for the memories you gave me with your fantastic wife and beautiful daughters. Love always.
Kristin Greenhalgh
March 20, 2016
I knew Dr. Cates when I was a child and tween and will always be thankful for the guidance and warmth that he extended to me. I will always remember his big smile, joyful laughs, and energy. He was an inspiration to me with his running, which I continue to do to this day. He was not only a great friend and neighbor but a great role model, father, and husband as well. I had the privilege of being a part of family activities and fun, which the memories I greatly cherish and always will. One memory I'll never forget is dancing and singing like crazy to his CCR vinyls in the living room. I am deeply saddened by his passing, but I know that he left this world a better place through all of his contributions and influences. I am grateful I had a chance to know him and will always remember the great man he was. My deepest sympathies go out to Joan, Deborah, and Sarah. Prayers going up for all.
Debbie Probst
March 20, 2016
The world has lost one of the best. I wish his family comfort and peace.
Deborah Hilgenberg
March 20, 2016
Ward was a wonderful man. I had the privilege of working with him over many years. He was the best and as a result everyone around him gave their best. I learned a lot from him and the world is better off because Ward was here.
Thomas Coates
March 20, 2016
I am so sad to hear this news. My prayers go out to Joan, his daughters, and grandchildren. Ward has mad an impact on the world that will never be forgotten. My deepest sympathy goes out to the entire Cates family and their friends. We have lost a true hero! Hugs
Susan Lynette
March 19, 2016
Ward inspired me as head of EIS when I started in 1991. A generous, kind, and dedicated man, he had time for everyone, no matter who they were and what they did. He made amazing contributions to public health and was loved by everyone. We miss you Ward. May your memory be a blessing.
Becky Prevots
March 19, 2016
It was my honor and privilege to work with Ward at FHI, where he was known for his quick intelligence, playfulness, sense of humor, diplomacy, enthusiasm, cordiality, and confidence-boosting leadership. My sincere condolences to his family.
Kim Best
March 19, 2016
On behalf of my classmates in the Yale Class of 1964, I extend condolences to Ward's family and friends. Ward had many friends in our Class and will be greatly missed. The Class Council passed a resolution (www.yale64.org/news/cates.htm) in his honor at its annual meeting in February. We mourn his passing and will remember him on our Class Website (www.yale64.org), in the July-August 2016 issue of Yale Alumni Magazine, and at a memorial service on campus during our 55th reunion in May 2019. Anthony M. Lavely, Class Secretary
Anthony Lavely
March 19, 2016
I will never forget Ward and all that he taught me. He greatly influenced my approach to global health philanthropy and how to think in terms of human outcomes.
Michael Bzdak
March 19, 2016
It was my privilege to work with Ward for many years. He was one of the smartest people I knew. But more than that, he was kind, funny, and a good human being. Joan, I am so sad for you and your daughters. Please know I send my heartfelt condolences.
March 19, 2016
I am so sad for you Joan. I know how much he loved you and the girls. I will miss his wit and laser pointed determination.
Carol Hayes
March 19, 2016
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