Name: Edward Nolan “Ned” Willard
Family: Married to Maria Beasley Willard. They have a son, Kerry, 6, and a daughter, Finley, 2 months.
Occupation: Legal administrator
Ned Willard was named after a character in a first-grade reading book.
“The story is my sister named me. She was in first grade at the time and said, ‘If this is a boy, could we name him, ‘Ned?’ My mom said, ‘Sure.’ I was the sixth of seven children, and mom was tired making up names, so I was named Ned -- a character in ‘The First Reader,’ a first-grade reading book.”
Willard grew up in Knoxville, graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis, returned home and worked for his father’s roofing company for a few years before he earned his master’s degree. “I was doing the program at UT, met someone who worked at Maryville College and stayed there 13 years,” he says.
He then worked briefly at Akins Crisp Public Strategies before he landed a job as legal administrator at Paine Tarwater and Bickers in September, 2009.
Ned and Maria Willard are the adoptive parents of a son, Kerry, who is 6, and a daughter, Finley, 2 months.
“With the one child, we felt we had it down pretty good,” says Willard. “Adding Finley to the mix has added a whole new dimension. Kerry has been a great big brother, very loving, understanding and caring. It has been harder on me in terms of lack of sleep. That has been a bit of a challenge, but Maria has done great.”
Willard says when they couldn’t have children, adoption was their way of completing their family. “The decision to adopt both was very easy. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Here is Ned Willard:
Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“I’d like to think I got the best of both of them. I definitely look like my mother, Mary Catherine Willard, and have her disposition, but I see a lot of my dad, George Willard, in me as well.”
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
“It is from ‘The Graduate,’ a classic movie that I’ve seen too many times. The line is very early in the movie, and Dustin Hoffman’s character’s family is having a welcome back party for his graduation from Harvard and all their friends are there. One guest corners him and says, ‘I want to tell you one thing…plastics... that all I want to say.’ This was in 1968 when plastics were on the verge of breaking out.”
What are you guilty of?
“Too much snacking at night when everyone else has gone to bed, plus not getting enough exercise.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“Until I get my yacht, I really don’t have one.”
What are you reading currently?
“Let’s just say I keep plenty of options on my nightstand. I’ve got ‘The Shack’ on the top of the stack right now, along with some ‘Runner’s World’ magazines.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“Visit Ireland with my family, take my wife to Italy and finish a book before my wife does. She reads much quicker than I do.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Friendly, dependable and loyal.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I’d like to have musical talent.”
What is your passion?
“Cooking with garlic - you can never use too much garlic. I’m not a cook. My wife is the cook but we both love garlic.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“My grandfathers - James Edward Willard and Joe Hughes. They both passed away before I was born.”
If a movie were made about your life, who would play you and why?
“Taylor Hicks - he’s my doppelganger. My wife answered that for me. When Taylor Hicks was on ‘American Idol,’ people said I looked like him.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“I’d go back to 1984 and talk myself out of the mullet haircut I wound up with. It was the Rick Springfield look. It was one of those weak moments I let some girl talk me into a hairstyle.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“Actually, my most memorable ‘non-present’ was one I received from my parents. I was 8, and they were in Arizona for my birthday. At the store there they picked up a box for an NFL piggy bank and didn’t realize it was empty. You can imagine my surprise and disappointment. It has always been a running joke.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
She told me, ‘Ned, you need to marry that girl,’ - and I did. I met my wife through Maryville College. A friend of hers who worked with me introduced us.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“My six siblings have taught me much, including humility, because brothers and sisters can be ruthless.”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
“As far as Facebook goes, I just go out and see what is going on with everybody else and very rarely update my own.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“Roofer. It was hot, hard and messy work. It was difficult, but I enjoyed working with the crew. They taught me more about life than I ever thought possible.”
What is your theme song that best describes you?
‘“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes’ by Jimmy Buffett. One line says, ‘If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.’ It is probably not the most philosophical of songs, but it is pretty much right on target.”
What irritates you?
“Divisive politics. It is almost frustrating to watch. If we could just talk to each other, just learn to respect and tolerate each other’s opinions, then I think we could go a lot further.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“Our local schools. There are miracles performed there every day that go completely unnoticed. It’s amazing. I think it is important to go back to the roots of what it is all about - educating students and doing what is right for the student. Bring the student along. Standards are there for a reason, but we can’t let standards be the only guide. You have to listen to the teachers: Don’t just teach to the test, teach the students.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“Travel while you’re young. See the sites. Immerse yourself in other regions of the country and experience the vast cultures of the world. I wish I had done more of that.”