In The News


November 14, 2014 by John B. Ward, ISA Certified Arborist

Back in 1983, I was chairman of a committee of the ISA Penn-Del Chapter and established the Certified Arborists of Pennsylvania and Delaware (C.A.P.D.) program. Our certified arborist program was running smoothly with 100 Certified Arborists of Pennsylvania and Delaware. At the time, we never thought ISA would establish a larger, international certified arborist program and incorporate C.A.P.D. But that was where my history of certification began; and now, 31 years later, three of my sons and grandson have joined me in being an ISA Certified Arborist.

My son Jim is president of John B. Ward & Co, Inc. Jim became certified in 1987. When he was seven or eight-years-old he could handle a shovel and knew he would work with me in the business someday. He graduated from Delaware Valley College (Doylestown, PA) with a degree in Horticulture and never looked back. He won the Eastern Penn-Del tree climbing championship in 2000 and would still be climbing if he didn't have all the responsibilities associated with running a busy tree care company. 

Chris, my youngest son, graduated from Penn State University (State College, PA) with a degree in Plant Biology in 1997. He won the Penn-Del tree climbing championship in 2002. Chris is now the manager of Plant Health Care for our company. Chris became an ISA Certified Arborist in 2000.

Matt was a late bloomer in arboriculture. He graduated from Dickinson College (St. Carlisle, PA) in 1989 and worked in the insurance field for 10 years before deciding to come into the business in 2000. Matt manages the business end of John B. Ward & Co. and became certified in 2007. James, son of Jim, attended Paul Smiths College (Brighton, NY), where he received a two-year degree in Arboriculture. He became an ISA Certified Arborist in 2013. James is 22 and is a hard worker. He will be a crew leader in the near future.

I have been retired for 15 years, but I keep an eye on the business. I am very proud of how the business has grown. I used to have a "Ma & Pa" operation with my wife Fran. And even with seven children, she was always there to help run the C.A.P.D. program. The company now has 35 to 40 employees, 13 of whom are ISA-certified, me included. The boys practice what I preached: "be professional in everything you do; take care of your customers and they will help you grow the business."

I remember feeling doubtful when the ISA first called to discuss taking over our Chapter certification program. Our program was hands-on with three different sections to the exam—written, oral, and field identification. The passing grade was a score of 75 in each section; and if you failed one section, you had to re-take the whole exam. However, Sharon Lilly (director, ISA Educational Goods & Services) made us see the benefit of joining the ISA Certification Program and we are proud to be part of its success story: twenty-some thousand certified arborists strong with great benefits to the individual, the chapter, and the organization.

Sharon made believers out of us and made ISA Certification what it is today. Certification has been and continues to be a great benefit for our family and our company. We are proud to share this professional designation with arborists all over the world.

John Ward is the founder of John B. Ward & Co. (, which is a family business that delivers professional tree and shrub care services to Philadelphia's Main Line Communities.
This article originally appeared in the International Society of Arborist's Arborist News - Volume 23 Number 4 - August 2014

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