Martin Austin, who this month ends two years as council chairman, was at the meeting but would make no comment afterwards. The meeting was held at Fanshaws, the IMI's luxurious headquarters in Hertfordshire.
Mr Ward, aged 64, resigned at a scheduled council meeting and is said to have gone on a planned holiday the following day.
Staff at Fanshaws were shocked by the news of Mr Ward's sudden decision to leave so close to his 65th birthday, the Institute's usual retirement age.
Mr Ward, who is negotiating a severance package, will not be a guest at this month's annual dinner despite his long association with the IMI.
Marketing director Peter Creasey was made IMI caretaker director general until a replacement is appointed. Mr Ward had held the position since 1982 and spearheaded the IMI's programme to encourage training and raise professional standards in the motor industry.
His other positions in the industry include chairmanship of the Prince Michael Road Safety Awards. Mr Ward is a non executive director of Warranty Holdings Group.