John Gardner, who over a decade held a variety of leadership positions at Washington State University, most recently as vice president of University Advancement and chief executive officer of the WSU Foundation, died at his Bainbridge Island home Sunday. He was 60.
“There is no doubt that we are a better university today thanks to John’s leadership,” WSU President Kirk Schulz said in a letter to the WSU community. “From leading our economic development activities, to working with our partners to advance WSU’s clean technology initiatives, to guiding our $1 billion fundraising campaign to a successful conclusion, John’s legacy will shape the University’s future for decades to come.”
Gardner came to WSU from the University of Missouri system in 2007 and served four years as vice president for economic development and global engagement. In 2010, President Elson Floyd named him vice president for university advancement and external affairs, where he oversaw the launch of the public phase of the Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas. The drive ultimately exceeded its $1 billion goal in summer 2015, with more than 206,000 donors contributing.
Gardner left WSU in 2011 and spent three years as provost and dean at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. He continued his relationship with WSU while there, supporting the Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and the Environment being led by WSU and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He returned to WSU in 2014 to be vice president for development and CEO of the WSU Foundation. He announced his retirement from the University in April 2017. A crop physiologist with a PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Gardner was also a WSU professor of crop and soil sciences.
After his retirement, WSU Foundation volunteers, staff and leadership pledged more than $50,000 to create an endowment in the name of Gardner and his wife Julie. The John and Julie Gardner Food for Health Fellowship will support one or more graduate medical students conducting human nutrition research at WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, particularly where those studies involve joint research in crop and soil sciences related to improving crop plants for food.
Gifts to support the John and Julie Gardner Food for Health Fellowship may be made online.