John Gardner (Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services)
JG:That was my first job and it was really a blessing. I worked for Ewing and Muriel Kauffman, at their home estate in Kansas City, from about 14 to 18 years old. Ewing made his fortune in pharmaceuticals, but his true legacy is that he ultimately began what is arguably the world’s leading think tank on entrepreneurship – the Kauffman Foundation.
In his later years, he also founded the Kansas City Royals, the smallest market-based baseball team in the nation, and vowed that they were going to win a World Series, which they did (in 1985). Though Kauffman left ingenious provisions for the Royals having to remain in Kansas City after his ownership, the team has never seen the success they had under Kauffman.
In hindsight, I have likely underestimated the impression he left upon me; but then, I was at a very impressionable age.
I believe our challenge in the reorganization process – not just in Advancement and External Affairs – is focusing on what our future as a land grant institution can be across the university. I’m hopeful we can stamp our own special brand. For example, it was nice to see the recent Wall Street Journal story recognizing how we’ve become a favorite target for companies recruiting new employees.
Well, I’ve worked at five land grant universities now. And what I love about that is the mission and focus on public service – providing knowledge, helping people succeed. I take that very seriously.
JG: When Elson introduced the concept of these four divisions to me, I thought to myself, ‘OK there’s an opportunity here, and I’m looking, but I’m not sure what it is.’
In looking at it now, I realize it’s kind of a cube concept with Yin-and-Yang forces that lead to the same result.
JG: Washington, I’d guess, has over 1,600 registered nonprofit philanthropic organizations, with nearly 500 of them focused on food, environmental and agricultural systems. Most people don’t realize the breadth and scale of this sector.
JG: It may not be possible in the end, but I’m flexible. Right now I’m back and forth because I’m still shedding a bit of a calendar from my old assignment, which I am delegating. Overall, that’s a good thing, because we have a number of people who can step into that role and begin planting more seeds. It’s not one person, but a team that includes President Floyd.
JG: At public universities nationwide, the funding sources are definitely shifting. So, we have to restructure the university such that we can respond and put ourselves in the best position to earn those resources – state and federal funding, gifts and grants, as well as the trust and investment of students via tuition. The value of investing in WSU must be clear and real.
JG: The key is it needs to be a contemporary design.
And we also help take care of my mother, who unfortunately – as our children are traveling the world – is in the process of leaving the world. She suffers from terrible dementia and just advanced to a new stage of reality.