LOCAL NEWS

Former University of Utah President David P. Gardner dies at 90

Jan 3, 2024, 11:34 AM | Updated: 11:52 am

David Pierpont Gardner, the 10th president of the University of Utah and a national education leade...

David Pierpont Gardner, the 10th president of the University of Utah and a national education leader, died Tuesday of a lingering, undisclosed illness. He was 90 years old. (David Titensor, University of Utah)

(David Titensor, University of Utah)

SALT LAKE CITY — David Pierpont Gardner, the 10th president of the University of Utah and a renowned national education leader, died Tuesday of a lingering, undisclosed illness. He was 90 years old.

Gardner served as U. president from 1973 to 1983 and led the university through a period of significant progress and growth.

According to a statement from the U., Gardner is credited with elevating the academic excellence and prominence of the university and strengthening its status as a major research institution. He was a widely recognized thought leader and expert on education. He advocated for improving American public schools and making undergraduate education a national priority.

“President David Gardner was the visionary leader the University of Utah needed at a time of significant growth,” said U. President Taylor Randall in a statement.

“On his watch, our admissions standards increased, our research enterprise was strengthened, the university’s budget more than doubled, and our hospital and medical school grew,” Randall said.

Gardner was considered a diplomatic advocate for the university and its students. He was recognized for his commitment to excellence and for being a powerful voice of education in the state of Utah and the rest of the country, according to the U. statement.

“He pushed us to do better, to be better,” Randall said. “His vision and passion helped lay the groundwork for the university to become the top-tier research institution that it is today.”

In the epilogue to his 2005 memoir, “Earning My Degree: Memoirs of an American University President,” Gardner listed several experiences he treasured. Among them was “the lights of the great ‘U’ on the mountain rising east of the University of Utah campus, lit for a game and then blinking in victory or steady in defeat.”

Gardner was born and raised in Berkeley, California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, history and geography from Brigham Young University. He received a master’s degree in political science and a doctorate in higher education from UC Berkeley. His dissertation, “The California Oath Controversy,” earned acclaim for its portrayal of the controversy that rocked the University of California from 1949-52.

Gardner began his professional career as assistant chancellor at UC Santa Barbara, where he also held a faculty appointment in education. In 1969, he was appointed vice chancellor-executive assistant at Santa Barbara and associate professor of higher education. He is credited with playing a key role in keeping communications open during campus riots in 1970.

While at UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education, Gardner outlined his guiding principles: freedom to learn, the unhindered pursuit of truth and a life committed to academic freedom.

“The university is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas. Thus, it permits the freest expression of views before students, trusting to their good sense in passing judgment on these views,” Gardner said. “Only in this way can it best serve American democracy.”

Gardner was appointed president of the University of Utah in 1973. He was committed to improving the academic excellence of the university and led initiatives to establish more rigorous admissions requirements.

A major focus of his decade-long administration was to expand the U.’s research efforts. He raised the university’s budget from $102 million to $264 million and increased faculty salaries significantly, making the U. competitive with the nation’s top research universities.

He also led efforts to secure $50 million in state and private funds to expand the U.’s hospital and medical school. Enrollment in health sciences programs grew and major medical breakthroughs, including the first artificial heart, occurred during his tenure. Income from patents and commercial licenses on inventions from university faculty grew to millions of dollars.

Gardner gained national recognition as an expert on higher education, publishing dozens of books, articles and reports throughout his career.

In 1970, he was asked to testify before President Richard Nixon’s Commission on Campus Unrest, where he recommended that undergraduate education be placed nearer the top of national educational priorities.

In 1974, a Time magazine article named Gardner one of the 200 men and women “destined to provide the United States with a new generation of leadership.”

While serving as U. president, Gardner served as chairman of the Department of Education’s Commission on Excellence in Education, which authored the landmark 1983 report “A Nation at Risk,” which sparked a national effort to reform America’s public schools.

Gardner left the University of Utah in 1983 to lead the nine-campus University of California system. Upon his departure, Gardner Hall on President’s Circle was renamed in his honor. The concert hall within the same building was named in honor of his wife, Libby Gardner, after she passed away in 1991.

Gardner served as UC president from 1983-1992 and is credited with strengthening the system’s financial base. He successfully campaigned for a permanent 32% increase in state funding, allowing the university to raise faculty salaries and undertake several new initiatives. He helped secure public and private funding for a $3.7-billion building program.

During his tenure, the University of California increased admissions requirements and improved academic standards. Enrollment rose by 25,500 to 166,500. In response to a projected 60,000 additional students by 2005, Gardner proposed a tenth campus. UC Merced was completed after his departure.

After serving as UC president, Gardner presided over the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation from 1993 to 1999, and was chairman of the board of the J. Paul Getty Trust from 2000 to 2004. He was a member of the National Academy of Education and the American Philosophical Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

First responders on the scene of the single vehicle crash that injured two people....

Michael Houck

Two hurt after a single vehicle crash on Trapper’s Loop

One person was flown to the hospital after crashing into a guardrail on Trapper's Loop Monday afternoon. 

10 minutes ago

A reflective monolith found by Vegas Metro Search and Rescue near Gass Peak over the weekend....

Michael Houck

A reflective monolith appears in outskirts of Las Vegas

Three years since a mysterious monolith appeared in the Utah wilderness, a new one was found in the mountains near Las Vegas.

44 minutes ago

Rep. Celeste Maloy, R-Utah, the incumbent candidate running for the 2nd Congressional District, spe...

Mary Culbertson

Trump endorses Celeste Maloy for re-election ahead of GOP primary

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Congresswoman Celeste Maloy just over a week ahead of the GOP primary.

1 hour ago

FILE — police lights...

Mary Culbertson

Toddler severely injured in Draper crash

A toddler was severely injured in a Draper crash Monday.

2 hours ago

Officials at Grand Canyon National Park say a hiker died at the parkon Sunday, June 16, 2024. (Nati...

Mark Jones

Hiker dies at Grand Canyon National Park

Officials at Grand Canyon National park say a hiker died over weekend inside the park.

2 hours ago

(File)...

Eliza Pace

37-year-old man accused of sexually exploiting 17-year-old girl in Cedar City

A Las Vegas man has been arrested and accused of sexually exploiting a 17-year-old girl at a hotel in Cedar City.

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Former University of Utah President David P. Gardner dies at 90