John W. Gardner

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John W. Gardner
Photo of Gardner from White House Fellows release
Born John William Gardner
(1912-10-08)October 8, 1912
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died February 16, 2002(2002-02-16) (aged 89)
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
Resting place San Francisco National Cemetery in San Francisco, California, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Aida Gardner
Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964)
Public Welfare Medal (1966)

John William Gardner, (October 8, 1912 – February 16, 2002) was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) under President Lyndon Johnson.


A native of California, Gardner attended Stanford University. As an undergrad he set several swimming records and won a number of Pacific Coast championships, and graduated "with great distinction." After earning a Ph.D. at the University of California in 1938, Dr. Gardner taught at Connecticut College and at Mount Holyoke.

During the early days of World War II he was chief of the Latin American Section, Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service. He subsequently entered the United States Marine Corps and was assigned to the O.S.S., serving in Italy and Austria.

He joined the staff of the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1946, and in 1955 he became president of that group, and concurrently, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.[1] He also served as an advisor to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations and as a consultant to the U.S. Air Force, which awarded him the Exceptional Service Award in 1956. He was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and of the Educational Testing Service and a director of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. He served as chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund Panel on Education, and was chief draftsman of that group's widely circulated report, The Pursuit of Excellence.

He was also the founder of two influential national U.S. organizations: Common Cause and Independent Sector. He authored books on improving leadership in American society and other subjects. He was also the founder of two prestigious fellowship programs, The White House Fellowship and The John Gardner Fellowship at Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. In 1966 Gardner was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.[2]

Gardner's term as Secretary of HEW was at the height of Johnson's Great Society domestic agenda. During this tenure, the Department undertook both the huge task of launching Medicare, which brought quality health care to senior citizens, and oversaw significant expansions of the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 that redefined the federal role in education and targeted funding to poor students. Gardner resigned as head of HEW because he could not support the war in Vietnam.[3]

Gardner was featured on the cover and in an article of the January 20, 1967 Time magazine, and later that year also presided over the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

He served on the Stanford University Board of Trustees from 1968 to 1982.

In 1970, Gardner created Common Cause. He also founded the Experience Corps.[4]

In 1973, he received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[5]

In 1980-1983 he co-founded Independent Sector,[6] which lobbies and does PR on behalf of tax-exempt organizations in order to retain the charitable deduction.

In September 2000, Gardner lent his name and support to the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities[7] at Stanford University, a center that partners with communities to develop leadership, conduct research, and effect change to improve the lives of youth.

Gardner died of cancer in San Francisco on February 16, 2002. He was buried in San Francisco National Cemetery there.

Publications and speeches[edit]

  • Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too? (1961)
  • To Turn the Tide (1962)[8]
  • Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society (1964)
  • No Easy Victories (1968)
  • Uncritical Lovers, Unloving Critics (1968)[9]
  • The Recovery of Confidence (1970)
  • In Common Cause (1972)
  • Morale (1978)
  • Quotations of Wit and Wisdom (1980)[10]
  • On Leadership (1990)
  • Living, Leading, and the American Dream (2003)
  • Commencement Address at Stanford's 100th Commencement Ceremony (PDF) (Speech). Stanford University. June 16, 1991. Retrieved January 9, 2013. 

The John Gardner Fellowship Program[edit]

The John Gardner Fellowship Program [11] was established in 1985 by Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley to honor alumnus Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Johnson.[12] The fellowship encourages highly motivated graduating seniors to pursue careers in public and community service.[13] Three fellows from each university are chosen annually and provided with placement assistance, a $27,500 stipend, and a senior mentor in their placement organization. Past placements have included the White House, the Department of State, and nonprofit organizations at the national, state and local levels.

Initial funding for the fellowship was provided by the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Educational Foundation of America, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Millennium Fund, and Michael Walsh. Over time, additional foundations, corporations and individuals, including growing numbers of fellowship alumni, have contributed to the program.

The John Gardner Fellowship Association is an association of John Gardner Fellowship alumni from both Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, whose mission is to carry on Gardner's legacy of public service and ensure that the Fellowship programs at both schools have adequate resources for success.

Notable Fellows[edit]


  1. ^ Foundation History
  2. ^ "Public Welfare Award". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Article on Gardner's resignation from HEW
  4. ^ History of Experience Corps
  5. ^
  6. ^ Independent Sector
  7. ^ John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities
  8. ^ Editor
  9. ^ 100th Anniversary Cornell Commencement address given June 1, 1968, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
  10. ^ Edited with Francesca Gardner
  11. ^ John Gardner Fellowship Program
  12. ^ Plaut, Julie L. (2003). "The citizen of his era": John W. Gardner and public life in the twentieth-century United States. Indiana University. p. 24. 
  13. ^ Havemann, Judith (Nov 8, 1986). "Mid-career fellowship applications down". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Anthony J. Celebrezze
United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
August 18, 1965 - March 1, 1968
Succeeded by
Wilbur J. Cohen