It is with a heavy heart that I pass along the news that John Gardner, whose leadership played an integral role in guiding the University to several notable achievements during the past decade, passed away peacefully at his home on Bainbridge Island near Seattle yesterday morning.

There is no doubt that we are a better university today thanks to John’s leadership. 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.

But more than the achievements, it was John’s genuineness and compassion for others that endeared him to all whom he met. As John’s daughter Kate wrote on his CaringBridge site, he was a “living example of grace, generosity, and thoughtfulness.” For all of us who are blessed to have known him as a colleague and friend, I cannot think of a better description for someone as selfless and full of life as John Gardner.

John celebrated and cherished the relationships he built with friends, colleagues, and collaborators during a career in which he served five land-grant universities across the nation. He lived each day with a genuine curiosity and infectious optimism for the people and world around him.

John joined WSU in 2007 as vice president for economic development and extension to focus on strengthening the University’s ties to the economic development of the state. In 2010 he was named vice president of advancement and external affairs and oversaw the launch of the public phase of WSU’s $1 billion fundraising campaign.

After leaving the University in 2011 to serve in the senior academic post at Bainbridge Graduate Institute near Seattle, he returned to WSU in 2014 to oversee the conclusion of the fundraising campaign, which surpassed its goal. He announced his retirement from the University in April 2017.

Our thoughts are with Julie, their son Johnny, daughters Kate and Elie, and the entire family in this immensely difficult time. The Gardner family will share details about a service on CaringBridge when they are ready.