David P. Gardner, former U of U president, dies at 90

Jan 3, 2024, 11:00 AM | Updated: 1:00 pm

Gardner speaks at the inauguration for Ruth V. Watkins, the 16th president of the University of Uta...

Gardner speaks at the inauguration for Ruth V. Watkins, the 16th president of the University of Utah, was held Friday, Sept. 21, 3 p.m. in Kingsbury Hall on the U campus, Salt Lake City, Utah. (The University of Utah)

(The University of Utah)

SALT LAKE CITY — Former University of Utah President David P. Gardner died on Tuesday. Deseret News reported that an undisclosed lingering illness caused his death. He was 90 years old. 

Gardner served as the University of Utah’s president from 1973 to 1983. According to the University of Utah, he was its 10th president. 

“President David Gardner was the visionary leader the University of Utah needed at a time of significant growth,” said Taylor Randall, the school’s current president. 

According to the University of Utah, Gardner worked to establish higher admission standards during his tenure at the University of Utah.

He also expanded the university’s research efforts by raising the budget significantly. 

The significant salary increases that Gardner provided to university faculty “[made] the U competitive with the nation’s top research universities,” according to the University of Utah. 

Gardner also helped secure $50 million for the University of Utah’s hospital and medical school. The funding led to increased enrollment in the university’s medical programs and medical breakthroughs, such as the first artificial heart transplant, according to the University of Utah. 

The career of David P. Gardner

Gardner received a B.S. in Political Science, History, and Geography from Brigham Young University. He later earned an M.A. in Political Science and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Early in his career, Gardner worked as an assistant chancellor and education faculty member at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Gardner became the chancellor-executive assistant at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1969. According to the University of Utah, “he is credited with playing a key role in keeping communications open during the riots that broke out on campus in 1970.” 

According to the University of California, Santa Barbara, students were protesting the Vietnam War at the time. 

Following his tenure at the University of Utah, Gardner served as the president of the University of California’s nine schools. 

When Gardner departed from his position at the University of Utah, a building on President’s Circle was renamed in his honor. Gardner Hall currently functions as the home of the University of Utah’s School of Music. Additionally, the concert hall in the heart of the building is named for his wife, Libby. 

Throughout his career, Gardner advocated for improving the U.S. public school system and prioritizing undergraduate studies. He gained national attention through his work, publishing several works. 





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David P. Gardner, former U of U president, dies at 90