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Remembering Professor Gardner

Prof. Beth Gardner with four of her former students (left to right): Dora Kaluma ‘11, prof. Beth Gardner, Barbara Dowd ‘69, Liz Azu ‘13 and Amy Fraser ‘10

Beloved Emerita Professor of Biology Elizabeth Ballantine Gardner passed away on December 1st, 2020. For more than 50 years, Beth was an active member of the Pine Manor College community, dedicated to the success of the students and the College. Prior to joining the Pine Manor College community, Beth earned her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from Vassar College and her PhD. from Brown University. She joined Pine Manor College in 1967 beginning her career here as both a faculty member and the Chair of the Department of Natural Science. When Pine Manor College became a 4 – year institution, she became the Chair of the Division of Sciences. Over the remainder of her career, she continued to be a leader on campus through several terms of service chairing her department, her Division or various committees. As Chair of the Division of Science, she worked closely with Dr. Nancy White to develop a Bachelor’s degree in Biology which was approved by the Board of Higher Education, a major which still remains today. According to Dr. White, “this was one of the best things we did for the College”. One of her most enduring contributions to the education of the students was her work on the complete reconfiguration and renovation of the Dane Science Building. From design to implementation she was the “hands-on” primary driver of the project. This major renovation provided space, equipment and technology to complement the modernization of the science curriculum; it provided teaching laboratories, a classroom, a computer lab and faculty offices. Beth taught courses for 50 years, most as a full-time faculty but remained as a faculty emerita teaching one course a semester for several years following her retirement. She created a variety of courses such as Biopsychology, Psychopharmacology, Human Genetics, Nutrition, Biology of Women and Drugs and Society. She made science accessible to all students regardless of their major. She challenged her students in the classroom and was dedicated to the success of them all. In 2008, she secured a grant from the National Science Foundation to fund the “Bioscholars Initiative” which provided financial support to students of promise. She recognized the need to offer enhanced technology to students and generously and repeatedly donated classroom technology to the labs as well as Chromebooks for student use in the science building.  She was beloved by her students.

Upon learning of her passing, a large group of former students have paid tribute to Beth by noting that she was their favorite teacher, had a tremendous impact on their career path and was an amazing mentor and adviser. Following her retirement from active teaching in 2018, Beth remained as an integral member of the College through her work volunteering with the Development Office and the College’s Physical Facilities Committee. More recently, she was working with colleagues to secure funding to renovate the greenhouse that had been established by her family in her honor. Her dedication to PMC was recognized when she received the Distinguished Service Award. According to President Rosemary Ashby when presenting the award, “This award offers particular recognition of Dr. Gardner’s superb leadership of the College’s Committee on Facilities. In this capacity, Dr. Gardner has spent innumerable hours well beyond her time teaching. She has led the committee in its important work throughout the past four years. Pine Manor continues each day to benefit from the depth of her experience and the soundness of her judgment.” She was a mentor and friend to many members of the faculty and staff of Pine Manor College. Each year, she brought her friends and colleagues together for potluck birthday lunches on campus and more recently, organized a night out to celebrate the birthdays of her friends on campus. Beth was respected as a serious colleague, committed to excellence, always looking for ways to improve herself, her peers, her students and the College. She will be sorely missed by all of us but her legacy will be remembered by all who were impacted by her over these last 50+ years.