Guy S. Gardner, a former NASA astronaut, Air Force fighter pilot and test pilot, teacher, and head of two schools, has been named Williamson’s 12th president. The announcement was made by William J. Bonenberger 7W9, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees and chairman of the search committee tasked with finding the successor to Paul A. Reid, who is retiring as president after 13 years. Gardner will assume the presidency July 1, 2009.
Bonenberger said, “Being charged with the responsibility of finding and hiring the president of any educational institution is a crucial task for any search committee. Finding the successor to President Paul Reid at Williamson, a man who over the last 13 years has taken Williamson to a new higher level of excellence, is even more formidable. All members of the committee knew both the difficulty and importance of the task. We also knew to be successful we needed to enlist the help of faculty, administration, alumni, and students to provide input and observations on a different level. Their participation in the process was invaluable.
“The choice of Guy Gardner as Williamson’s next president was unanimous among the committee members. We feel that he not only has the requisite work and life experiences necessary, but that he also best exemplifies the five core values of Williamson and lives them daily. He has risen to the top in every endeavor he has ever undertaken. He is a proven leader and a man of deep faith. He also has a deep desire to impact young men through education at a very critical point in their lives. We are very excited about Guy being Williamson’s next president.”
Wayne C. Watson 4W8, board chairman, said “After an exhaustive search of nearly one year across the entire country, we are thrilled Guy Gardner will be Williamson’s next president. His career background and educational experience lend themselves perfectly to his duties here. We are also looking forward to having his wife Linda be our first lady.”
Gardner said, “Linda and I are very excited about joining the Williamson family. We are really looking forward to serving with all the outstanding staff, faculty, and students, and consider it an honor to join them in Williamson’s noble mission of preparing deserving young men to be useful and productive members of society.”
Since April 2006, Gardner has been superintendent of Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga., an independent boys college preparatory school serving about 300 cadets in grades 7-12. From 2004-06, Gardner served as director of super project development at Purdue University in Indiana where he helped manage research programs, taught engineering, and assisted the Development Office and Alumni Association in donor and alumni support.
Gardner began his flying career in 1972 as an Air Force fighter pilot, flying 177 combat missions in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War while stationed in Udorn, Thailand. He then served as an instructor and operational pilot at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. After attending test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base in 1975, he served as a test pilot and instructor test pilot, including a tour of duty at Clark Air Base, Philippines, as a squadron operations officer. From 1980-91, he served as a NASA astronaut, piloting two space shuttle missions. In 1988, he piloted Orbiter Atlantis, which carried a Department of Defense payload and was the second space shuttle launched after the Challenger disaster, and in 1990 he piloted the Orbiter Columbia, carrying an astronomy laboratory. He also worked in other areas of space shuttle and space station development and support. In 1991, Gardner served as the commander of the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1992 as a colonel, he served at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., as the initial director of the joint U.S.-Russian Shuttle-Mir space flight program, which made joint flights possible. After attending the Defense Systems’ Management College in 1994, he became director of the Quality Assurance Division, Office of Safety and Mission Assurance. In 1995, he joined the Federal Aviation Administration as director of the William J. Hughes Technical Center at the Atlantic City International Airport, N.J. He then moved to FAA headquarters in 1996 as the associate administrator for regulation and certification, leading the government organization responsible for oversight and regulation of civil aviation safety. From 1998-2001, after leaving government service, he served as a motivational/educational speaker to students across the country and, in 1999, he fulfilled his second career aspiration by becoming a high school mathematics and physics teacher in Virginia. Gardner has also served as principal and director of Omega Systems Group, Inc., a risk management consulting firm, and as vice president of Space Adventures, Ltd., a space tourism company.
Gardner, who was born in Altavista and grew up in Alexandria, Va., earned a bachelor of science degree with majors in astronautics, mathematics, and engineering science from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1969, graduating fifth in a class of 683; a master of science degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University in 1970, being named an Outstanding Aerospace Engineer; and a master of arts degree in education from Virginia Tech in 2000, being certified in mathematics and physics. Additionally, he has taken numerous flight, leadership, and management courses, including program management courses at the Defense Systems Management College. In the Air Force, he attended Air Command and Staff College, Experimental Test Pilot School (where he was the top graduate), Pilot Training (where he was the top graduate), and Instructor Pilot School.
Gardner has served on various boards, as an adult and youth Sunday school teacher, speaker to school, church, and civic groups, church youth group leader, and Explorer Post leader. He has received two Defense Superior Service medals, the Air Force Legion of Merit, the Defense Distinguished Service medal, NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 14 Air Medals, the Test Pilot School Outstanding Academic Instructor and Outstanding Flying Instructor, Top Graduate in Test Pilot School, Top Graduate in Pilot Training, Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy, and Outstanding Aerospace Engineer of Purdue University.
He and Linda, his wife of over 38 years, who is an elementary school teacher in both public and private Christian schools, have three adult children, Jennifer, Sarah, and Jason, and two grandchildren.
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