Father, husband, brother, son, grandfather, uncle, friend, colleague, academic leader, visionary, mentor, and soldier, Henry S. (Hank) Gardner, Jr., DrPH, MSPH, 71, died peacefully on August 9, with his family at his side.
Dr. Gardner was Associate Vice President for Research at Colorado State University, where he led the research development portfolio and built collaborative research opportunities between CSU and academic, government, and private sector partners. He was also instrumental in the formation and development of the Colorado School of Public Health, the only graduate school of public health in the region, and one of the only schools in the country combining the expertise of faculty and research across multiple university partners.
“As a retired military officer, he was proud of the collaborative work done with the 10th Special Forces Group and the founding of the Office of Defense Engagement at CSU,” said his family in a story about Hank’s life posted on CSU’s online newsroom.
During the formative years of the Colorado School of Public Health, many worked closely with Gardner including ColoradoSPH’s Founding Dean Richard Hamman, MD, DrPH. “During the school’s development, there were many unsung heroes, and Hank was absolutely one of them,” reflected Hamman. “In fact, he provided the catalyst for forming a school of public health in this region when he suggested that CSU should start a school, but it turned out that CU had more resources at that time, so we worked together.”
“Hank was a genuinely kind and caring person and was instrumental in implementing the Colorado School of Public Health, especially on the CSU side,” said Tracy Nelson, MPH, PhD, director of ColoradoSPH at CSU. “He started us out and laid the foundation for a long history of support and collaboration around public health education, research, and community practice in the state and region.”
Hank was born October 18, 1951, in Paducah, Kentucky, and although Hank attended many schools as his family followed his dad’s military career, he always called the Rocky Mountains home.
He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Biology at the University of Montana “on the 6-year plan to accommodate his fishing, skiing and soccer passions.” Hank later joined the U.S. Army, and while enlisted, he obtained a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) from Tulane University. While later stationed at Fort Detrick, Maryland, he was medically retired from the Army due to multiple sclerosis, and as a civilian, he continued to work for the Army managing numerous medical research projects and scientists. It was during this time that he obtained a Doctorate in Public Health (DrPH) as a Kellogg Fellow at Johns Hopkins University.
Gardner continued to be very interested in ColoradoSPH after it was established in 2008 and followed its growth throughout his time at CSU and into his retirement, often reaching out to the school’s deans, including Cathy Bradley, PhD, while she was Associate Dean for Research for the school and as Deputy Director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
“I never got to meet Hank in person, but he would reach out about research I posted on LinkedIn, and we would have brief discussions,” said Bradley. “He was very kind and always interested in the school and its happenings. We are forever indebted to him and others who helped us launch a school of public health that has proved so successful in this region. We are highly ranked nationally and have more than 3,000 graduates, most of whom reside in Colorado and this region, buoying the public health workforce and research engine here in the state. This school is part of Hank’s legacy, too.”
“He was always helpful, thoughtful, and energetic,” added Hamman. “He was instrumental in the school’s creation and will always be remembered by me and others for what he contributed to higher education, public health, and research in Colorado.”