E. Claude Gardner, 92, of Henderson, went home to be with the Lord Sunday, December 31, 2017. Funeral services will be conducted on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at 2 p.m. at Loyd Auditorium on the campus of Freed Hardeman University. Visitation will be from 4-9 p.m. on Friday January 5, 2018 at the Henderson Church of Christ building and from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. at Loyd Auditorium on January 6.
E. Claude Gardner was born January 16, 1925, to O.A. and Edna Gardner. He was valedictorian of his high school class in Marmaduke, Arkansas. He graduated with a junior college degree in Bible from Freed Hardeman College in 1944. In 1945 Gardner married the former Delorese Tatum, having met her in Chapel Hall when they were both students at Freed Hardeman.
Gardner graduated with honors from Abilene Christian College in 1946. After receiving a master’s degree at Southwest Texas University, he began his teaching career in 1948 in the Rosiclare, Illinois public school system. The following year N.B. Hardeman hired him to head the Department of Education and Psychology and to teach Bible at Freed Hardeman College.
Dr. Gardner moved into administration in 1950, when he assumed the duties of Registrar in addition to his teaching responsibilities. He became Dean of the college in 1956 and second in command of the school, remaining Dean-Registrar until 1969 when he was named Vice President of Freed Hardeman. He became president 1969. He served as Chancellor from 1990-92 and then became President Emeritus. Gardner received five honorary doctorates during his tenure.
At the influence of his parents and Elza Huffard, Gardner, who began his preaching career at age 15, has since preached for several congregations both in this country and abroad. He has conducted 375 gospel meetings, written 500 articles for religious publications, and has authored eight books.
Dr. Gardner has also been very active in his community, serving as a founder of the Chester County Senior Citizens Group, the Chester County Chamber of Commerce and the Chester County Crime-stoppers. He served on the Board of Directors of the Chester County Bank.
A man of resolute determination with a clear vision of what he hoped Freed Hardeman University could become, he strove 43 years to make that vision a reality. Gardner was known to close chapel services at the university with the words, “Shall we go?” Those three words reflect the forward-stepping approach evident in his life and work. At age 92, he was still seen at campus events and remained keenly interested in the progress and future of Freed Hardeman University.
Dr. Gardner is survived his four children, Phyllis (Sam) Hester, Becky (Larry) Cyr, Claudia Goodson (Steve Kubik), and David (Pat) Gardner; grandchildren Kristen (Jeremy) Hicks, Beth (Julio) Rivas, Adam (Tosha) Cyr, Nick (Cait) Gardner, Bennett Gardner (fiancé Julie), and Madison Gardner; great grandchildren Tucker Cyr, Breanne Gardner and Tessa Moore.
He is preceded in death by his parents, his wife of 56 years Delorese; second wife, Glenda Jacobs Gardner, and brothers, Stanley, Don and Albert; and sister, Ethel Jordan.
Memorials may be made to the E. Claude and Delorese Gardner Scholarship at Freed Hardeman University.