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Judith Gardner
Judith Gardner

Writing program director dies after cancer battle

By Diane Abdo
Lecturer, UTSA Writing Program

(May 28, 2008)--When UTSA Writing Center Director Judith Gardner left her UTSA office May 12, she had completed more than a day's work; she had completed her life's work. Gardner died May 22.

Diagnosed with cancer two years ago, almost to the day, Gardner had been preparing her faculty to continue their work without her.

Before she took her planned medical leave this summer, she familiarized an interim director with her duties, set the wheels in motion to appoint an interim Writing Center director, drafted the fall teaching schedule for the 63 faculty members under her charge, began revisions to the department handbook and cleared her desk.

Gardner joined the UTSA faculty in 1980 in the Department of English, Classics and Philosophy. The numerous teaching and service awards she garnered were testimony to the affection and respect for her by students and colleagues.

She was the first recipient of the President's Excellence in Teaching award for non-tenure track faculty, winner of the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation award, University Honors Program Faculty of the Year and most recently the recipient of the Outstanding Educator Award from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

She was the consummate educator. "I could ask her anything, and she would know the answer," said Hortencia Sauceda, Gardner's senior administrative associate for the last six years. "Her knowledge about UTSA was not just about academics; it was about the students."

On most days, Gardner arrived on campus at 6 a.m. and left at 6 p.m. She was always searching for ways to better serve the students to whom she was dedicated. As a result, she played a key role in the Learning Communities program, as well as in the Writing Across the Curriculum program.

Gardner supported all aspects of the university community. She raised money for the Women's Walk for Athletics, helped collect food and funds for the feral cats living in the outlying campus areas, sponsored student organizations including Golden Key and even had a bit part in a Bargain Basement Players production.

Perhaps her greatest accomplishment was the growth of the Writing Center she directed. She extended the center's hours, created a course to train students in Writing Center tutoring and expanded the center to multiple locations -- two in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building and locations in the residence halls and at the Downtown Campus.

"She had an incredible ability to handle herself with kindness and a firm sense of direction for what she wanted," said Clay Hackett, Writing Center computer technician and former tutor. "She had a knowledge and strength we all benefited from."

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A memorial service for Judith Gardner is 11 a.m., Saturday, May 31 at Porter Loring Mortuary North, 2102 North Loop 1604 East at Gold Canyon. For more information, call (210) 495-8221.

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