One thing any Freed-Hardeman student would attest to is the fact that they love their teachers. Dedication, professionalism, accessibility, and a genuine interest in students’ success are just a few of the characteristics that FHU teachers possess. Something students might not think about as often, however, is that the FHU faculty also have this to offer: exceptional academic and educational experience rooted in a background of real-world application. Dr. Jim Gardner, Associate Professor of Philosophy at FHU, is a particularly shining example of just that.
While students may know Dr. Gardner best for his love of mountain climbing and moving chapel speeches, his participation on campus demonstrates his love for FHU. Apart from teaching Bible, Art History, and Values, Dr. Gardner is Chairman of the Honors Committee, participates annually on the Freed-Hardeman Lectureship, teaches and preaches regularly in Churches of Christ and has written on a wide variety of subjects. He has also participated in FHU sponsored mission trips and taught in the Italy study abroad program in 2008.
When asked what kind of impact he has had on his department, all Dr. Gardner had to say was, “nothing worthy of mention.” His students attest that this is most definitely not the case. “Humility and passion,” said student Bailey Gillreath, “are two of his most defining characteristics. Not only does it show in the classroom when he teaches, but it’s written across his face when he preaches or does any kind of public speaking. Its apparent that he’s brilliant, but what is even more obvious is his love for mankind, his sincerity, his generosity, and above all, his love for Christ.”
While Dr. Gardner might not toot his own horn, his resume would do it for him. He graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School, and has done additional work at Dartmouth College and the University of North Carolina—Greensboro. As a teacher, he served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law and as an adjunct lecturer at the College of Business Administration.
His work as a businessman is equally as impressive. Dr. Gardner spent twenty years practicing corporate law and held various management positions in the coal mining industry. Dr. Gardner joined Freed-Hardeman in 2005 after retiring in 2004 as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Massey Energy, a large mining company with annual revenues in excess of $2 billion and whose common stock is traded on the New York Exchange. Dr. Gardner also served as a Director of Massey Energy, and continues to serve today on the Board of Directors of another publicly-traded energy company.
So what motivated an Ivy League graduate to leave a multi-billion dollar company to come to Freed-Hardeman? According to Dr. Gardner it was his “love for teaching, especially the bible.” “What I like most about Freed-Hardeman,” Dr. Gardner said, “is the devotion and purpose of the school and its faculty. I generally regard my students as though they were my own children. I feel very strongly that the school has great value in the intellectual, spiritual and personal lives of our students and I am honored to be a part of that.”
Dr. Gardner has also served churches of Christ in many capacities, including deacon, elder, pulpit minister and nine years of full-time mission work. He and his wife Becky have been married for 37 years and have three daughters, the youngest of whom is a student at Freed-Hardeman.