John Gardner


Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare



John Gardner was born on October 8, 1912, in Los Angeles, California. He studied at Stanford University, earning bachelor's, a master's and doctorate degrees. After teaching psychology at Connecticut and Mount Holyoke Colleges, he became a Marine intelligence officer during World War II.

In 1946, Gardner joined the Carnegie Corporation, becoming president in 1955. He developed a reputation for using the foundation's funds wisely, as well as promoting unusual but influential educational projects.

Gardner helped provide foundation funding for the educational research of James B. Conant, former president of Harvard University, which proposed major reforms in the American public school system, as well as teacher education.

In 1961, Gardner published a discussion of the dilemma of American democracy and education, entitled "Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too?" Although he was nominally a Republican, Gardner was appointed Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) in 1965 by Democratic President Johnson.

After demonstrating his abilities and social conscience as Secretary of HEW, Gardner resigned in 1968 to become head of the National Urban Coalition.

In 1970, he founded and became the first chairman of Common Cause, a lobbying group to give citizens a greater voice in the political process. As chairman, Gardner helped achieve reform of election law and the public financing of presidential elections.

After two three-year terms as chairman, he stepped down, but remained on the governing board of the organization.