professor, School of Journalism, MSU
Early on, Mary Gardner set her eyes on a career in medicine. Born in 1920, she earned a degree in pre-medicine and bacteriology in 1942 from Ohio State University. A year later Gardner enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. When she retired from the Marine Corps Reserves in 1976, she held the rank of colonel. In 1953 she earned a master’s degree in mass communication from OSU, and seven years later became the first woman to earn a doctorate in journalism from the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation focused on the Inter-American Press Association, a group that would later honor her with a citation for “contributions for professionalism and Inter-American understanding.” In 1970, Gardner began what was to be a 20-year summer commitment to El Norte, a daily newspaper in Monterrey, Mexico. She led various short courses for the staff, critiqued the paper and wrote the paper’s style manual. She also urged the paper’s owner to hire women. Today women are among the top editors at the paper. “One of the things I’m proud of is they (El Norte’s editors) began to recognize that women can be just as talented as men,” Gardner wrote. Gardner taught at the University of Texas, for five years before moving to Michigan State University in 1966, where she became the J-School’s first woman tenure-stream faculty member. She taught copy editing, reporting, international journalism and several honors and graduate-level courses. Her many awards include the National Headliner Award from Women in Communications, the MSU Distinguished Faculty Award and the MSU Woman Achievement Award. In 1979 she was elected the first woman president of the Association for Education in Journalism.