TRUMAN STATE UNIVERSITY Pickler Memorial Library Truman State University

Kenneth Leroy Gardner
Assistant Professor of Physical Education
& Track Coach, 1951-1988
Athletic Director, 1974-1988

Ken Gardner, the son of Homer L & Helen (Hartsock) Gardner, was born February 12, 1919 in Iowa City, IA.   Raised in Iowa City, he moved to Warsaw, IL just before his senior year in high school and was one of Warsaw High’s outstanding athletes in football and track.  He graduated in 1938 was recruited by Northeast Missouri State Teachers College (now Truman State University) where he was named to the MIAA All-Conference football team in 1940 and 1941.

World War II interrupted Ken’s college education for a few years while he served in a US Army field artillery unit in Europe and North Africa.  He earned both a Silver Star and a Purple Heart and was discharged at the end of the war with the rank of Major.

After discharge, Ken reentered NMSTC where he again made All-Conference in 1946 and completed his education with a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1947.  For the next four years, 1947-51, he was Head Football Coach at Marceline High School and in ’51 returned to his alma mater as an instructor in physical education and Assistant Football Coach.  He also returned to the classroom as a student and earned his Master of Arts in 1952.  He was named Head Track Coach in ‘52 and over the next 30 years led the Northeast Bulldogs to 19 indoor and 15 outdoor conference track championships.  He also held the posts of assistant football and assistant basketball coach during those years and in 1974 was named Athletic Director. He remained in this position until he retired in 1988. 

Gardner was in the first class of inductees into the NMSU Athletics
Hall of Fame when it was instituted in 1983 and in his position as Athletic Director, was Chair of the selection committee from then until his retirement.  The old track at Stokes Stadium was replaced with a new 8-lane all-weather track in 1996 and was named the Kenneth L Gardner Track in his honor.  He was honored by his coaching peers in 1974 when he was named Coach of the Year by the Missouri Track & Cross Country Coaches Association and in 1984 when he was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame.  

Ken and Ethelyn Larner married May 26, 1946 in Warsaw, IL.  They had two children, a daughter Barbara Lynn Gardner who died in infancy and a son Richard Dean Brownlee.  Ken died in a Columbia, MO hospital February 8, 1992 and was buried at Maple Hills in Kirksville. 


Please Note: This biographical sketch has been compiled from secondary sources and may not be complete or totally accurate; it is therefore subject to update or correction.


Dailey, Pat.  “A Legend Leaves Us: Athlete, Coach and A.D. Gardner Dies”.  Kirksville Daily Express. 9 Feb 1992
“Gardner Inducted into Coaches Hall of Fame”.  Kirksville Daily Express.  2 Dec 1984.
Kenneth Gardner.  Truman State University Athletics Hall of Fame.
Kenneth L Gardner File.  University Archives, Pickler Memorial Library, Truman State University.
“Obituaries: Kenneth Leroy Gardner”.  Kirksville Daily Express.  10 Feb 1992.



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Rev 4/19/2006


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