Family and friends remember former FHU President

HENDERSON, Tenn. — Former Freed-Hardeman University President Dr. E. Claude Gardner passed away Sunday.

“My father died when I was 12 and a half, so Dr. Gardner was a great example to me,” Sam Hester, Gardner’s son-in-law, said.

“I think he was a person of continuous improvement,” Phyllis Hester, Gardner’s daughter, said.  “He would make a plan and make sure that plan is carried out.”

He moved to Henderson in 1949 and impacted not only Freed-Hardeman, but also Chester County.

He was crucial in starting the Chamber of Commerce, Crime Stoppers and Chester County senior citizens.

“He came here and began as chairman of the education department,” current FHU President David Shannon said.  “He also served as a dean, as a registrar, as a vice president and eventually president for about two decades.”

During his 20 years as president, the university saw tremendous growth. More than a dozen buildings were built during his presidency.

“We had to build dorm, after dorm, after dorm, because we had no place for them,” Sam Hester said.

He was also known by many as a gospel preacher, holding hundreds of gospel meetings.

“Every year he would go to the Southern Association and bring us back presents. From Florida, it was a stuffed alligator… He would bring me book sometimes,” Phyllis Hester said.

And he made sure to never forget someone he met.

“Throughout those 20 years you can go back and ask all of us students that were here. What you’ll hear over and over is he knew my name, he always asked about my siblings and my parents and even after I left he still kept up with me,” Shannon said.

He would’ve been 93 later this month.

The funeral for Dr. Gardner will be inside the Lloyd Auditorium on Freed-Hardeman’s campus at 2 p.m. on Saturday.