Donor Story: Mark Gardner

A Son Honors His Parents

Essie and Harry Gardner
Essie and Harry Gardner

Alumnus Mark Gardner (’75), of Springfield, Mo., embodies the Truman spirit by actively caring for the people around him and for the world. Fueled by his desire to make a difference in the lives of others, he endowed the Harry M. and Essie M. Gardner Scholarship through the Truman State University Foundation. The scholarship, which Mark named in honor of his parents, Harry and Essie (Kelley) Gardner, will be presented to Truman students in the spirit of the Gardner family’s passion for lifelong learning and their belief that education is the foundation of civilized society.

Mark’s mother, Essie, who was the first member of her family to attend college, took summer classes at Truman for four years in the early 1940s to earn her teaching certification. Known for her hard work, sacrifice, and remarkable sense of selflessness, Essie taught school until she married Harry, then worked outside the home once their oldest child went to college to help finance their educations.

Essie felt it was important to pursue higher education and strongly encouraged her five children to do the same — a vision that her husband supported through his own tireless work and sacrifice. Harry passed away several years ago, and Essie lives in Edina, Mo., a small town about 25 east of Kirksville, Mo.

Like his mother, Mark has strong ties to Truman. In 1975, he graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, and two years later he earned a law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Following college and law school, Mark has led an impressive career. For many years, he represented clients in the areas of business law, commercial law, real estate development and real estate finance. Then around 20 years ago, he formed Gardner Capital, a company that has grown into one of the nation’s foremost tax credit development, investment, and syndication firms. Specializing in affordable housing development, Gardner Capital has sponsored more than $500 million of equity in housing units in 55 communities. The company also invests in renewable energy production facilities and construction management.

Investing in a scholarship at Truman ensures that that Gardner family’s vision of using education to make a better world will live on through future students.

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