William I. (Bill) Gardner, age 85, of Madison, passed away peacefully on Saturday, November 29, 2014, after an inspiring fight against a long series of illnesses.
Bill, fondly known as Bud to family, was born on Christmas Day, 1928, to Clifton and Rillah Gardner, in Meridian, Mississippi, where he was raised. Bill was the first member of his family to attend college, at the University of Mississippi (AKA Ole Miss), where he met his future wife, Bobbie Ruth McLaurin; they were married on June 4, 1950. Bill left school temporarily to serve as a Master Sargent in the Army National Guard in the office of The Adjutant General from 1950-1952. Bill then went on to earn a BA and a MA in Psychology from the University of Mississippi; he then received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Vanderbilt University (George Peabody College) in 1958.
Bill began his career as a professor in the field of clinical psychology at the University of Mississippi, where he stayed from 1958 - 1965. During this time he moved temporarily to Washington, D.C., where he proudly served in 1962 on the President's Panel on Mental Retardation, created by President John F. Kennedy. In 1965, Bill moved his family to Madison, WI to serve as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education. He spent the remainder of his academic career at the UW, where he held various administrative and leadership roles and positions, including Chairperson of the Department of Psychology and the Waisman Center. He retired from active academia in 1996, as a Professor Emeritus of the Rehabilitation Psychology Program.
Bill contributed prolifically to the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to teaching at the graduate level, he was involved extensively in important research projects, clinical consultations and direct services. He delivered over 200 professional presentations and seminars/workshops throughout the US and Europe. He authored over 140 publications, including several textbooks that are still referenced today. He served on numerous professional boards and panels, and most recently served as an expert in legal actions filed by the Civil Rights Division of the US Dept. of Justice. Bill is well known for developing a multimodal diagnostic assessment model as well as diagnostically-based treatments in IDD, and his work has been internationally accepted and is considered the "gold standard" of assessment and treatment practices. Earlier this year he received the Earl L. Loschen Award for Clinical Practice, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Developmental Disabilities (NADD), in recognition for his enormous influence in the field. These are only 2 of the many prestigious awards he received in life.
Bill was an avid athlete, starting in college when he won a Golden Gloves boxing Championship. He loved to run and bike and participated in marathons and triathlons. He was an amateur photographer, gardener, cook, golfer, and was an enthusiastic harmonica player. He loved football (Go Packers and Badgers!), Madison, and he bought cartloads of produce at the Dane County Farmer's Market. Bill loved worldwide travel, and later in life he and Bobbie acquired a little piece of Sanibel Island in Florida, where he happily fed seagulls and picked up seashells.
More than anything else, Bill unconditionally loved and cherished his family and friends, who in turn loved him back with much devotion. He was a mentor and a cheerleader. He was kind, quirky, flawed, sweet, tireless, creative, supportive, absentminded, silly, charismatic, and his greatest joy came from helping other people. People all over the world will miss and remember him with great fondness, especially his wife and children, who are heartbroken at his passing. As one of his colleagues wrote upon hearing of his passing, "There are some losses that leave an emptiness in the universe, a blank space on any page written from this point onward, and an aching that surpasses words. This is such a loss."
Bill is preceded in death by his father, mother, two sisters, brother, and father and mother in law. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Bobbie Ruth, and his children Nan, Steve (Kathy) and Becky, all of Madison, as well as numerous cousins, nieces and nephews in Mississippi, Texas, and Florida. He also leaves a score of bereaved friends and colleagues.
The family wishes to thank Bob Kalhagen and Mike Duckwitz for their care and companionship to Bill during the past three years of his life. It wouldn't have been possible for Bill to remain in his beloved home for as long as he did, without their support, and he loved them.
In lieu of flowers, Bill requested that donations be sent to NADD's Joli Fletcher Tlalka Memorial Fund, named in memory of the daughter of NADD's Founder, Robert J. Fletcher. Donations can be made online at: http://thenadd.org/ or may be sent to:
132 Fair Street
Kingston, NY 12401-9913
A memorial service will be held at a later date. Condolences for the family may be sent to: Cress Funeral Home, 6021 University Ave, Madison, WI, 53705
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