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John W. Gardner Legacy Oral History Project

"Conversations With and About Mike"

The John W. Gardner Legacy Oral History Project began in early 2017 and is sponsored by the Haas Center for Public Service, the Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program, the John W. Gardner Center for Youth & Their Communities, the Gardner Family Trust, and the Stanford University Libraries Special Collections & University Archives. The interviews are a companion collection to the John W. Gardner Papers, 1912-2004 and the John W. Gardner Papers, 1961-1992, which are housed at Stanford University Libraries Special Collections & University Archives, as well as the John William Gardner Miscellaneous Papers at the Hoover Institution. The project includes interviews with people who knew Gardner in various capacities, including as colleagues, students, mentees, friends, and family members.

John W. Gardner (1912-2002) earned his BA and MA degrees in psychology from Stanford and a PhD in psychology from University of California, Berkeley. He remained connected to his alma mater throughout his illustrious career, serving on Stanford’s Board of Trustees from 1965 to 1982. As the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1955 to 1967, he became known as “one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes figures in education.” Gardner served as Lyndon B. Johnson’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) from 1965 to 1968. He founded two influential public advocacy groups, Common Cause (1970) and Independent Sector (1980). Gardner spent the last thirteen years of his life at Stanford. He was a founding member of the national advisory board of the Public Service Center (later the Haas Center for Public Service) and the first Miriam and Peter Haas Centennial Professor in Public Service. The John Gardner Public Service Fellowship and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities are just two examples of Gardner’s lasting legacy at Stanford and beyond.

Editor’s Note: The Appendix for “Conversations With and About Mike” contains transcripts for the recorded audio and video clips. To view the Audio Transcripts go to this page >


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About the Project

The purpose of this biography project is to make a fascinating man’s life and accomplishments come alive. Dr. Michael W. Kirst, while recognized in influential academic and policy circles, is generally unknown to those most actively engaged in American education in the trenches of the nation’s classrooms and local boardrooms, including teachers, principals, and school district leaders.

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About the Author

Dick Jung first met Dr. Michael W. Kirst four decades ago. Mike, then Professor in the Schools of Education and Business, was completing his first year as President of California’s State Board of Education. During Jerry Brown’s first term as Governor, as Mike tacked between Palo Alto and Sacramento, Dick served as the Teaching Assistant for Mike’s Stanford “Politics of Education” course.

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About the Team

Dick is supported by a project team of content, digital research, and online experts that includes a senior education policy reviewer, a digital archives manager, and a website and multimedia design coordinator.

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