Richard Lynn Gardner known to many as “Doc” was an OPSU professor and rodeo coach for more than 30 years. As testimony to his lasting importance to OPSU is the honor of being Alumni Ambassador Hall of Fame inductee, having an arena bearing his name, in addition to a Rodeo Foundation Scholarship and the annual college rodeo dedicated to his memory.
Lynn Gardner was the son of William Gardner and Coral (Gardner) Gardner. He and his three sisters had been taught the importance of an education; all four earned a college degree, three from PAMC. Lynn Gardner was born at home on the family farm near Clearlake, OK on June 4, 1934. He attended a one-room country grade school and graduated as valedictorian in 1952 from Laverne High School at Laverne, OK. During high school, Lynn met Gloria Marteney and the two became lifelong sweethearts.
For a year after graduation, Lynn helped his father farm before he and Gloria were married on July 18, 1954. Lynn and Gloria started classes at PAMC and lived in the “barracks”. When their first child, Richard Lynn was born, Gloria “momentarily” quit school to become a full time homemaker. Within a few years the family expanded with the birth of 2 more children, Elizabeth Suzan and Gregory Stephen. Gloria returned to school and received her degree in the early 70’s.
Although excelling in mathematics, Lynn took his first chemistry class at PAMC and fell in love with the science. In 1957 Lynn completed his B.S. Degree in Math from Panhandle A&M College. During the second semester of his senior year, Lynn began teaching math and chemistry classes at the college and continued teaching for 3 years. He then attended Colorado State University and earned a PhD in Chemistry-Biochemistry in 1964.
He returned to Goodwell as head of the Division of Math and Science and a professor of chemistry, a position he held until his death. As a scholar and outstanding teacher, he was voted Panhandle State University’s Outstanding Faculty of the Year for too many years to count.
Rodeo would not have been a reality at OPSU if it weren’t for Doc Gardner. In 1965 two students came up to him and asked if he would help sponsor a rodeo team. He agreed to be their coach until they could find somebody else to take over. One was never found. So for over 30 years until his death, Doc Gardner coached the Aggie Rodeo Team.
He became somewhat of an icon in the world of college rodeo. His teams were well respected locally, regionally, and nationally. He wasn’t a cowboy but he had a knack for finding talent and getting them to attend Panhandle. Because of it, PSU can boast many, many great cowboys and cowgirls. He was so greatly admired in the Rodeo community that a one of a kind, hand crafted belt buckle was bestowed to him by PSU rodeo supporters. The R. Lynn Gardner Arena was built and dedicated in the early 1990’s.
Doc Gardner served from 1974-1982 as Faculty Director for the Central Plains Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. He was competitive! Although he accepted it graciously, Doc never liked to lose. He witnessed his young contestants become individual college champions. He saw several world champions. During his reign, since 1972 the highly successful PSU men’s and women’s rodeo teams qualified for the College National Finals all but one year. He never realized his dream of winning the college nation team championship. However Doc’s OPSU rodeo team won the national title the year following his death and dedicated the national championship to him! The OPSU rodeo has been renamed the Doc Gardner Memorial Rodeo.
Lynn and Gloria were life members of the Panhandle State Association. In 1992 Lynn was inducted into the Alumni Ambassador Hall of Fame. Dr. Gardner was chosen as parade marshal for the PSU Homecoming in 1994. After serving this function, he rode with his rodeo club at the end of the Parade. In 1995 he gave the Commencement Address to the OPSU graduating class.
He loved collecting everything. If you accompanied him on a trip, you most likely enjoyed or endured unscheduled stops at antique shops or auctions. He loved dogs and woodworking but most of all he loved farming.
Having diabetes since the age of 16, the disease finally took a toll on him: R. Lynn Gardner passed away on April 23, 1996 at the age of 61. Services were held on Easter Sunday to an estimated 1,000 observers. Doc was taken to his final resting place in a horse drawn hearse accompanied by the rodeo team members on horseback and numerous of his students walking the last mile for him. He was known by all as an honorable man.
Lynn and Gloria moved to Goodwell, Oklahoma to attend college, and made their home there for over 50 years. Gloria graduated from Panhandle State with a BS in Speech in 1972, and taught English for 23 years at Guymon High School, retiring in 1995. She enjoyed reading, cooking, playing bridge, and Laughing. She spent several years traveling, reading, and attending her grandchildren’s activities after Lynn’s passing. Gloria died on October 21, 2008.
Lynn and Gloria’s children all graduated from Goodwell High School and Panhandle State University.
Richard Lynn Gardner, Jr. attended PSU earning a BS in Chemistry and later a BS in Accounting. He was a Student Senate Member all 4 years while at PSU. He is married to Kammy (McDaniel) who attend PSU in 1982-83. Richard is currently a Certified Public Accountant in Beaver, OK. He and Kammy live on a farm in Beaver County. Richard is a past member of the Panhandle State Association Board of Directors. Richard and Kammy are Life Members of the Panhandle State Association of Alumni and Friends.