LeRoy Gardner Jr., of mind, body and spirit

LeRoy Gardner Jr.
Sun, 1947-05-11

*LeRoy Gardner Jr. was born on May 11, 1947. He was an African American educator, counselor and activist.

He was one of three children of Reverend LeRoy Gardner Sr. and Katherine Gardner, he had a sister, Sharon; a brother, Gordon. As young man, Gardner Jr. was a playground basketball legend. As the community lore goes that as a 14 year old, he Ralph Mitchell (19) and Tommy Miller (19) beat (then) University of Minnesota basketball players Lou Hudson, Don Yates and Archie Clark in a pickup game at St. Paul’s Oxford Park.

Gardner graduated from St. Paul Central high school in 1965. During that time he and helped take the basketball team to its first state tournament berth in years. He scored 41 points in a region semifinal and 33 points in a consolation title game. After that Gardner became the first state born black man to receive a full scholarship to play basketball at the University of Minnesota. Gardner humbly claimed he was just an "average" player at the University of Minnesota, but friends and family members said he had the integrity of a leader on and off the court.

He earned undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology. He eventually made his career at the university, becoming a counselor and adviser, a teacher and a mentor. From there he received his Master of Arts Degree in educational and student personnel Psychology. In the 1980’s while he was an academic adviser in the athletic department he was caught up in the scandal involving NCAA rules violations. Football coach Lou Holtz, Gardner said, had given him $500 for a football player. He was told point-blank to lie when the time came to talk to NCAA investigators, instead he told the truth. Al Nuness, a former Gopher teammate with Gardner, said: "Even in the darkest shadows of the Lou Holtz thing, LeRoy held true to his story, and it cost him for a while at the University.''

Disappointed and heartsick in the wake of the NCAA investigation that dismissed his allegation, Gardner left the University for a short time and tried to start a private psychology practice. Gardner soon found his passion in teaching where his pride and joy was all the students he touched.

Gardner was a staunch supporter of the University's General College and in recent years, taught multicultural relations. He loved to head to Lake Superior's North Shore to camp and he loved to cook. Gardner, 61, of Golden Valley, was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2008 and died on September 6, 2008 at Our Lady of Good Counsel in St. Paul.

Star Tribune
Associated Press
425 Portland Av. S.,
Minneapolis, MN 55488

Image: University of Minnesota.

Person / name: 

Gardner Jr., LeRoy