BGSU honors Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor, two-time alumnus Randy Gardner for dedication to public service and education

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – In front of a sold-out crowd at the Dec. 19 women’s basketball game in the Stroh Center, Bowling Green State University honored Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor and two-time alumnus Randy Gardner for his decades of dedication to public service and advocating for higher education.

As part of the recognition, Gardner ’81, ’87, who’s set to retire on Dec. 31, was presented with a resolution by Ohio Rep. Haraz Ghanbari and a personalized BGSU basketball jersey by BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers and Director of Athletics Derek van der Merwe.

The Bowling Green native has been a longtime public servant, first as a high school history and government teacher, then as an elected official representing northwestern Ohio for more than 30 years in both the Ohio House and Senate. He held various leadership positions in both chambers, including Majority Floor Leader of the Senate, Senate President Pro Tempore, House Majority Leader and House Speaker Pro Tempore.

During his tenure, Gardner amassed 10,433 consecutive roll call votes, never missing a vote in his 33 years in the Ohio House and Senate. He also served as chair of the Ohio Senate Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education, advocating for enhanced state support of public education while encouraging efforts to make higher education more affordable. 

In 2019, Gov. Mike DeWine appointed Gardner as chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education to oversee the state’s public two-year and four-year institutions of higher education and adult career centers. In this cabinet-level role, Gardner oversees Ohio’s public universities and career centers and carries out state higher education policies.

"Chancellor Gardner has been a lifelong advocate of education and he has absolutely made Ohio a better place to learn, live and work,” BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers said. “As a two-time BGSU alumnus, Chancellor Gardner has taken his passion for education from the classroom to the statehouse where he has consistently supported the value of lifelong learning for our economy and democracy. At BGSU, our students, faculty, staff and alumni create public good through action and Chancellor Gardner has absolutely done just that.”

Gardner received his bachelor of science in education and a master of arts in political science from BGSU.

As chancellor, Gardner ushered in a series of successes, including improving college affordability and accessibility for Ohio students. Under his leadership, the state doubled funding for STEM scholarship recipients, created its first merit-based scholarship campaign and increased need-based financial aid for students by 84%.

Gardner has long been an advocate of higher education and partnerships between industry and higher education institutions to prepare students for Ohio’s cutting-edge careers.

Gardner recently was honored with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's Lifetime Achievement Award. He is only the second person to receive it, behind former Speaker Jo Ann Davidson.

Additionally, Gardner received the Andrew Carnegie Award from the Ohio Library Association, Legislator of the Year from the Ohio Disabilities Council and induction into the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society.

A former high school teacher at Otsego Local Schools near Bowling Green, he was named a Martha Holden Jennings Teaching Scholar before becoming a state legislator. In 2012, he received the Distinguished Governmental Service Award by the Ohio Association of Career Colleges and Schools.

BGSU has recognized Gardner with the Accomplished Graduate Award from the College of Education and Allied Professions as well as with the Statehouse Falcon Alumni Award.

Updated: 12/22/2023 11:15AM