Murfreesboro lost a community leader Monday morning (3/3/2014), retired State Farm executive and one of the movers behind the Discovery Center passed away. George Gardner was a native of Indianapolis, but after graduating from Middle Tennessee State University--he called Murfreesboro home. He was 83-years of age.
George enlisted in the Navy on his seventeenth birthday and served during the Korean Conflict. After serving in the military, he enrolled at Middle Tennessee State College (now MTSU), and graduated with a degree in business in 1957.
He was TRUE BLUE for MTSU
Gardner was very active in the MTSU Alumni Association, serving as president and board member, and was named a distinguished alumnus in 1989. He and his wife, Charlotte, also established a scholarship at MTSU.
In 1958 George Gardner joined State Farm Insurance as a trainee, and became a supervisor within a matter of weeks. He spent his entire 36-year career with State Farm, and retired as an agency director in 1994.
George loved the insurance industry, and conceived the MTSU Tommy T. Martin Chair of Insurance. In fact, he raised $200,000 to fund the original endowment. As of now, more than $1.4 million has been raised. To date, the Martin Chair is the only one of its kind in the state and one of only a handful in the entire country.
George also co-chaired Middle Tennessee State University's "75th Anniversary" celebration in 1986. During his year as president of the MTSU Foundation, the annual giving exceeded $1-million for the first time in history.
Gardner was named to the Tennessee Insurance Hall of Fame on August 2, 2012.
Involved In Community
George Gardner was an excellent leader in the local community. He received the Murfreesboro Jaycee's "Man of the Year" award in 1958.
George was always active in church, and was a deacon at Northminster Presbyterian and Hendersonville Presbyterian, as well as an elder at Murfreesboro First Presbyterian Church.
He served as director of the Miss Murfreesboro Pageant in 1958 and 1959.
Other local leadership included treasurer of the Stones River Crafts Fair, president of the Germantown High School PTA, and the Oakland High Patriots Association, member and finance chairman of the Rutherford County Bicentennial Commission, president of the Murfreesboro Little Theatre, president, board member and fundraiser for the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring. He was personally responsible for raising over $1.3-million for the new Discovery Center building. George was named by the mayor to serve as Murfreesboro's personal representative to China. He and Charlotte let the Middle Tennessee Choral Society on two European concert tours.
When the WGNS tower was downed by a tornado in 2001, George Gardner came to the radio station's rescue and helped us work through the maze of paperwork. Within three-months, the tower, which is taller than a 30-story building, was back-up and stronger than ever. This in part was a result of Gardner's dedication to business and the local community.
George Gardner is survived by his wife of 57-years, Charlotte Gardner, sons Phillip and Carl Gardner, daughter-in-law Lidia Gardner and granddaughter Anna Gardner.
George and Charlotte are members of Murfreesboro's First Presbyterian Church. A memorial service will be held at 11:00 o'clock Saturday morning, March 15, 2014 in the sanctuary at First Presbyterian, the corner of College and Spring Streets. Visitation will be held in the Common Room following the service. Memorials can be made to the MTSU Foundation (P.O. Box 109; Murfreesboro, TN 37132) and The Discovery Center at Murfree Spring (502 S. E. Broad St.; Murfreesboro, TN 37130).
Woodfin Funeral Chapel is in charge of the arrangements. An on-line guest book is available for Mr. Gardner at www.WoodfinChapel.com.