Current student connected to Bridget Gardner, school’s first full-time librarian

December 9, 2013

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Keith Lucas
Bee A. Gardner

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Throughout the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s rich history, there have been many important educators who have made a lasting impact on the university. Bridget “Bee” Gardner (1860-1950), who served as UW-Platteville’s first full-time librarian from 1893 to 1937 and for whom Gardner Hall is named, was one of those educators. With the amount of time that has passed since Gardner’s tenure at the university, one current UW-Platteville student was very surprised to learn of his family relation to Gardner.

Keith Lucas, a senior criminal justice major from Lake Mills, Wis., was in the midst of completing an extensive research project of his family for a history course when he discovered he was related to Bee Gardner. He then spoke with his grandmother, who showed him their family tree and helped him find out more about their family’s tie to Gardner.

From his conversations with his grandma, Lucas learned that Gardner was his grandma’s great-great aunt, which made Gardner his great-great-great-great aunt.

Articles found in UW-Platteville’s Southwest Wisconsin Room and in past issues of the Exponent, the UW-Platteville newspaper, shed light on the life and career of Gardner.

Gardner graduated from the Platteville Normal School in 1881 and then attended librarian school at UW-Madison. After completing her degree, Gardner taught at high schools in Highland, Wis., Platteville and La Crosse, Wis., before finally accepting a position with UW-Platteville in 1893 as a part-time instructor and the university’s first full-time librarian.

During her time at UW-Platteville, Gardner increased the library volumes to approximately 20,000 items, a significant increase from when she first started. In addition to her excellent work in the library, students spoke of her kind demeanor.

“I remember the personal touch she gave homesick students and the friendly environment she created in the library,” one of Gardner’s former students remembered in an Exponent article that was written about Gardner’s later years at the university.

Gardner’s dedication to students was so impressive that upon her retirement in 1937, after a 44-year career, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents passed a resolution in honor of Gardner’s “splendid service to education.”

Lucas sees his and Gardner’s involvement at the university as a very unique situation. “I think it’s a really unique circumstance, and I hope that when I end my time at UW-Platteville, I will also leave a positive legacy, just as she did,” he said.

Lucas ultimately views his and Gardner’s love for the university as a reflection of the people who make up the campus community. “I think there is a tremendous sense of community within UW-Platteville. Staff and students are willing to go out of their way to help others accomplish their goals. The people here are very personable.”

In addition to pursuing his degree at UW-Platteville, Lucas is interning as the assistant director of Ridge and Valley Restorative Justice, an organization that works with victims, offenders and communities to provide support and facilitate services that promote healing and reconciliation.

Contact: Keith Lucas, criminal justice student, UW-Platteville, lucask@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Joe Kluever, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, klueverj@uwplatt.edu

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