UCNI Mourns Passing of James J. Gardner, Philanthropist and Humanitarian

From left, James J. and Joan A. Gardner with Fredy J. Revilla, MD, the Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Chair, in 2012. Photo by University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center Communications Services.

The University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute mourns the passing of James J. “Jim” Gardner, a dear friend whose vision and generosity led to the establishment of the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders.  Mr. Gardner, who died Sunday after a short illness, was a civic-minded leader, a philanthropist and an exemplary and loving caregiver to his wife, Joan, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

In 2007 the Gardners made a landmark gift to advance research and treatment programs in Parkinson’s disease at the UC Neuroscience Institute. The center was renamed in their honor.

“James Gardner was an exemplary and inspiring person whose actions helped us move research forward and enabled us to reach a larger number of patients with Parkinson’s disease,” said Fredy J. Revilla, MD, Medical Director of the Gardner Center and holder of the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Chair. “He represented our commitment to the tripartite mission of patient care, education and research as well as our commitment to community participation. As the recipient of the endowed Gardner Chair, I have the honor of carrying his name in my title and serving as a conduit for his timeless generosity. Mr. Gardner will always be a presence in my interactions with my patients, and through that, he will continue to reach many people.”

“Jim’s place in so many lives, including ours, will never be replaced,” said Alberto Espay, MD, Associate Professor and Clinical Research Director at the Gardner Center. “I was impressed by both the depth of his commitments — to his lovely wife, Joan, most importantly — and the extent of his kindness. He combined his larger-than-life image in his smile and his oratory with a disarming affability.

“He once shared that he ‘knew’ he was not as dedicated a caregiver to Joan as some of his friends were to their spouses,” Dr. Espay continued. “This from a man who did all that was humanly possible for a spouse with Parkinson’s, and whose passion would fuel the even bigger dream: the center of excellence at UC. He leaves behind a lasting legacy in the form of the Gardner Center, one that will continue to adhere to his principles of hard work, accessibility and best available care. I already miss Jim very much. He became a father figure to me.”

“Every time I met him he was bursting with energy, talking with people, bringing people together,” said George Mandybur, MD, Associate Professor and a neurosurgeon with the Gardner Center. “He was friendly, social, smiling — a master networker. And he was driven to help his wife. That’s how I will remember him.”

“It was Jim’s foresight to inspire the best and brightest scientists and physicians in our quest to provide better treatments for people with Parkinson’s disease and to achieve our ultimate goal of finding a cure,” said Gina Weitzel, Senior Director of Development for the UC Neuroscience Institute. “We will miss him dearly.”

Mr. Gardner earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering science from Xavier University and spent his career at Cintas Corporation, where he held several management positions. He retired in 1988 as Vice President and General Manager.

He served as a member of Xavier University’s Presidential Advisory Council, as a member of President’s Advisory Council at UC, and as a trustee of the Ocean Reef Chapel Foundation. He was passionate not only about finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease, but also about public health and in serving those who were less fortunate than he. In April 2013 Boys Hope Girls Hope Cincinnati named the James J. & Joan Gardner Family Foundation its Heart of Gold recipient for their longtime generosity and support.

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