Jean Palmer, Professor William Gardner Retire

The CUA community bid farewell to two longtime members in December, with the retirement of Anthropology Professor William Gardner and Jean Palmer, executive assistant to the provost.

Professor Gardner developed the university's archeology and undergraduate anthropology program during his 35-year career at CUA. Mrs. Palmer earned the reputation of being the unflappable and ever-reliable administrative assistant in the then-School of Education, the School of Library Science and the provost's office during her 24-year tenure.

Both will be sincerely missed, judging by their co-workers' recollections and fond wishes.


University’s First Archaeologist Tackling New Adventure

After more than three decades of introducing students to the work of uncovering antiquities, former Anthropology Department Chair William Gardner is retiring to focus on his consulting practice in Virginia.

Professor Gardner came to CUA in 1967 for his first teaching job after graduation from the doctoral program at the University of Illinois. He was the first archaeologist ever hired at CUA and was given freedom to develop an anthropology program specializing in archaeology for graduates and undergraduates.

Professor Gardner at work.

He plans to continue working at Thunderbird Ranch, a site in the Shenandoah Valley that garnered international attention in the early 1970s when Professor Gardner started excavating 12,000-year-old evidence of human occupation there.

The Thunderbird Archaeological Park — named after the private ranch land the site was discovered on — is located next to the Shenandoah river. A tribe of nomadic hunters set up a sort of prehistoric lodge at the site, which shows signs of human occupation over a 3,000-year period. Because the land has been flooded by river silt in various stages, much of the area has been preserved. The site was noted as the first of its kind in North America.

"We had evidence of humans living at other locations, but none were buried and preserved and showed changes through time," Professor Gardner said.

From there, Professor Gardner has branched out with his students to research areas all around the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay and the Appalachian Mountains. He's moved from uncovering prehistoric artifacts to specializing in African American slave archaeology and the French-Indian war period on the frontier of Ohio and Virginia in 1750.

"It’s been fun," Professor Gardner said. "The research has been wonderful and the students were wonderful. I’ll miss them."

Associate Professor Jon Anderson has taken over as chair of the anthropology department.

Professor Gardner finished his last semester at CUA with two longstanding traditions: he brought the anthropology department's Christmas tree to the basement offices in Marist Hall and sang Christmas carols at the department’s holiday party with Administrative Assistant Rita Bogley’s Karaoke machine.

"He’s brought the Christmas tree for as long as I've been here," Mrs. Bogley said. "He had good Christmas spirit and cheer and was simply delightful."

A retirement party for Professor Gardner will be held during the spring semester.


'She Never Loses Her Cool'

Jean Palmer, right hand of the provost and numerous other campus administrators for the past 24 years, was feted at a party shortly before Christmas.

Three of her former bosses, including two who have since left the university, joined Mrs. Palmer’s children, grandchildren and other well-wishers at her retirement party. John Convey, CUA provost, spoke on behalf of the group when he praised Mrs. Palmer’s work over the years.

Jean Palmer cuts her cake while grandchildren Sarah Bushling, 2, and Brian Buschling, 5, look on.

"She never loses her cool," he said, drawing a wave of knowing laughter from the crowd. "She treats everyone with dignity and respect and keeps her cool even in situations where things are flying through [the provost’s office]."

Mrs. Palmer, who later said she was surprised and delighted to see her former bosses – Raymond Steimel, Monsignor John F. Wipple and Elizabeth "Betty" Stone – at the party, was humble in her acceptance of Provost Convey’s praise and retirement gifts.

"You thank me for what I’ve given – but it’s Catholic University who has given me so much over the years," she said, thanking those assembled at the event. "Both my sons are graduates and so is my daughter-in-law. The gift of education is a valuable one. Thank you so much for all your support. I am just overwhelmed."