Picturing Marty Gardner

Publication year2021
CitationVol. 99

99 Nebraska L. Rev. 1. Picturing Marty Gardner


Picturing Marty Gardner


Steven L. Willborn [*]

Marty Gardner was my colleague on the faculty for 40 years, my entire tenure with the Law College. I knew him from shortly after he joined the faculty when he looked like the picture on the left. And I saw him last on the Saturday before his death when he looked like the picture on the right. Because I knew Marty for so long, I hold many images of him in my mind. The two above and many, many more.

But Marty was much more than a colleague to me. He was also a good friend. Even a good friend, however, only knows a narrow slice of another person, especially one as multifaceted as Marty. Marty was deeply religious, a teacher, scholar, musician, athlete, parent, and many other things. I knew him in only a few of those roles. But in all the roles that I knew, and I'm confident in all of them, Marty's approach was guided by his underlying character, one of care, respect, and decency. Let me explain with three of the ways in which I knew Marty.

The first picture I have of Marty in my mind is from when I first arrived at the Law College in 1979. I think the first thing Marty said to me when I arrived in Lincoln was "Do you want to play basketball at noon?" Marty and a rotating gang played basketball two or three

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times a week at the nearby Nebraska Wesleyan campus. The group included students (who came and went), Wesleyan faculty members, a community member or two, Marty, and me. We did this for many years. One day shortly after I arrived, I was guarding him and I accidentally pushed my thumb into his eye socket. Hard. For the next few weeks, Marty sported a big patch over his eye. I never learned all the details, but it was a serious injury. For the next few years, Marty commented that it really wasn't a good idea for an untenured faculty member to attack a tenured faculty member before the crucial vote. For the next few decades, Marty reminded me with a smile how lucky I was that he was such a forgiving soul. But, of course, there was never any doubt about any of that. He was a forgiving soul. And he was very aware of the vagaries of sport, which inform us of the vagaries of life. A vagary that came to mind all too vividly with his sudden and...

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