Getting to Know Interim President Brother Daniel Gardner

By Adrianne Hutto, Production Editor

Brother Daniel Gardner, a familiar face on campus, has stepped into the position of interim president after former president Brennan O’Donnell, Ph.D, stepped down after the previous spring semester. 

Gardner found himself at Manhattan College after being assigned to the admissions office by the Christian Brotherhood. 

A brother is a consecrated religious member of the Roman Catholic Church. There are a variety of different brothers that service different types of ministries, such as hospitals and churches. However, the Brothers of the Christian Schools otherwise known as the De La Salle Christian Brothers, was started by John Baptist in order to operate schools. The Brotherhood now has schools in over 80 countries around the world and 67 of those institutions or institutions of higher education, Manhattan College was the first.   

Being a part of the Brotherhood at Manhattan College is an important facet of Gardner’s life, while it was not something he had originally planned to do. 

“It came to me gradually, I don’t think that it was something like St. Paul getting hit with lightning and thrown off of his horse or anything like that,” Gardner said. “It was just a gradual admiration for the work of the brothers that I had in high school. And as I became stronger in my own Catholic faith, I saw this as an idealistic option.”

Gardner explained the importance of the brotherhood in his own life, especially as it has led him to where he is today. 

“The most impactful part of it is to be able to share an environment with people who have a common mission and common values,” Gardner said. “It always feels better when people are rowing their oars in the same direction and in the same rowboat.” 

Gardner has been at Manhattan College since 2016, having worked closely with students in the Department of Academic Affairs and as an adjunct professor of religion. While here, he has grown to love the community here at MC. 

“There is a great sense of community,” Gardener said. “People just enjoy being together while they learn.” 

He describes this as being a close second to the academic excellence of the students and staff at the college. 

Prior to being appointed interim president, Gardner held the position of assistant director for the Center for Graduate School and Fellowship Advisement,  spending time helping students apply to and prepare for graduate school. Gardner explained that this was one of his favorite positions he’s held.

“Because I was constantly working with highly motivated students that were really looking to get PhDs or become MDS or to become lawyers or to apply for fellowships because they were really excited about moving to the next level,” Gardner said. “So there’s a certain amount of rewarding satisfaction in working with people who are all highly motivated.”

Most students know Gardner as being a welcoming, friendly face on campus. He is almost always seen talking to students and staff on campus. 

“I take my lead on this from Pope Francis, who says that you need to build relationships with others in order to understand what they’re going through, and to help them to reach their goals,” Gardner said. 

Gardner sees the importance in speaking to students as a means of better understanding the needs of the campus as a whole.

 “I think that the development of relationships, the ability to get to know people from various constituencies across campus just really informs us on how we can make Manhattan College more effective and better, because we can see the needs of people through those relationships,” Gardner said. 

Because of his love of people, Gardner is able to get to know the campus community in a personal way. He explains that he enjoys the people associated with this campus and getting to know them better. 

Now that Gardner has been officially made president and with the semester starting only two weeks ago, there is a lot of work to come. Gardner shares how the summer has been much slower because of the lack of students on campus, but is excited to see how the year unfolds. 

“I’m really excited about our students in their activities. Student Life is a very important part of the culture for me, being able to be part of those different activities, whether they be theater, music, intramural clubs, student government or certainly athletic events, you know, being there and having that Jasper spirit,” Gardner said. “That’s going to be a really great experience this year.”

With all the changes that come with this new role, Gardner explains how rewarding it has been for him. 

“It’s always rewarding to get the campus ready for the beginning of school and then to see everybody arrive back here and say, ‘Oh, wow, this is a great place to be,’” Gardner said. “And so that’s probably the most rewarding part of all of this is to see people are happy and eager to return not only just to an academic environment, but to this specific community.” 

Gardner said that he doesn’t expect to make any major changes in the positions with this being an interim role. 

“We don’t want to do too much because this is definitely a transition administration.” Gardner said. “Both myself and the provost are both interim in these roles. We’re almost caretakers of the position until the college is able to find a permanent and long lasting leadership in here,so we have to have a healthy balance here of making the engine run and run well. We’re trying to strike a healthy balance here. This is definitely an administration of transition and not transformation.”

Gardner may hold the position in an interim capacity, but he encourages students to reach out to him with any concerns they may have. 

“What I really like people to know is that my doors open and I’m approachable and I love to collaborate with people,” Gardner said.