Reflections on Howard Gardner

Andrew Gardner

Describing his father, Dr. Howard Gardner, as an “insanely hard worker,” Andrew Gardner is the only child in the family to have gone into the world of education. Having taught for 12 years, Andrew notes he has connected with his father on a more professional level through his own experiences in the classroom, even sharing the spotlight with his father at a recent event at the Museum of Modern Art discussing the future of museums and education. Andrew praises his father, as well, for his distinguished contributions to educational research and scholarship, adding that although his father will “always be known as the MI guy” for his theory of multiple intelligences, he is proud of his father for continuing to “push himself and expand his realm of expertise.” Andrew also describes his respect for his father, insisting that he hasn’t “sold out” when others might have been tempted to license his theory of multiple intelligences. Instead, Andrew explains that his father has moved on in his research, profoundly contributing to the field of education throughout his career.

Ben Gardner

Ben Gardner praises his father, Dr. Howard Gardner, as “a great father to four kids [even though] all the while [he] had a very time consuming career,” adding that “he always had time for us whenever we needed him, no matter what continent he was on.” Ben also recalls a funny memory of his father who happens to be color-blind, explaining that he went to a very important meeting once while wearing one brown shoe and one black shoe. Adding that his family still teases him about this, Ben notes that they always get the same reaction—his father insists that “I really don’t care!” Describing the essence and nature of his father in this way, Ben explains that “he is passionate, and cares deeply about everything he does, including being a dad.”

Jay Gardner

Characterizing his father, Dr. Howard Gardner, as “loving communicative, and supportive,” Jay Gardner explains that his father’s “dedication to his family rivals his dedication to his work.” Also having observed his father’s devotion to his 101-year-old mother, Jay describes his father as a “wonderful grandfather,” noting that he has never been “as happy as when he’s bantering with his grandson or holding his granddaughter.” His grandchildren have the “luxury of taking their Opa for granted” whether he is admiring Legos, artwork, or science projects. Also willing to ask about Lady Gaga and to readily share his love of Mr. Bentley’s hamburgers in Harvard Square, his father avails himself of opportunities to “call to laugh about a political gaffe or share a bit of trivia, to ask how an exam went, or debate the best exit to take off of the Mass Pike.” Adding that he adores his dad, Jay explains that he is “a feather is our collective caps.”

Dr. David Perkins

Dr. David Perkins describes his long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Howard Gardner, as “very organized, hard-working, and intellectually strikingly productive.” Highlighting their many collaborative projects over the last 45 years, David first met his friend when they were doctoral students at the brand-new Project Zero, the institution at Harvard Graduate School of Education initially focused on cognition in the arts and implications for arts education. Noting that Project Zero became their “center of gravity all [their] professional lives,” David describes his experiences working with Howard, adding that they later collaborated on general leadership but also pursued their own separate projects related to their slightly different research interests. Now serving as Senior Co-directors, David and Howard continue to play key roles in Project Zero which has expanded significantly over the decades to include many projects broadly related to thinking and learning. Citing Howard’s theory of multiple intelligences as “his most impactful accomplishment so far,” David also personally values his friend’s “line of inquiry represented by the ‘good work’ project and its relatives.” Howard has conducted pioneering research in this area for many years, “exploring many variations of the theme, accumulating a wealth of information and insight.” Praising his friend for his contributions to research and scholarship, David explains that “Howard has a keen nose for areas of inquiry for pursuit, both in terms of what the big questions are and what might be timely.”

Dr. Marcelo Suarez-Orozco

Characterizing his long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Howard Gardner, as “sui generis—truly one of a kind,” Dr. Marcelo Suarez-Orozco notes that Howard is “not only brilliant, but also humble, generous, and deeply ethical…a man for all seasons [or] better yet, a Mensch as [they] say in Brooklyn.” Also recounting humorous stories involving his friend, Marcelo recalls waiting with Howard prior to having dinner with George Soros, Mort Zuckerman, and others. In a panic, Howard quickly asked Marcelo to check whether his socks matched as he also happens to be color-blind! As the child of immigrants, Howard “has an intuitive understanding of the fragility of economies and societies,” an understanding and concern he expressed while shopping with Marcelo and their wives (Ellen and Carola) in Reggio Emilia, Italy. “Ever careful with money,” Howard commented that the necklace Marcelo has purchased as a birthday gift for Carola was rather expensive at a price of 17 Euros. Surprised to learn the actual cost of the necklace, Howard insisted that a purchase price of 70 Euros was outrageous, prompting laughter from both Carola and Ellen. Even at the higher price, Marcelo notes that “the necklace was indeed a bargain!” Also describing Howard as “half-Mick Jagger, half Charles V [Holy Roman Emperor],” Marcelo explains that “like Mick, he is a rock star, [and] like Charles V, the sun never sets on Howard’s empire of ideas.” Adding that “it is too soon to tell what his most important achievement” will be, Marcelo describes Howard’s “most immediate and practical achievement that he gave teachers the world over the permission to teach children in ways they intuitively understood were better to engage children with different learning styles.”

Dr. Ellen Winner

Dr. Ellen Winner describes her husband of 30 years, Dr. Howard Gardner, as both a social scientist and humanist, noting that his “theory of multiple intelligences and the good work project are basically deeply humanitarian efforts.” Although she believes that many will cite his theory of multiple intelligences as one of his most significant professional accomplishments, Ellen explains that “his efforts to understand ‘good work’ and the distinction that he makes between neighborly morality and the ethics of roles are just as important.” Adding that “he combines the ability to think synthetically and analytically, (most people are stronger at one than the other), he has vision and thinks about the big picture, [and] his questions always go to the heart of the matter.” Also acknowledging her husband’s preferred work environment, Ellen describes Howard “sitting in his study writing intently, surrounded by piles of papers, boxes all on the floor every which way filled with papers, pens, and paperclips littering the floor, [and] sticky notes all over the edge of the computer screen,” explaining that he is completely oblivious to the lack of order. Her previous attempts to reorganize the study have proved counter-productive as Howard “immediately noticed that things were not where they had been because when he reached his arm out to grab something, it was not there.” Ellen explains that “what looks like a supremely messy work space because it looks unordered to the outsider is actually very ordered in Howard’s unorthodox way.” Also describing Howard’s dedication in his personal life, Ellen praises her husband as a devoted father to his four children and grandfather to his two grandchildren as well as an incredible mentor to his students, noting that he always gives them quick and detailed written responses to their work.