News and Tribune

Education/Schools

May 8, 2014

PILLAR OF JUSTICE: Ivy Tech remembers founder of school’s criminal justice program

Leonard Gardenour was former chair of the criminal justice program

SELLERSBURG —  He had a laundry list of credentials, years of experience in the field and started a successful criminal justice program at a community college.

But talk to students and staff, and one will learn that Leonard Gardenour was more often remembered for his commitment to students, dedication to their success and maybe a bit of dry wit.

Gardenour, 62, the former chair of the criminal justice program at Ivy Tech Community College of Southern Indiana, died April 19. Marcie Ziegler, program chair of the paralegal department, said he was often seen as more than a teacher.

“He was almost like a family member in some ways,” Ziegler said. “He was personally supportive of them, professionally supportive of them and academically professional of them. The stories about him helping students personally are just too many for me to tell.”

Rita Shourds, chancellor of the campus, said Gardenour had taught there for about seven years and built the program from the ground up. She said though he was a quiet man, he didn’t waste his words.

“He was always a man of very few words, but what he said, you really needed to listen to,” Shourds said. “He wasn’t verbose, he was small in stature, but when he said something, you knew it was worth listening to.”

Ziegler said he made sure students knew what life was like in the field — whether they pursued law enforcement or other related jobs. She said they knew there would be days they’d want to throw down their badges and quit, but they’d find a reason to keep doing what they love.

Dana Amster, a second-year student at the school, said she had Gardenour for nearly all of her criminal justice classes last year. She said he was a major pillar of the whole program.

“He was a major cheerleader for every student in that criminal justice program,” Amster said. “He made you feel like you could do anything. Even at times at 47, I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore. But he always said I could. He’d sit there and talk to you or do whatever it took.”

She said though the school would probably find someone to take over the program, it’s going to be a big challenge to fill his shoes.

Shourds said though they will hire a replacement for Gardenour, their focus isn’t on that at present.

“At this point, I think we’re in a healing mode, both the students and faculty and staff,” Shourds said. “We know there will be a future for that program. Right now, we’re not so concerned about looking for someone to replace him, but to heal the wounds that are left now that he’s gone.”

Gardenour received a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University and was a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He was a captain in the U.S. Air Force security police. There, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

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