James Smith Gardner, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 1979


Jim Gardner joined the Department of Geography in 1973 as an associate professor. He is being promoted to professor this year. Dr. Gardner is an active researcher, who has an established reputation as a top scholar in the study of mountain geomorphology, especially rock-fall and related slope processes. This area of scholarship depends on difficult field work in the mountains, and in this he is indefatigable. However, today we are honouring Jim Gardner’s accomplishments as a teacher, and they are considerable. The response and the success of his students show that professor Gardner is a highly effective teacher inside and outside the classroom. To quote a former student: “I have always rated Jim highly as a teacher because he … made me want to learn, not only while I was at Waterloo, but even today …” Another student says, “Working with Jim provides an opportunity for any student to view a scientist, a philosopher, and an artist at work in the chosen milieu of the geographer.” The students who signed the letter nominating Jim Gardner for the award expressed a unique tribute to him: “His lectures are not only current, meticulously organized, easy to follow and comprehend, but they also capture the attention of all students, even at 8:30 in the morning.” Another group of students state, “We have found him to be demanding in his assignments, but understanding and fair in his judgement of them.” “His concern for the student is genuine and his ability outstanding.” According to the chairman of his department, Jim Gardner has taught, with equal success in required first and second year courses to classes of two to three hundred students, in advanced undergraduate courses, and in graduate seminars. Professor Gardner’s successes in teaching are not confined to the classroom. He has also been active and successful in many areas of instructional development. He was involved in the programs of the Association of American Geographers to improve geographic education in high schools and colleges. A recent contribution at Waterloo has been his study on block courses (courses taught intensively over several weeks) and his recommendations on these courses have been implemented. Another of Jim Gardner’s accomplishments in teaching has been the recent textbook “Physical Geography” which has already been widely praised and is being extensively adopted in other universities.