January 27, 2022

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Richard N. Gardner, who died in February 2019, shaped foreign policy and the careers of generations of Columbia students over seven decades.
Richard N. Gardner, who died in February 2019, shaped foreign policy and the careers of generations of Columbia students over seven decades.
Deans and faculty from SIPA and Columbia Law School celebrated the late professor and diplomat Richard N. Gardner at a December 17 event that formally commemorated the creation of a new professorship in his name.

Gardner, who died in February 2019 at the age of 91, devoted much of his professional life to the intersection of foreign policy and global economics. Gardner’s time on the Columbia Law faculty spanned almost six decades; his popular seminar, Legal Aspects of U.S. Foreign Economic Policy, shaped generations of students at the Law School and SIPA alike. Over his career Gardner held varied posts in the U.S. government, including ambassadorships to Italy and Spain. He also advised presidential candidates Al Gore, in 1988, and Bill Clinton, in 1992.

The event featured several speakers and a discussion on “What Kind of Economic Policy and Diplomacy Can Meet the Challenges of the New Global World?”

In welcoming remarks, then-Dean Merit E. Janow of SIPA and Dean Gillian Lester of Columbia Law School remembered Gardner warmly. Janow, a Law alumna, cited Gardner as a mentor — she said she applied to the school because of his presence, at least in part — and said he exemplified the scholar-practitioner. Lester highlighted Gardner’s wide-ranging interests and impact.

“No one else I know,” Lester said, “has managed to be a scholar, lawyer, teacher, policymaker, economist, diplomat, institution-builder, comedian, and raconteur — all without resorting to reincarnation.”

Also making remarks were Nina Gardner, who is Richard Gardner’s daughter and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, and Jan Svejnar, the inaugural holder of the new Richard N. Gardner Professorship of Economics and International Affairs and the founding director of SIPA’s Center on Global Economic Governance.

Nina Gardner quoted her father to give a sense of his worldview: “Our power in the world derives not just from our position as an arsenal of weapons or as a storehouse of commodities, but as a society that seeks the universal realization of the dignity of man.”

Richard Gardner, she said, sought to help deliver the promise of the UN institutions in which he believed so much. She highlighted his involvement in many of the critical issues of his time —the race to the moon, world hunger, population growth, peacekeeping operations, among others — and his undying commitment to the causes of human rights and environmental protection in particular. Throughout it all he remained committed to teaching the next generation.

Svejnar said it was a special honor to hold the new professorship: “In my own career I feel a deep resonance with the intersection of policy, law, global economics, and foreign affairs that informed Professor Gardner's world view.”

He saluted the chair’s namesake for his prescience on so many critical issues and underscored that the principles and ways of thinking that Gardner valued continue to be relevant in the face of today’s global, intersecting crises.

Indeed, Svejnar added, the institutional frameworks that can build a global and collective vision for the world are more essential now than ever. The CGEG director said he was pleased to advocate for the same type of international multilateralism in which Gardner believed so strongly.

Svejnar then moderated the panel discussion, welcoming Nina Gardner and several faculty members from SIPA or Law, including Thomas Christensen (who became SIPA’s interim dean on January 1), Jacob Lew, Katharina Pistor, and Jeffrey Sachs.

At a time of challenges from COVID-19 and discord within and between world nations, the participants channeled Gardner’s spirit in considering whether current economic policy, trade policy and diplomacy can still provide effective solutions in meeting our new global challenges.


Richard N. Gardner Professorship Launch