On Sept. 5, Harvard and the Harvard College Fund lost one of its best-known loyalists. George Peabody Gardner III, known to colleagues and friends everywhere as “Peabo,” succumbed to cancer after a lengthy and courageous battle.
Gardner came from a Boston family whose connections to the University go back generations. As director of leadership giving for the Harvard College Fund for the last several years, he brought that long history of associations to his job, along with high energy and a selfless dedication to raising funds for the institution he cared so much about.
He was born in Boston on March 12, 1948, to George and Tatiana Gardner. After attending Saint Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass., he entered Harvard, graduating cum laude in 1970. A member of Naval ROTC at college, Gardner served as a junior grade in the Naval Supply Corps from the time of his graduation until 1973. He had married Susan Paul just before starting his senior year. Their son, Augustus, was born shortly after Gardner left the service, and their daughter, Hilary, was born four years later.
Always interested in art, Gardner worked for Sotheby’s in New York between 1973 and 1975 in the American Decorative Arts and Paintings Department. He stayed in New York for another year, at William Beadleston Inc., a gallery specializing in 19th and 20th century painting, sculpture, and drawings.
Gardner received an M.B.A. from Babson College in 1979. Immediately after that, he began to work in nonprofit fundraising, first as manager of the development office at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), then as assistant to the director of the museum for five years, and finally as director of development, from 1985 to 1989.
Gardner had also been involved with the Boston auction house of Grogan & Company, and in 1989, he left the MFA to devote more time to that enterprise, of which he remained a director until his death. In 1990, he began work at Harvard as director of the Associates Program of the Harvard College Fund. His career involved extensive travel and meetings with alumni, and later, as director of Leadership Giving, the mentoring of many officers working with Harvard Class Reunions. He was a kind, generous colleague, respected for his modesty and impeccable courtesy to all. One of those with whom he had worked for many years said simply, “He was one of the finest men I have ever known.”
Motivated by a strong belief in the importance of giving back to those institutions that were personally important to him, Gardner served as a trustee of the Dexter School, president of the St. Mark’s School Alumni Association, overseer of the Children’s Hospital Medical Center, trustee of the Art Conservation Resource Center, trustee of St. Mark’s School, and member of the Corporation of Babson College. He was also an active trustee of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Gardner leaves his wife of 38 years, Susan, his son, Gus (A.B. ’94), daughter, Hilary, and four grandchildren. He is also survived by his parents, George P. Gardner ’39 and Tatiana Gardner.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Sept. 29 in the Memorial Church.