by Daniel Olsen
Since March is Women’s History Month, we will be focusing on the great women in the sports history of the Beehive State. This week’s feature is Fern Gardner.
Women have done amazing things throughout history. Rosa Parks helped spark a civil rights movement. Amelia Earhart soared to new heights of her own by being the first female to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Susan B. Anthony played a key role in the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. While these well known women deserve notoriety for their work, it’s also important to note that important women exist in our own backyard. One who has made a particular lasting impact is former USU athlete and coach Fern Gardner. She was a pioneer of women’s athletics in Logan.
Two-sport athletes are a rare occurrence in the demanding college lifestyle. Playing four sports is quite difficult. However, that is exactly what Gardner did. She played basketball, softball, tennis and volleyball for the Utah State Aggies. Perhaps her four older brothers, who were also athletes, helped spark a desire for her to be one as well. She took a liking especially to softball at an early age and competed with the Utah Shamrocks. She even pitched in important national championships for this team. She was a successful athlete in every sport she competed in.
Gardner is one of the most important people in getting Utah State women’s athletics up and running. She was especially known for her success as the women’s basketball coach. Under her leadership, the Aggies went 144-33. That’s over an 81 percent winning percentage. In contrast, Stew Morrill recently won 72 percent of his games as the winningest coach in Aggie history on the men’s side.
Gardner coached at Utah State from 1972-1976 and also coached softball and volleyball. Her teams made regular appearances in the AIAW playoffs. She was inducted into the USU Hall of Fame in 1993 for her efforts.
Leaving her Legacy in Utah
Gardner was involved in athletics in Utah for 35 years. Whether it was as an athlete, coach, or administrator, Gardner worked to promote the success of women’s sports. She even helped build the intramural program for women at Utah State. Fern should be remembered not only for her accomplishments but for helping young women achieve the athletic success in Utah that they enjoy today.