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JAMES K. GARDNER

Born: September 14, 1940
Died: April 26, 2017

Our classmate Hon. James K. Gardner, United States District Judge, was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, son of Theodore Roosevelt Gardner and Margaret Schaffer Knoll Gardner. Jim graduated from Emmaus (PA) High School.

Jim was a member of Silliman College where he was secretary, on the council, director of Silliman Drama (1960-1961) and played on its touch football team. He was an American Studies honors major and ranking scholar. Jim was a 4 year member of the Football and Concert bands, Drum Major 1961, and president senior year. Jim graduated Magna Cum Laude.

After Yale Jim earned his law degree at Harvard and then joined the U.S. Navy where he served on active duty in the Judge Advocate General’s Corp. (JAG) for 3 years. He remained in the Navy Reserve completing 28 years of total service and retiring at the rank of Captain in 1992.

Jim practiced law in Philadelphia and Allentown for 4 years and became a prosecutor until his appointment as Lehigh County Common Pleas Court Judge in 1981. He served on the state bench until 2002 when he was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He continued his distinguished judicial service until his death April 26, 2017.

Jim married Linda Klenk in 1980 and they had four children: Christine Hanna of Macungie, PA, who is employed in technology training; Andrea Merrill of Ithaca, NY, a musician, whose husband Paul is a professor at Cornell; Victoria Miscenti of New Haven, who is with the Yale Astronomy Department and whose husband Kyle is with the Yale Development Office; and Stephanie Gardner, a film maker and writer who resides in Taos, New Mexico. In addition to Linda and their children, Jim is survived by 6 grandchildren, Alexis and Ainsley Hanna, Jacob and Parker Merrill, and Lee and Peter Miscenti.

A lifelong resident of Emmaus, Jim was deeply committed to a number of community and charitable organizations, including the Allentown Symphony. He served as the first vice president of the Board of Directors of the symphony for many years. He was still involved until his death. Executive Director Sheila Evans said Jim “always had good advice on what we could do to make our symphony touch more lives in the Lehigh valley and beyond.” He and Linda were instrumental in establishing the symphony’s international competition for young string musicians. He was also an active member of the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Allentown.

In his youth Jim was an Eagle Scout and continued his devotion to scouting during his adult career. He served as a mentor to several generations of Eagle Scouts in the Lehigh valley. His dedication and accomplishments in scouting were recognized with the prestigious Distinguished Eagle Scout Award several years ago. Jim also served on the Muhlenberg College Board of Associates for many years.

Jim’s Navy Reserve career was as illustrious as his civilian service. In the late 1980’s he was one of the first Reserve Officers in the Department of Defense to be appointed as Appellate Judge of the Navy and Marine Corps Court of Military Review. He served a full two year term despite his full time service as a State Judge. Jim was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal for heroism in saving a life, among many other citations. He was particularly proud that, as someone who had never previously owned or used a firearm, he qualified for both Navy Expert Pistol and Navy Expert Rifle ribbons.

Eli Newberger, Jim’s roommate from Durfee to Silliman, recalls their 4 years together in the Yale Band, their 1958 and 1962 European tours and one notable prank. The tours took Jim, his clarinet and the band to England, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland. Their “good times” included a mid-night swim in Lake Lugano. The prank was the instrumental parody by the Band, 50 members strong, which surprised and drowned out the weekly serenade by the members of Scroll and Key on College and Wall Streets one Thursday evening in 1961.

Jim was a loyal Yale alumnus and 1962 class member. He attended more than 50 years of Yale-Harvard football games and many of our class reunions. Jim’s widow Linda, his daughter Victoria and her husband Kyle were guests at our 55th Reunion in June 2017, commemorating his tradition of supporting our class.

Eli Newberger’s concluding thoughts described Jim Gardner so expertly they must be quoted in full: “Jim’s steady seriousness and scholarly focus was an inspiration to me. Public service was in his bones and his dedication to the administration of justice flowed smoothly form the high minded leadership that I was privileged to witness during our undergraduate days.”

Robert G. Oliver




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