Gardner, John (1933-1982) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center
John Champlin Gardner was born on July 21, 1933 in Batavia, New York. After graduating from Batavia High School in 1951, Gardner began his higher education at DePauw University. There he studied literature and philosophy. His junior year, Gardner transferred to Washington University so he could be closer to his new wife, Joan Louise Patterson. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1954 and quickly enrolled in the University of Iowa's master's program for creative writing. He continued his education in Iowa and received his PhD in English in 1958.
Gardner's first job after graduating was a one-year teaching appointment at Oberlin College in 1958. After that year, he moved to Chico State College in California. While he was at Chico, his two children, Joel and Lucy, were born, and he accomplished his first published story, "A Little Night Music." After leaving Chico, Gardner taught as an assistant professor at San Fransisco State University from 1962-1965.
After San Fransisco, Gardner came to Southern Illinois University where he was an Associate Professor in Anglo-Saxon and Midieval Literature. Gardner worked at Southern Illinois from September 1965 to mid-1976. During this time, he published his first novel, The Resurrection in 1966 and his most famous novel, Grendel in 1971. After resigning from Southern Illinois University in 1976, he taught at Bennington, Skidmore, and Williams Colleges, as well as George Mason University. His work includes 27 novels, children's books, plays, opera libretti, and multiple guides to writing.
In 1976, Gardner and his wife divorced. He remarried a woman named Liz Rosenberg in 1980 and they, too, divorced in 1982. Gardner was scheduled to marry Susan Thornton in late 1982, but died in a motorcycle crash in Pennsylvania just days before the ceremony.