Image of Bruce and Becca Gardner

Bruce and Becca Gardner

Bruce A. Gardner
Attorney, Church Leader, and Community Activist

by James Omvig

From the Editor: Jim Omvig is a long-time Federation leader. Now that he has retired to Arizona, he is an active member of that affiliate's leadership. He recently wrote the following profile of NFB of Arizona President Bruce Gardner, who was elected to the NFB Board of Directors at last summer's convention. This is what he says about our newest Board Member:

Bruce A. Gardner of Mesa, Arizona, was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind at its 1997 Convention in New Orleans. Bruce is a long-time Federationist, and he is also known and respected for many of his other activities and accomplishments.

Bruce was born in Morenci, Arizona, in 1955. As a child he gradually lost his sight and was diagnosed at the age of eight with juvenile bilateral macular degeneration. Two of his seven brothers are also blind.

Bruce attended public school for both his elementary and secondary education. Of course neither his family nor the educators around him had learned about blindness from the National Federation of the Blind. Therefore, like other partially blind children of that era, Bruce was never helped to adjust to his blindness and was not taught the skills which are essential to successful blind people. Looking back, Bruce says that he had no role models to emulate except, of course, for the hapless Mr. Magoo.

This lack of proper training as a child is one of Bruce's biggest regrets. Instead of learning to use Braille and the other proven alternative techniques, he relied upon magnifying glasses and his mother's reading to help him complete high school.

In spite of his poor training and limited view of his abilities, Bruce was determined to get an education to ensure some kind of success in adulthood. Therefore, following his high school graduation, he enrolled in Brigham Young University, where he majored in interpersonal communications.

The years 1976, '77, and '78 struck like a bolt of lightning and turned out to be pivotal in Bruce Gardner's development and in his life. First, in the summer of 1976 he was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind by his brother Dr. Norman Gardner, and his life was changed forever. Bruce was just completing a two-year Mormon Mission when Norman first gave him some Federation materials to read. Norman said, "Bruce, have I ever got something for you!"

In the summer of 1977 Bruce took advantage of the opportunity to become a summer student at the Idaho Commission for the Blind's Orientation and Adjustment Center. He also attended his first National Federation of the Blind Convention that summer in New Orleans, and he was invited to attend a National Leadership Seminar that Christmas.

In April of 1978 Bruce met Becca, his future wife (see the article, "Making Other Arrangements," in the March, 1997, Braille Monitor). Also he served an NFB internship with Jim Gashel in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1978, and he married Becca in November. This Bruce Gardner was a far cry from the insecure and frightened young man whose only role model had been Mr. Magoo.

Bruce settled into family and school life and earned his B.A. degree magna cum laude from Brigham Young in 1979. By the time of graduation he had already decided to go to law school, and he had been accepted at Brigham Young. He graduated from Brigham Young law school cum laude in 1982.

Bruce had the usual run-ins with discrimination against the blind. When he decided to go to law school, he tried to take the Law School Aptitude Test—the national test for prospective law school students. He was refused. Therefore Brigham Young accepted him based on his outstanding undergraduate record.

In 1981 he had his second run-in with discrimination. Like other law school students, Bruce spent his summers clerking. In the summer between his second and third years, he clerked in a firm of approximately thirty lawyers, where he reported to one of the managing partners. It is common for law firms to make employment offers to second-year law clerks. No job offer was made to Bruce, however, even though everyone found his work outstanding. The managing partner later apologized for the short-sightedness of his partners—they simply refused to hire a blind attorney.

But some good things happened, too. In the law school's moot court competition, Bruce received the Dean's Cup, given to the outstanding oralist. The Cup was presented to Bruce personally by U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist.

Upon graduation the search for that elusive first job also proved to be difficult. Typically top law school students choose a number of firms with whom they would like to interview on campus. The firms then review the students' resumes and follow up by interviewing those students in whom they are interested. Despite the fact that Bruce was one of the top students in his class, he got only about half as many invitations to interview as his classmates.

Fortunately for Bruce, he received job offers from some of the largest and most prestigious law firms in Salt Lake City and Phoenix. He says he is grateful that, thanks to the work of the Federation, his experience was different from that of Dr. Newel Perry, who never found a job in mathematics, the profession for which he was trained and qualified, and from that of NFB founder Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, who had to begin his working career with temporary, part-time employment.

Bruce began his career with the firm of Streich, Lang, Weeks, and Cardon, P.A., in Phoenix, where he worked for three years handling real estate transactions and litigation cases. Then in 1985 he accepted a position as an in-house attorney with the Arizona Public Service Company (Arizona's largest electric utility company), where he works today.

He has now risen to the position of senior attorney. In this capacity he oversees all of the numerous tort and commercial litigation cases involving the company, and he handles all of its legal real estate matters.

Bruce Gardner's life is a visible demonstration of the soundness of the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. In addition to his legal work, Bruce is a committed family man. He and Becca are the proud parents of six children, three of whom are teen-agers. Bruce and his family enjoy raising horses, goats, pigs, ducks, and geese on what some would call his gentleman's farm. He has always enjoyed scouting activities and was an Eagle Scout himself. He has held various positions with the Boy Scouts and today serves as a scout troop committee member. Bruce participates in many scouting events with his three sons—mountain climbing and backpacking. He has even hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. He and his oldest son recently took scuba diving lessons and became certified open-water divers. Besides all of this, Bruce and several of his children play and sing country and western music together, sounding like professionals.

Bruce is also active in his church. He has held various volunteer positions with the church and since early 1997 has served as Bishop of the Lehi First Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In his capacity as Bishop he serves as the spiritual leader and day-to-day lay administrator for his church.

Then there is community activity. Bruce believes that being an active member of his community is also an important part of Federationism. He has served as president of the Lehi Community Improvement Association since 1995. He is a member of the Lehi Citizens on Patrol, a neighborhood crime prevention task force, which patrols the Lehi community, and he serves as Republican precinct committeeman in the district where his home is located.

Another large part of Bruce's mission in life is to share NFB philosophy with others. He has done this informally by speaking with friends and acquaintances and as a mentor for other blind people. He has also held many appointed and elected positions in the NFB—as a member of the National Scholarship Committee and as director of the Legislative Committee for the NFB of Arizona. He served for ten years as First Vice President of the NFB of Arizona and was elected President in 1995.

In addition Bruce has held several positions from which he has been able to have influence in other ways. He is a past member of the board of directors of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, was appointed by the Governor of Arizona to serve on the Board of Directors of the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, and has been appointed by two Arizona Governors to serve on the Arizona Governor's Council on Blindness and Visual Impairment.

The National Federation of the Blind is fortunate to have found Bruce. He is also fortunate to have found the Federation, since the Federation taught him the truth about blindness and helped him to overcome his low expectations and low self-esteem. Today Bruce agrees with Henry Ford, who said, "If you think you can or you can't, you're right."

Bruce Gardner has taken the training and followed the opportunities that life has brought his way. He has found alternative ways of doing anything he would have done with eyesight and is, therefore, successful doing whatever he decides to do. He makes an outstanding addition to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind.