For the past twenty-seven years, Pinewood seniors have received their diplomas, a warm smile, and a hug from Principal Mark Gardner on graduation day. On May 31st, a chapter in Pinewood history closed as Mr. Gardner performed this ritual for the last time. As he retires after thirty-four years in service to our school, we want to honor Mr. Gardner for his indelible impact at Pinewood. He leaves behind a strong legacy of humility, kindness, and respect that is truly the beating heart of Pinewood’s Upper Campus culture.
Mr. Gardner came to Pinewood in 1984, just as our high school was founded. A U.S. History teacher and basketball coach at the time, he watched Pinewood's first graduating class turn their tassels in 1985. In those early days at Pinewood, Mr. Gardner was an instrumental and active participant in the formation of our Upper Campus. Alongside former Pinewood headmaster, Lynn Riches, Mr. Gardner put his handy skills to work, erecting classrooms and grooming the new campus as the student body grew. In 1991, Mr. Gardner was made principal of Upper Campus and has served faithfully in that position ever since.
As word of Mr. Gardner’s retirement spread among our students, alumni, and faculty this year, we heard hundreds of testimonials of his character and impact on the lives he has touched in his more than three decades at Pinewood. Current and former students spoke of feeling personally seen, known, and respected by their principal. Alumni shared how Mr. Gardner’s example of humble, strong leadership is a model they seek to emulate to this day. Faculty and staff members spoke of Mr. Gardner’s humor, his tireless service, and the unmatched care he has shown for his colleagues.
“You can probably sense that I’m purposefully stalling here,” Mr. Gardner said to an emotional room of faculty members during the last week of school. “It’s because I don’t want this to end,” he continued. Mr. Gardner recalled that when he first began at Pinewood thirty-four years ago, it was just a job to him. But, with time, he said, “this became home, this became my family, this became my life.”
Thank you, Mr. Gardner, for giving of yourself and so many years of your life to shape Pinewood’s Upper Campus into a place that feels like home for our students, faculty, and families. Your impact, which already spans generations, will never be forgotten.
To honor Mr. Gardner’s legacy at Pinewood, the school will be constructing the Mark Gardner Terrace. As a reflection of Mr. Gardner’s way of personally connecting with students, the Mark Gardner Terrace will serve as a warm, welcoming space in which students will socialize, relax, study, and collaborate. We look forward to revealing the Mark Gardner Terrace upon its completion in the fall.
Pinewood is thrilled to welcome Gabriel Lemmon to the role of Upper Campus Principal. Mr. Lemmon was brought on in 2017 to serve as Vice Principal and has spent the full school year getting to know Pinewood’s students, faculty, traditions, and values. Our community already loves Mr. Lemmon and we eagerly anticipate the start of this new chapter at Pinewood.
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