After 12 years at Andover, Reverend Anne Gardner, Protestant Chaplain and Director of Spiritual and Religious Life, will be leaving her post next year. She will go on to serve as all-school Chaplain at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles beginning in the summer of 2020, according to The Chronicle. [a]In her new position, Gardner will carry on her commitment to serving students of all faiths and religious backgrounds.
When Gardner arrived at Andover in 2008, she became Andover’s first Director of Spiritual and Religious Life. Gardner’s appointment marked the first adjustment in the Cochran Chapel’s staffing structure since the early 1970s.
“I began as the inaugural Director of Spiritual and Religious Life at Andover in August of 2008. My position was created after a lengthy discernment process, led by then Associate Head of School Rebecca Sykes. The staffing format of the Chapel not been changed since the early 1970’s prior to the creation of the position I now hold. As such, I view it as a significant marker in the history of the Chapel. I also serve as the Protestant Chaplain,” wrote Gardner in an email to The Phillipian.
During her tenure at Andover, two of Gardner’s favorite memories include the time spent with her wife, who persuaded Gardner to come to Andover, and her attempt to break a Guinness World Record for Veteran’s Day in 2013. According to the Winter 2014 issue of the Andover Magazine,[b] Gardner brought together 728 students, faculty, and staff to attempt to break the world record for the most amount of people simultaneously doing pushups for one minute.
“Programmatically, the Guinness Book of World Records attempt I organized, in part, to recognize Veterans Day (2013) was incredibly fun. And secondly, I will always be grateful to my wife Beth [O’Connor P’95] for convincing me to come to [Andover]. This community welcomed both of us with open arms and she has been my ministerial partner every step of the way. Her impact on this community has been deeply felt by countless students and colleagues. I wouldn’t be the minister I am without her,” wrote Gardner.
Mudmee Sereeyothin ’20 first met Gardner when she moved into Stevens House as a Lower. Sereeyothin will miss Gardner’s warm personality and her tradition of M.M.M., or Monday Mini Munch, where Gardner provides weekly Monday snacks for the dorm.
Sereeyothin said, “My favorite memories with Rev are just moments when we were just sitting in her apartment late at night and we were just talking about life. Like the other day, we were sitting with her and another friend, and we were talking about everything from personality types to why she decided to move, and I think it is just in those moments I really feel heard and she cares what I have to say.”
Sereeyothin continued, “I am going to miss seeing her around campus, seeing her in the dorm, even though I am a senior and I am going to leave next year. Just having an adult who’s there who you know cares about you and who cares for everyone else in the dorm… I am going to miss seeing her a lot.”
Karen Sun ’20 also met Gardner when she moved into Stevens. Gardner was her academic advisor her Lower Year.
Sun said, “Rev is like a giant bundle of joy. She is just so thoughtful, so considerate, and she will tell you exactly, not necessarily what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. And she’s just a wonderful soul and wonderful presence to be around, and I truly believe that every single person that she’s met, she has made a positive impact on because she just has so much room in her heart for everyone, and I am absolutely devastated to see her leave.”
Sun continued, “Rev has truly become like a second mother to me at Andover. She is always there when I need her and she will go out of her way to make sure that we’re doing well, to check in on us. And also, she remembers the small things, which matters a lot, because I think things can get really, really hectic at this school.”
Gardner is excited for the new opportunities at Harvard-Westlake School as she restarts their chaplaincy program after a two-year vacancy, according to the Harvard-Westlake Chronicle.[c]
Gardner wrote, “When I was initially contacted by [Harvard-Westlake], it was both a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Professionally, I was curious about their interest in re-creating their ministerial program. And personally, I was excited at the prospect of living in a new place, meeting new people, and learning new things.”
According to the Harvard-Westlake Chronicle, [d]Gardner will take a position previously run by two Chaplains: one for their Middle School and one for their Upper School.
“I am going to figure out what works best so that I can really maintain a presence at both campuses. I want to make sure people don’t feel that just because the role has been now relegated to one person, that that will be the only religious perspective that the school has. I will work hard to ensure that everyone who belongs to whatever religious tradition they have is suited and served by the chaplaincy at Harvard-Westlake,” said Gardner in an interview with the Harvard-Westlake Chronicle.
While she is looking forward to serving the Harvard-Westlake community, Gardner says she will miss the experiences she has had with Andover students throughout her time at the school.
Gardner wrote, “I suspect, like many of my colleagues, my favorite part of Andover is the students. All of you have been such a creative, intellectual, soulful and exuberant force in my life over these past twelve years. I will miss being part of this particular beehive activity.”