Treasurer who transformed Mason during growing period dies at 72

During his 14 years as treasurer of Mason Schools, Richard Louis Gardner enriched the education of thousands of students every time he expertly worked his calculator.

The retired treasurer oversaw the Warren County district’s finances during a historically turbulent time of record enrollment growth and soaring academic performance.

Gardner, 72, who had previously served as treasurer of Cincinnati Public Schools, died Saturday after a 12-year battle with prostate cancer.

He joined Warren County’s largest school system in 2000 and his widely acclaimed expertise in navigating the often-complex world of Ohio school finances earned him a reputation as one of the state’s deans of school treasurers.

Past and current Mason school leaders credited Gardner, who enjoyed volunteering to read to school children, with keeping the 11,000-student district financially sound.

“Over the years, Dick saved the taxpayers of Mason millions of dollars. His integrity and ethics were beyond reproach,” said Kevin Bright, a former Mason Schools superintendent, who worked with Gardner during most of his tenure.

Gardner “was the very best treasurer with whom I had the privilege to work during my 40-year career,” said Bright.

Mason Board of Education Vice President Kevin Wise, who joined the board in 2002, credited Gardner for navigating the upheaval caused by a stretch of years where Mason saw 400-500 new students enroll.

“Those of us who call Mason home can thank him for navigating through a growth period that for most suburban school districts result in long term havoc,” Wise said. “Our schools and homes today are highly coveted because of his ability to manage the long term versus simply ‘getting by.’

“He was an innovator and a benchmark for other school leaders in Ohio and around the country managing complex environments often pushed downhill from our elected government officials Columbus and Washington. His legacy will be felt for generations.”

Mason schools’ current Treasurer Shaun Bevan, said Gardner also served as a mentor to him and other school treasurers statewide.

“He was well known in the industry for being a visionary financial leader and true professional, dedicated to excellence in his work and to educating the public on all things related to school finance,” said Bevan.

“Mason was fortunate to have him as part of the leadership team for many years and he’s left a legacy here in this office and throughout the district,” said Bevan. “As much as he was a trusted and respected school administrator, most of all he was a family man. He loved his wife, children and grandchildren deeply and was very proud of all of them.”

Gail Kist-Kline was superintendent when Gardner retired in 2014 and described him as possessing “a long-term vision to create the best opportunities for Mason’s students and community.”

“He was also very accurate - I still remember his enrollment forecasting documents that were spot-on,” said Kist-Kline. “But what really stands out about Dick is his integrity, courage, and kindness.”

Gardner is survived by his wife of 50 years Mary Gardner (nee Morrissey).

He is also survived by daughters Dr. Catherine (Jeffrey) Gardner - Smith, Rebecca (Christopher) Norman, and son David Gardner. And he is survived by brothers John and Steven and sister Marti (Murry).

A mass to celebrate his life will take place on Saturday, Feb. 23, with a visitation from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at St. Susanna Catholic Church at 616 Reading Road in Mason with a memorial mass to follow beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Donations may be made in memory of Dick to Angel’s Watch ( or the charity of your choice.

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