Change of course leads to fulfilled life

Epiphanies happen in the oddest places sometimes.

For Warren Garner ’50, it happened not in a classroom or a church sanctuary, but in a railway boxcar in Pomeroy, Wash. With only cans of peas as his witnesses.

He was working a summer job at a Green Giant cannery, headed for a career as an accountant. But between his junior and senior years at Manchester, in that boxcar, he had second thoughts. And by the time he got back to Manchester in the fall, he’d decided to pursue teaching.

The rest is some rather significant history.

Nearly 70 years later, Garner, 90, is a Sagamore of the Wabash and a member of the Indiana Teacher Educator Hall of Fame, and his influence extends almost literally across the country. The culture of service he learned at Manchester led to a career of service. In addition to serving as a teacher and administrator in Indiana and California, he led Manchester’s education department for 22 years, serving as professor, chair and director of education. He also was a member of the Indiana Teacher Training and Licensing Commission; the executive secretary of the Indiana Association of the Indiana Association of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges for Teacher Education; a Kiwanis president and secretary in three different places; and a Sunday school teacher and deacon of his church.

A supremely modest man, he claims he never sought any of it. But he has no doubt Manchester played a significant role in it, which is why Garner and his late wife, Helen, an accomplished educator in her own right, endowed the Warren R. and Helen J. Garner Teacher of the Year scholarship, a gift that has been ongoing since 1992.

“One of my responsibilities as a part of the (ITLC) job was to make sure the Teacher of the Year was selected for the state,” Garner recalls. “When I came back here, I said to my wife that would be something we could do here at the college. At the time my primary motive was to give the seniors an idea of what they might be getting into. But it’s really blossomed.”

As so many have because of Garner’s lifetime of service, which began all those years ago at Manchester.

“I think the opportunity for leadership is probably the thing that most prepared me for life out there,” Garner says. “At Manchester I was president of the junior class, business manager of the Oak Leaves. I was on the committee to revise the student council, and treasurer of the community council. And then I went out into the world and from one place to another.”

By Benjamin Smith