The O. Max Gardner Award originates from Article VII of Governor Gardner’s Will. Governor Gardner died in February of 1947 at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, the day before he and his wife were scheduled to sail for England where he would assume the position of the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James. The O. Max Gardner Award remains the oldest, most distinctive statewide honor given to faculty members of the University of North Carolina System by its Board of Governors. O. Max Gardner served as North Carolina’s chief executive from 1929 to 1933 and during his term in office caused the North Carolina General Assembly to enact the law that consolidated all of the state supported colleges and universities into a single and unified system-the Greater University of North Carolina System.

The Will of Governor Gardner, which created and funded the annual Award, stated that the original corpus was given in Trust upon the condition that the said Board of Trustees shall accept and hold the same sum in trust in perpetuity and shall annually award and pay the net income therefrom to that member of the faculty of the Consolidated University of North Carolina, who, during the current scholastic year, has made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race. As used in this Article of my will, the term “faculty” shall embrace all persons, including instructors, engaged in teaching in any unit, institution or branch of service of the Consolidated University of North Carolina System.

“I am convinced that if I had rendered any public service worth to be remembered, it was in connection with the enactment of the statute creating the greater University of North Carolina. Enough time has elapsed since the enactment of that legislation to convince me that the Consolidated University of North Carolina , through wise administration and sound leadership has met the approval of our people and has resulted in great benefit to the institutions involved and to the cause of higher learning, and also to the service of humanity through future generations.”

Additions to the corpus of the Gardner Award Trust have been made by two of Governor Gardner’s sons, Oliver Max Gardner, Jr. and Ralph Webb Gardner. Further, contributions to the Trust are regularly made by the O. Max Gardner Foundation, Inc, which is operated by three of the Governor’s Grandsons: O. Max Gardner III, James Webb Gardner, Jr., and John Mull Gardner. James is the son of the Governor’s oldest son, James Webb “Decker” Gardner, and Max III and John are the sons of his youngest child, O. Max Gardner, Jr. Max Junior died in 1961 after an 11 year battle with multiple sclerosis and Decker died in 1946.

Recipients, 1949 to Present

2021 Ralph S. Baric UNC- Chapel Hill Epidemiology, Immunology and Virology
2020 Samantha Meltzer-Brody UNC-Chapel Hill Psychiatry and Women’s Health
2019 Sy Atezaz SaeedEast Carolina Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
2018Ruben CarbonellNC StateChemical Engineering
2017Ben BahrUNC-PembrokeMicrobiology and Biochemistry
2016Aziz SancarUNC-Chapel HillScience
2016David ShapiroWestern CarolinaCommunication
2015Behnam PourdeyhimiNC StateTextile Engineering
2015Pinku MukherjeeUNC-CharlotteBiological Sciences
2014Jagdish NarayanNC StateMaterials Science and Engineering
2013Samuel F. Sears, Jr.East CarolinaPsychology
2012Fred GouldNC StateEntomology
2011Diane M. BrowderUNC-CharlotteEducation
2010Jagannathan SankarNC A&T StateMechanical & Chemical Engineering
2009Todd R. KlaenhammerNC StateBioprocessing & Nutrition Sciences
2008Myron S. CohenUNC-Chapel HillMedicine, Microbiology, & Public Health
2007Trudy F. C. MackayNC StateGenetics
2006Ken R. HarewoodNC CentralBiochemistry
2005Kenneth B. AlderNC StatePulmonary Biology
2004W. Randolph Chitwood, Jr.East CarolinaCardiothoracic Surgery
2004Branislav VlahovicNC CentralPhysics
2003Bruce Spencer WeirNC StateStatistics & Genetics
2002Melissa HaydenNC School of the ArtsDance
2002Oliver SmithiesUNC-Chapel HillPathology
2001Walter J. PoriesEast CarolinaBiochemistry
2000Joseph M. DeSimoneNC State
UNC-Chapel Hill
1999Jim E. RiviereNC StatePharmacology
1998B. Jayant BaligaNC StateElectrical Engineering
1997R. Wayne SkaggsNC StateAgricultural Engineering
1996Ernest HodgsonNC StateToxicology
1996Vira Rodgers KivettUNC-GreensboroGerontology
1995James HoulikNC School of the ArtsMusic
1994Gerald ShinnUNC-WilmingtonPhilosophy & Religion
1993Donald W. Warren UNC-Chapel Hill Dentistry
1992Sherwood ShafferNC School of the ArtsMusic
1991Frederick W. HarrisonWestern CarolinaBiology
1990Fred R. DeJarnetteNC StateEngineering
1989William E. LaupusEast CarolinaMedicine
1989Louis D. Rubin, Jr.UNC-Chapel HillLiterature
1988Floyd W. Denny, Jr.UNC-Chapel HillMedicine
1988Elizabeth C. TheilNC StateBiochemistry
1987Major M. GoodmanNC StateAgriculture
1987C. Arden MillerUNC-Chapel HillMaternal & Child Health
1986Fred ChappellUNC-GreensboroLiterature
1986Edgar LoessinEast CarolinaTheatre
1985M. Nectai OziskNC StateEngineering
1985Eric ShoplerUNC-Chapel HillPsychology
1984James A. Bryan IIUNC-Chapel HillMedicine
1984Vivian T. StannettNC StateChemistry
1983Frank E. GunthrieNC StateToxicology
1983Stanley R. RiggsEast CarolinaGeology
1982Octavia B. KnightNC CentralSpecial Education
1982Joseph N. SasserNC StatePlant Pathology
1981Ellis B. CowlingNC StatePlant Pathology & Forestry
1981Bernard . GreenbergUNC-Chapel HillPublic Health
1980C. Clark CockerhamNC StateGenetics
1980Judson J Van WykUNC-Chapel HillMedicine
1979Richard BardolphUNC-GreensboroHistory
1979Solomon P. HershNC StateTextile Engineering
1978Carl William GottschalkUNC-Chapel HillMedicine
1977C. Hugh HolmanUNC-Chapel HillLiterature
1976Eloise Rallings LewisUNC-GreensboroHistory
1976LeRoy T. WalkerNC CentralArt
1975Helen Grey EdmondsNC CentralHistory
1975Francis SpeightEast CarolinaEarly Childhood Education
1974Mary Elizabeth KeisterUNC-GreensboroEarly Childhood Education
1973Ovid Williams PierceEast CarolinaLiterature
1973Cratis Dearl WilliamsAppalachian StateLiterature
1972Bruce John ZobelNC StateForest Genetics
1971Naomi G. AlbaneseUNC-GreensboroHome Economics
1970Stanley George StephensNC StateAgriculture
1969Henry Brandis, Jr.UNC-Chapel HillLaw
1968John B. GrahamUNC-Chapel HillMedicine
1967Walton Carlyle GregoryNC StateAgriculture
1966Lois EdingerUNC-GreensboroEducation
1965Raymond L. MurrayNC StateScience
1964W. Reece BerryhillUNC Chapel HillMedicine
1963John C. BrauerUNC-Chapel HillDentistry
1962Randall JarrellUNC-GreensboroLiterature
1961Kenneth N. BrinkhousUNC-Chapel HillMedicine
1960Richard N. CurrentUNC-GreensboroHistory
1959Gertrude M. CoxNC StateStatistics
1958C. Horace HamiltomNC StateSociology
1957Warner L. WellsUNC-Chapel HillMedicine
1956Mereb E. MossmanUNC-GreensboroSocial Service
1955Zeno Payne MetcalfNC StateGeology & Entomology
1954Franklin H. McNuttUNC-GreensboroEducation
1953Howard W. OdumUNC-Chapel HillSociology
1952Albert CoatesUNC Chapel HillGovernment
1951Donald B. AndersonNC StateScience
1950Robert E. CookerUNC-Chapel HillScience
1949Louise B. AlexanderUNC-GreensboroEducation