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Three to Receive UW Distinguished Alumni Awards

September 29, 2014
Gaurdia Banister, David Freudenthal and Harold Gardner
The University of Wyoming 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are Gaurdia Banister, David Freudenthal and Harold Gardner. (UW Alumni Association)

Three University of Wyoming graduates will receive Distinguished Alumni Awards during UW Homecoming activities Saturday, Oct. 18.

The 2014 recipients are Casper native and health care executive Gaurdia Banister, (B.S. ’80); Thermopolis native and two-term governor David D. Freudenthal ( J.D. ’80); and Afton native and health care leader and managed care movement pioneer Harold Gardner (Exp. ’59).

When Banister decided to attend UW, she knew she had ability in the sciences, but she did not know she would choose to become a nurse. But faculty at the nursing school provided strong mentoring and guidance, and Banister ended up excelling in the program.

“The incredible, passionate, knowledgeable faculty supported me along the way. It is very powerful, as a student, when you know your faculty has confidence in you,” she says. “Receiving that award made me feel so honored that I was perceived to be a nurse who desperately cared for and took good care of patients. That passion has stayed with me, the passion that whomever I am working with, that I am taking very best care of them.”

Today, Banister is the executive director of the Institute for Patient Care at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston, one of the nation’s largest hospital-based institutes. She oversees four centers, focused on patient and family learning, clinical and professional development, nursing research and innovation in patient care delivery.

She has been instrumental in developing the Dedicated Education Unit, a dynamic new model of clinical education for nursing students. Banister has been involved in efforts to diversify the MGH nursing workforce by developing models of clinical leadership development involving mentors for minority nursing students.

“I feel like I’ve had one of these careers in which opportunities presented themselves at certain times, and I’ve been able to be flexible and adaptable,” she says. “I am feeling very good about where I am today. I always want to give back and be a voice and advocate for poor and underserved populations. I feel that UW is part of the foundation that helped launch me to this successful career I have had.”

Freudenthal is one of Wyoming’s best-known citizens.

“If you are going to be a governor, this is the place to do it,” Freudenthal says of his time in that position. “People are more than happy when you are doing something wrong to tell you so. They have better access to you and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts. That makes democracy work.”

Holding the state’s highest office might have been enough for Freudenthal to have been named a UW Distinguished Alumnus. But he has had a full and wide-ranging career. From 1994 to 2001, he was U.S. attorney for Wyoming. He co-chaired the Wyoming Governor's Energy, Engineering, STEM Integration Task Force in 2012 and remains a member of that group. He practices law full time as a senior counsel with the Crowell and Morning law firm.

Freudenthal credits the excellent faculty at the UW College of Law for shaping him as a student and lawyer. They helped him “maintain the enthusiasm,” which he says is one of the biggest struggles for busy students in such a rigorous academic program. 

For two years starting in 2010, Freudenthal was a distinguished professor in the UW College of Law, where he led seminars on energy, environment law and economics. He had the opportunity to create for his own students the sort of environment that nurtured him. “They work hard and they challenge you. Being around the students gives you lots of hope for the future.”

Freudenthal says it was a great honor, and an unexpected one, to learn that he’d been named a UW Distinguished Alumnus. “The university contributes a lot to me,” he says. “I should be honoring UW for being a distinguished university, instead of the other way around.”

Gardner pioneered the concept of health as human capital for employers and government that emphasizes the importance of person-centric integrated information and an understanding of economic incentives in managing employee health and health benefits.

He is one of eight children born to parents who were both educators. “Wyoming is in my blood,” he says, and UW, too, as seven siblings from the family are UW alumni. He attended UW on both athletic and academic scholarships. As a college basketball player, he learned that “playing Division I sports is a full-time job.” Combined with his rigorous pre-med coursework, he was grateful for mentoring by key faculty members.

Gardner did not graduate from UW because, at that time, students commonly went early into medical schools. After three years at UW, he went to the University of Rochester Medical School. Drafted into the Army in the middle of Vietnam War, he says he came back from military service “more interested in a broader range of social and economic issues.”

He has worked toward solving those problems, practicing medicine with a focus on disease prevention. Gardner has held academic appointments at the University of Rochester, Wayne State University and the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and is currently an adjunct professor at the UW Colleges of Business and Health Sciences. Gardner was a pioneer in the HMO and managed care movement and in developing multidisciplinary primary care health professional roles.

After working in places such as Detroit and New York City, he decided to return to Wyoming. He is the founder, owner and operator of Cheyenne-based Human Capital Management Services, Inc. a research and consulting service business, and chairman of the Health as Human Capital Foundation.

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