At 90, Robert Gard looks back with pleasure and gratitude to three overlapping but distinct careers spanning 65 years.
When asked, he mentions two experiences that are especially meaningful to him. He worked as military advisor with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation when it received the Nobel Peace Prize for initiating and managing the international campaign to ban anti-personnel landmines. Yet, most rewarding, Gard says, was the challenge of assuming the presidency of the Monterey Institute at a critical time in its history. Dr. Gard and his wife, Dr. Janet Wall, recently donated their Pebble Beach home to the Institute to increase the endowments of their two scholarship funds.
To ensure the Institute’s viability, President Gard set and accomplished the goals of increasing enrollment by 50%, doubling the number of resident faculty, rehabilitating the existing buildings and doubling the Institute’s infrastructure footprint, all within five years. He served as president almost 11 years, from 1987 to 1998. He credits his wife, Janet Wall, not only for her support but also for her contributions to the growth of the Institute while she also pursued her career in positions with the Department of Defense and the Naval Post Graduate School.
In his first career, Gard served in the U.S. Army for more than 30 years, with combat service in Korea and Vietnam. Assignments included executive assistant to Secretaries of Defense Robert McNamara and Clark Clifford; the Army’s first director of Human Resources Development, while a brigadier general; commanding general of Fort Ord in the Monterey area, while a major general; and, finally, president of the National Defense University, for almost five years, as a lieutenant general. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and earned an MPA and PhD in Political Economy and Government both from Harvard University.
Janet Wall is an accomplished educator, and she has worked at the federal, state, school district and local school levels in the areas of assessment, evaluation, and career development. She currently has an online business, CEUonestop, that offers courses and webinars to career development specialists and other councilors who receive professional refresher credit for successful completion. Wall is the author of several books and numerous articles, and she has received a number of national awards from the American Counseling Association.
Upon Gard’s retirement from the Institute, several trustees and Janet Wall, who made the largest contribution, seeded the Robert G. Gard Scholarship Fund, which provides tuition support to enable graduate students to attend the Institute. Less than a decade later, the couple established a second endowment, the Gard ‘n’ Wall Non-Proliferation Scholarship Fund, which supports students studying issues related to weapons of mass destruction at the Institute. “Having served 31 years in uniform, directly concerned with security of the nation, it’s evident to me that the only major threat to the viability, even the existence, of the United States, is an attack with weapons of mass destruction. Consequently, as president, I supported Dr. Bill Potter’s initiative to establish the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), which has achieved international acclaim.”
Now that their Pebble Beach home has been sold under the aegis of an established unitrust, the proceeds from the sale have been reinvested to provide lifetime income to both donors. Once released at their passing, the unitrust assets will be split between their two scholarship funds.
This gift constitutes one of the largest in the Institute’s 63-year history. Commenting about the gift process, Gard noted that, “The professional staffs at Middlebury and the Institute provided invaluable assistance in helping us wade through the process and assisted us in matching our philanthropic goals with the optimum gift plan for us.”
Over the years, the couple has supported more than 30 Institute students, and followed their success as students and their choices of careers following graduation. Both have been highly impressed by “these exceptionally talented and highly capable men and women” who are entering career fields dealing with complex challenges to international stability and other issues of global consequence. “In a world as interconnected and complicated as ours has become, we find it very gratifying that the Institute is graduating professionals who are engaging in useful work in such important areas.”