Profile picture and text: 50 FOR 50 STORIES: Story #36: Barbara Seaver GardnerStory #36: Barbara Seaver Gardner

Our next story is about JEP’s very own founder – Barbara Seaver Gardner.

In 1972, Seaver Gardner founded the Joint Educational Project with the idea of bringing service-learning to USC’s campus. In fact, JEP is the oldest and one of the largest service-learning programs in the country.

Many people at JEP still remember her fighting for what she believed in: “Barbara was a visionary. At a time when there was great animosity between the university and its surrounding neighbors, Barbara recognized the power of people coming together to work toward a common goal — in this case, the need to build a strong, vibrant, community — bringing together Town and Gown. Her idea was that most people can come together around what’s good for children.”

And she was correct. JEP’s programs have helped to foster a better relationship with the surrounding community, and have enriched the lives of children at nearby elementary schools for fifty years now.

Seaver Gardner served as director for eight years after JEP’s founding. In 1980, Richard Cone took over as director. Remembering Seaver Gardner, he said to USC News in 1993, “Barbara will be remembered as a bold, creative and tireless advocate for the community and for the women and minorities on campus. You could never present a problem to her without her coming up with ways to address it. She spent a lifetime creating ways to solve problems for others.”

Prior to creating JEP, Seaver Gardner was a research associate at the Center for Urban Affairs at USC. Before that, she was the only woman to graduate from Stanford University with a civil engineering degree in 1946. These experiences inspired her to found JEP, where students could teach these vital skills to elementary school students, as well as see real-life implications of what they’re studying in school. In her own words, JEP’s goal was and still is “to foster intellectual connections between what the students experience in their community service and what they are studying in their formal academic courses.”

In addition to her work at JEP, Seaver Gardner also co-founded USC’s Women in Management group and was a driving force behind developing the Office of Civic and Community Relations.

In 2008, the Barbara Seaver Gardner Award was established in her honor. The award recognizes graduating seniors, who through successful participation in JEP have demonstrated steadfast commitment to community service, with an emphasis on the community surrounding the University Park Campus.

Seaver Gardner’s goal in establishing JEP was to unite people from the community and USC around the common goal of achieving high-quality education for both USC students and the children in the surrounding campus community. Considering our 50th anniversary this year, it’s clear that Seaver Gardner’s vision has been present in JEP’s actions to this day and has since guided JEP to impact over 100,000 USC students and community members.