Mann succeeds Gardner as head of CSU’s Office of Defense Engagement

Hank Gardner, an associate vice president for research who co-founded Colorado State University’s Office of Defense Engagement, retired this spring and will be succeeded by Kelly Mann, who has been named interim director of the office.

Gardner spent 25 years in the U.S. Army Medical Department before joining CSU in 2001 under then-Vice President for Research Tony Frank. He has served as interim vice president for research and interim director of CSU’s Infectious Disease Research Center. He and retired Army officer Michael Czaja created the Office of Defense Engagement about five years ago.

Tony Frank and Hank Gardner
CSU President Tony Frank, left, congratulates Gardner at his retirement party in March.

Among his accomplishments with the ODE, Gardner helped launch a Medical Proficiency Training program at CSU for Green Beret medics from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Colorado Springs.

“Hank navigated a partnership for Special Forces combat medics to train in polytrauma as well as veterinary sciences,” said retired U.S. Navy SEAL Capt. John Doolittle. “Many don’t realize this, but our special operators rely on their combat medics to provide critical pediatric, adult and veterinary medical care during deployments. There is simply no faster way to gain the hearts and minds of a local populace than to take care of their kids and animals.”

Certificate programs

Gardner also helped develop a series of certificates in applied global stability with Jim Lindsay, a CSU history professor and ODE academic coordinator, and Erica Fleishman, ODE engagement and research coordinator. The certificates serve military personnel as well as professionals in the Department of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development, Peace Corps, and other entities working to address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition, Gardner is credited with facilitating a CSU research study by professors Lise Youngblade of Human Development and Family Studies and Tracy Nelson of Health and Exercise Science at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, as part of the Preservation of the Force and Family Program.

Hank Gardner
Hank Gardner

“This partnership with CSU resulted in reams of supporting data, which helped us obtain full congressional support for resources to take care of our operational force and their families,” Doolittle said. “Hank might not realize it, but he helped hundreds of struggling members of our force.”

“Hank has built an entire portfolio of military outreach and networking projects,” added CSU alumnus Jamie Riesberg, a Green Beret and surgeon for the 10th Special Forces Group. “His vision to combine the CSU land-grant ethos with the military service ethos has created collaborative energy, and positively impacts fields ranging from military education to research.”

Other accomplishments

Gardner also finalized a collaboration agreement with Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, and helped create the Colorado School of Public Health, the state’s first accredited school of public health, in partnership with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Northern Colorado.

“For me, it was always about relationships with the people that meant the most, the people who make the institution run,” said Gardner, who celebrated his retirement at a March 27 reception at Canvas Stadium. “It’s been a good run.”

Mann, who has served as ODE’s associate director under Gardner, said he plans to continue that emphasis on relationships as interim director.

Kelly Mann
Kelly Mann

“I’m sure that we’ll refine our goals and objectives as we seek to improve and grow, but there’s one central key to our success now and in the future: ‘It’s personal,’” he said. “As individuals and as a team, we strive to foster mutual respect and strong relationships between students, researchers and our military partners because we are acutely aware that our efforts have real-world impacts and consequences for warfighters and their families.”

‘Make a difference’

The Office of Defense Engagement, formerly based in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, is now within the Office of the Vice President for Research.

“I am excited to transition Hank’s original concept into full integration as a resource within the OVPR,” Mann said. “I have a particular interest in funding for student outreach, facilitating their freedom to explore national defense and warfighter-focused opportunities that may enhance CSU’s competitiveness for larger-scale projects in the future. Rams want to make a difference. Together I know that we will.”

He said one of his priorities will be to involve more graduate and undergraduate students in pilot projects for the Department of Defense.

Mann spent 21 years in the Army Veterinary Corps, specializing in military working dogs and achieving the rank of colonel. He got his bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgia College, then earned his master’s in veterinary parasitology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, both from the University of Georgia. He also holds master’s degrees in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College and in radiation health physics from CSU. He is a Diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Radiology.

Gardner credited CSU President Tony Frank with making the ODE possible.

“The creation of the ODE was facilitated by Tony Frank’s ongoing commitment to the men and women of the military, consistent with the legislation signed by Abraham Lincoln creating land-grant universities,” Gardner said.