Bob Gardner, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, has announced plans to retire in August. He has served in the role since May 2010. Gardner is the fifth full-time executive director of the NFHS, following H.V. Porter (1940-58), Cliff Fagan (1958-77), Brice Durbin (1977-93) and Bob Kanaby (1993-2010).

His eight-year run as head of the national organization for high school athletics and performing arts activities will conclude a 48-year career in secondary education, including the final 18 years on the NFHS staff in Indianapolis. During that time, participation in high school sports has increased by almost 400,000, including the expanded opportunity for students with disabilities in high school sports.

Gardner has led the organization’s focus on risk minimization in high school sports, with particular emphasis on concussion awareness, and has brought a heightened national presence to the work of the NFHS and its member state associations. In addition to the continual expansion of the NFHS Learning Center during his tenure, Gardner is credited with starting the NFHS Network, the first-of-its-kind digital coverage of high school sports with more than 25,000 events covered during the 2016-17 school year.

He has spent his career in Indiana as a teacher and coach at three schools for eight years and as an athletic director. In 1978, Gardner became principal of Milan Junior-Senior High School, followed by a stint as superintendent of the Milan Community Schools.

After serving on the Indiana High School Athletic Association board of directors during his time at Milan, Gardner joined the IHSAA staff in 1985 as assistant commissioner. He served 10 years in that role prior to becoming commissioner in 1995.

Gardner joined the NFHS staff in 2000 as chief operating officer and served in that position for 10 years prior to becoming executive director. During this time, he chaired the NFHS Rules Review Committee and was responsible for day-to-day operations of the organization.

Gardner earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Evansville (Indiana) and his master’s and Ed.S. degrees from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He has served on the board of directors for USA Football, USA Basketball and the Indiana Sports Corp. He is a member of the Indiana High School Wrestling Hall of Fame.