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Inspirational volunteer steps back from lead education role

13 December 2021

Mike Gardiner, an ICE North East member for almost 60 years, is retiring from his education duties after decades of service to the region.

Inspirational volunteer steps back from lead education role
Mike Gardiner at a Bring It On event with pupils from Newcastle High School for Girls.

Mike Gardiner has stepped back from his ICE regional education role after more than 40 years of service.

Current ICE North East chair Paula McMahon and Education Panel chair Graham Yates presented Gardiner with an award last month for his lengthy service and dedication to inspiring young people in the region.

Gardiner first joined the ICE graduates and students in 1963, when he was just 20 and went on to make an extraordinary contribution to the ICE in the North East for almost 60 years.

Beyond the education spectrum, Gardiner has been a long and dutiful servant of the Northumbria branch committee, Regional Committee and the Seniors Group.

He said: “My 40-plus years of being the lead volunteer in the ICE North East education and outreach activities have given me great satisfaction, despite it having to be slotted into a full-time day job. The climax was the award of the Warren Medal in 2019 via an MBE in 2001 and numerous local and national presentations en route.

“I had thought that was the end of it, so I was delighted to receive another presentation from the regional committee in recognition of my long service. Because of my worsening mobility problems, this was made by regional chair Paula McMahon and Education Panel chair Graham Yates in my own living room.”

Inspiring others

Gardiner also name-checked some of the successful civil engineers he’s seen rise through the ranks.

“Paula also brought her INPUT (Industry North Project: Understanding Technology) certificate from the 1989 residential course at Durham which was signed by my Professor Harry Marsh (the founder and chairman of INPUT) and myself as secretary. As the saying goes “What goes round comes round”!

“Another early entry to the field was a young engineer called Penny Marshall [recently retired ICE North East regional director] while much more recently, Steena Nasapen-Watson [current ICE North East regional director] joined the ranks. I make no apology if that sounds like a list of the great and the good!” he said.

Launching careers

Paula McMahon reflected on her first meeting with Gardiner in 1989, which led to her choosing civil engineering as her profession.

“I owe my career to INPUT’96, the residential course I attended when still at school. This showcased the huge variety of engineering and it got me hooked. It was only years later I came to realise that Mike was the INPUT Secretary and was basically instrumental in setting me off on my career. I also had the pleasure to attend the 20th Anniversary of INPUT and got to meet others who started my engineering journey.

“I have also been lucky to work alongside Mike in more recent years for ICE North East and his enthusiasm for encouraging the next generation never waned. I am and will always be grateful for what Mike has done for me and I wonder how many thousands of others he inspired,” she said.

Bringing it on

Education Panel chair Graham Yates presents Mike Gardiner with a trophy at his home.
Education Panel chair Graham Yates presents Mike Gardiner with a trophy at his home.

Current Education Panel chairman Graham Yates met Gardiner more than 20 years ago.

“I first met Mike at an emerging engineers event at Gateshead Stadium in around 2000 and since then he has been an ever present in the education offer of ICE North East, not only presenting activities but usually buying and making the equipment to facilitate events. I should point out that Mike’s involvement predates this event by a long way!” said Yates.

“Mike can be credited with helping launch Bring It On in the Region that has gone on to be a major event in promoting engineering as a career to young people in the region.

“More recently despite personal health issues Mike retains his enthusiasm for Education Panel events and is always willing to offer sage advice and volunteer wherever possible. My personal thanks go to Mike for all his efforts and best wishes to him for the future.”

  • Joanne Stephenson, communications lead at ICE