Vonnye Rice Gardner

As Interviewed by AJ Marks, March 12, 2013
"To know that things can change and the heart of man can change – that’s what’s important."
Vonnye Rice Gardner

Introductory Profile: About Vonnye Rice Gardner

Vonnye Rice Gardner grew up in Austin, Texas, and attended Austin schools in the 1950s and 60s. While in high school, she was one of only a few black students at Austin High. Sometimes, when she would wait at the bus stop to go to Austin High, the bus driver would not stop to pick her up. When that happened, one of her parents would have to take her, and she would arrive late and try to explain why she was late. Many times the teachers would not accept her explanation. Despite these potential barriers, Mrs. Gardner shared many positive stories and memories of school and her childhood.

Mrs. Vonnye Rice Gardner is sixty-six years-old and currently lives in Austin, Texas. She is a professor at Austin Community College where she teaches Developmental Reading, but she also taught public school for many years. She is a fourth generation educator and was inspired to go into education by her parents and a close family friend who acted as a sister to her. Her father, Friendly Rice, was a principal in Austin at three different elementary schools. Her great-grandfather, a former slave, helped establish a school in Houston, Texas. Jack Yates High School in Houston is named for him. Mrs. Gardner speaks very clearly and precisely and is a very optimistic person.

In the interview, she was very good at uncovering the past and sharing in-depth stories. Mrs. Gardner projected pride in her heritage and shared many positive memories of her family and experiences. She consistently portrayed herself as a person of faith, and she maintains a positive outlook on life and the possibilities of people. Whenever she would recall any potential memories of discrimination, she would immediately follow-up with positive examples of people who were kind and helpful.

Growing up in East Austin through the 1950s and 60s, Mrs. Gardner undoubtedly experienced the segregation of the City of Austin. Despite that, most of her stories are about her positive memories of her family and friends. Mrs. Gardner believes “the heart of man can change.”