The 2014 Gardner Award (Alumnus of the Year) has been awarded to Bruce Bickner, DePauw ’65 for his outstanding leadership and tireless efforts on behalf of Phi Delta Theta and his important endeavors in higher education and his community. Bickner forged a successful career in law and business while serving with distinction in higher education governance at several institutions, notably the University of Michigan and its Law School, and as a community volunteer.
After a federal clerkship, Mr. Bickner began his legal career as an associate with Sidley Austin, LLP where he became a partner specializing in antitrust and securities/commodities matters. At DeKalb Energy Corporation, he served in various management positions leading to his role as chairman and chief executive officer. Mr. Bickner served in the chairmanship and chief executive role with DeKalb Genetics Corporation after holding several management positions with the company.
Bickner then served as executive vice president for competitor strategy with Monsanto Corporation, where he was a co-president of the company’s Global Seed Group. He is now an independent business consultant and director.
Mr. Bickner’s experience with institutions of higher education includes service as chairman of the Board of Trustees of North Park University; member of the Board of Visitors of DePauw University and past interim president of North Park University. He is a lifetime member of the Washington C. DePauw Society in recognition of his repeated and generous gifts to his alma mater.
Mr. Bickner is a member of the U of M’s President’s Advisory Group and was a member of Dean Evan Caminker’s Advisory Council. He chaired the Law School’s Development and Alumni Relations Committee and the steering committee for the Law School’s Michigan Difference Campaign. His leadership of fundraising volunteers led to being recognized by the highest award—David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership.
In his community, Brother Bickner served on the State of Illinois Governor’s Biotechnology Advisory Council and chairmanships of the Kishwaukee Community Hospital, the Illinois-Missouri Area YMCA Swim Committee and Hillcrest Covenant Church. He is a member of the Bar Associations of Illinois and Wisconsin.
For his Indiana Zeta Chapter, Brother Bickner led the charge for its “Securing Our Legacy” capital campaign. With his lead gift and inspiration, the chapter house at DePauw has undergone $1million in safety, security and comfort upgrades.
Brother Bickner was the chapter president (’64-’65) and attended DePauw on a Rector Scholarship—the University’s most prestigious of scholarships.
Executive Vice President of Phi Delta Theta Robert A. Biggs presented the award to Mr. Bickner while visiting Bruce and his wife Joan at their Chicago home in mid-November 2014. The Fraternity recognizes this alumnus’ great efforts to impact those around him, as Phi Delta Theta Founder Robert Morrison put it – “To do what ought to be done, but would not have been done unless I did it, I thought to be my duty.”