Charlie and Ryan Gardner: Brothers two years apart graduate together

Brothers Charlie and Ryan Gardner of Brewer, Maine are two years apart, and both graduated from the University of Maine in May — Ryan with a bachelor’s degree and Charlie with a master’s.

The Gardner family has roots in the UMaine community. Ryan and Charlie’s father, Doug Gardner, is a professor of wood science. Their younger brother, Samuel, just completed his second year at UMaine in mechanical engineering.

Ryan earned a bachelor’s in finance with a minor in economics, and was part of the Club Golf Team at UMaine.

Charlie received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UMaine in 2017. As an undergraduate, he was involved with the UMaine chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

As a graduate student, Charlie earned the Advanced Structures and Composites Center Director’s Award and now holds a master’s in civil engineering with a structural engineering focus. His thesis, “Effects of gaps in Cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels,” focused on structural and mechanical responses of the gaps in the panels, which are used primarily in floor, roof and wall systems.

“It’s a relatively new concept here in the United States that’s been gaining popularity in residential and non-residential construction,” he says. “There’s great potential for Maine to become a major player in the CLT industry with our vast forest resources.”

Though the two brothers were in different academic programs, they ended up taking an elective class together, Introduction to Canadian Studies, when Ryan was a sophomore and Charlie was a senior.

Now that they’ve graduated, Ryan and Charlie are looking toward the next steps in their careers. Charlie plans to pursue a career in structural engineering, focused on mass timber or bridge engineering. Ryan hasn’t narrowed down a focus yet. “I’m excited for the opportunities that are in my future thanks to my degree,” he says.

When did you first realize you’d be graduating together? Or was that always the plan?
Ryan: We realized we would be graduating together once Charlie decided to pursue his master’s degree.

Charlie: Ryan was two years below me and a master’s program typically takes two years to complete.

Why did you choose UMaine?
Ryan: Having grown up in Brewer and seeing that I had many friends also attending I felt that I would immediately feel right at home here.

Have you worked closely with a professor or mentor as part of your UMaine academic experience?
Ryan: During my time at UMaine I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have two instructors multiple times. I took three economic courses with Todd Gabe. I also took three business courses with Matt Skaves. These two made class enjoyable to attend every time, and I looked up to both of them. It was thanks to them that I felt confident that I enjoyed what I was studying at UMaine. I will always remember the humor Professor Gabe brought into the classroom.

Charlie: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great people at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center over the years. My primary advisers, Bill Davids and Roberto Lopez-Anido, have always been there for me when I have questions, and trusted me to lead this research project that I’ve been working on. I also spent many summers during undergrad working for Josh Clapp, who I would say was a big reason for me coming to UMaine to study civil engineering in the first place. I also need to mention Ben Herzog, who over the last few years has also been somebody I’ve gone to for advice and is definitely someone I look up to.

What difference has UMaine made in your life?
Ryan: UMaine is where I grew into the person I am today. It was the first time not being around my parents every day. I made many new friends in the Maine Business School that will last well beyond my years at UMaine. I’m thankful for my instructors Matt Skaves and Todd Gabe that helped me develop my love of finance and economics.

Charlie: I’ve made lifelong friends and connections during my time here. When I first started out in undergrad I was a pretty shy person, but over the years I’ve branched out and become more confident in myself.

What was essential to your academic success? Any advice for incoming students?
Charlie: I think it’s really important to surround yourself with like-minded people with the same goals. Especially in engineering, some concepts are pretty difficult to pick up, and it’s easy to get discouraged in the early years. So to have friends or people to do homework with and to work through these problems is extremely helpful. I know everybody also says this, but don’t be afraid to go to your professors for help. It’s literally their job to help you learn these things. Advice for incoming students is again to surround yourself with positive people. If you are shy, get out of your comfort zone, be the person that first says “hi” to people. Join clubs and other student activities to meet people. Have goals and crush them.

Contact: Cleo Barker, 581.3729