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Workman honors late children with gifts to WVU College of Law

WVU alumna Margaret Workman (center) poses with children (from left) Lindsay, Christopher and Ted Gardner. She has made three gifts to the College of Law to honor Lindsay and Ted following their passing. (Submitted photo)

WVU alumna Margaret Workman (center) poses with children (from left) Lindsay, Christopher and Ted Gardner. She has made three gifts to the College of Law to honor Lindsay and Ted following their passing.

West Virginia University College of Law students committed to criminal justice, public service and child advocacy will benefit from three gifts – totaling $250,000 – made by pioneering alumna Margaret Workman in memory of her late children.

Now retired from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Workman was the first woman elected to statewide office in West Virginia. She served a total of 30 years in the judiciary, including two terms on the Supreme Court (five terms as chief justice) and seven years as a circuit court judge in Kanawha County.

Workman established the Edward E. (Ted) Gardner Innocence Project Scholarship to pay tribute to her son, who passed away in April 2020. The scholarship will be awarded to a third-year College of Law student involved with the West Virginia Innocence Project, a legal clinic that works to exonerate people wrongfully convicted of crimes.

Workman said her son was brilliant and a “true civil libertarian” who belonged to the American Civil Liberties Union and believed strongly in criminal justice reform. At the time of his death, he had completed two years of medical school at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

“I hope this scholarship will help students who are interested in going into a career in criminal law,” Workman said. “And, even for those who don’t, to learn more about our criminal law system and develop an appreciation for individual rights and liberties.”

To honor her daughter, Workman also established the Lindsay Elizabeth Gardner Public Interest Fellowship, which provides a summer stipend for a College of Law student to work for a legal nonprofit organization, including Legal Aid of West Virginia, county public defenders’ offices, environmental groups and others. Funds will be awarded by the Center for Law and Public Service.

Prior to her passing in May 2016, Lindsay Gardner worked as a television news reporter, public relations manager for the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and communications professional for Timberline Four Seasons Resort in West Virginia. Workman said her daughter was a talented artist and writer who loved to do volunteer work helping others from the time she was a teenager.

“Lindsay lit up every room she ever entered,” Workman said. “I hope this gift will inspire students, no matter what work they choose to do in their legal careers, to devote some of their time to pro bono work and public interest organizations.”

Workman previously established a namesake endowment to support the Child and Family Advocacy Clinic in memory of her daughter. The fund supports the operation of the clinic, which provides legal assistance to children and families and offers practical training for students serving those in need.

“Lindsay and Ted were beautiful souls. They were the lights of my life,” Workman said. “And I hope they will always be remembered for the brilliant light and love they brought to this world during their short lives.”

“Justice Workman has had a storied legal career in West Virginia and continues, even in retirement, to help others in need,” Amelia Smith Rinehart, William J. Maier, Jr. Dean and Professor of Law, said. “We are so honored that she has chosen to memorialize her children with financial support for our students seeking careers in public interest and public service. It reflects her commitment to transforming the lives of students in need, as well as her tireless and lifelong work to improve access to legal services for all.”

A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Workman relied on financial aid herself as the first in her family to attend college. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from WVU in 1969, followed by her law degree in 1974.

She noted that one of her future Supreme Court colleagues, Franklin Cleckley, played a pivotal role in her ability to afford law school. Upon joining the College of Law as its first African American faculty member, Cleckley created a scholarship fund to aid minority students in need – including Workman, who was one of only a few women enrolled at the time.

“I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to have an undergraduate education or a law school education without financial help,” said Workman, who appreciates the opportunity to support her alma mater. “My legal education has enabled me to have an interesting and meaningful career, and for that I am deeply grateful. Mine was the last class to graduate from the old law school on the downtown campus, and the growth of the law school since then has been impressive.”

Following graduation, Workman served as assistant counsel to the majority on the U.S. Senate Public Works Committee. Upon her return to West Virginia, she worked as a law clerk for the 13th Judicial Circuit and later established a private practice in Charleston. She was appointed to Kanawha County Circuit Court in 1981 by then-Governor Jay Rockefeller, becoming the second female circuit court judge in the state and the youngest at the time.

Workman fought to protect the rights of women and children throughout her legal career. She created a state task force to ensure gender fairness in the court system, established West Virginia’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program and created the Juvenile Justice Commission, among other groundbreaking efforts.

While she misses the courtroom post-retirement, Workman is eager to build a legacy in memory of her children. She plans to support animal rescue efforts in their honor. While she acknowledged that her spirit for life was forever diminished by losing two of her beloved children, she said her remaining son, Christopher, and her two granddaughters have given her the courage to continue to try to live in a meaningful way.

“To lose a child is the most devastating experience in life,” Workman said. “Your children are your whole heart and your soul; they’re your everything. Life has been way different since I lost them. I miss them so much. I want to spend the rest of my life honoring their memory by trying to help others."

Workman’s gifts were made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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