Remembering Matthew Gaertner
Dear NCME Community,
It is with profound sadness and grief that I share the news that Matthew Gaertner passed away last week. Words which have often served as my allies are failing me as I attempt to process the shock of this news.
Matt was one of those people that fills the room with his energy and enthusiasm. He was an integral part of the NCME Community, and served NCME in so many different capacities after earning his PhD in Education at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2011 (where, perhaps needless to say, he was one of my favorite students). Chair of the membership committee, chair of the website committee (Matt almost single-handedly pushed the NCME website into the 21st century), co-editor of a book in the NCME Book Series (Preparing Students for College and Careers). He was the first person I thought of when it came time to appoint program chairs for 2022 NCME Conference.
Matt was, simply put, a star. And he was still very much in ascent, which makes this news all the more devastating. For the past three years he held the position of Director of Assessment Research and Innovation at WestEd, and in that context he did it all—winning competitive federal grants for assessment research projects, attracting new staff, leading standard setting research and activities, coordinating the revisions to the NAEP frameworks for math and reading, and always thinking deeply and creatively about the role that assessment and measurement can play in teaching and learning. Matt was passionate about equity and social justice, and equally passionate that assessment could be a positive force in facilitating these goals.
Just last year Matt received WestEd’s Paul D. Hood Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field, which recognizes staff for their outstanding bodies of work in research, development, and service. It is WestEd’s highest and most prestigious honor for research excellence, and unsurprisingly, it was not something Matt ever mentioned to me. Matt was so often the brightest person in the room or on a call, yet he was always modest and self-deprecating to a fault. He had a dry sense of humor that was always lurking close to the surface, and when he turned it on—which was often—he could have you laughing until you cried. I was so proud of Matt. I loved him. I’m really going to miss him, and I know I’m not alone.
Matt is survived by his wife Freya and their two daughters, Corinne and Genevieve.
In the near future we will be finding ways to properly commemorate, celebrate and remember Matt. His loss is going to reverberate. For now, we grieve together as a community.
August 16, 2021