It is with deep sadness that I write to share that our colleague and friend Matthew Gaertner has passed away. Matt was the director of WestEd’s Assessment Research and Innovation team.
Matt joined WestEd in 2018. I fondly remember Andy Latham, Matt’s supervisor, bringing him by my San Francisco office just to say hello. What started as a brief introduction turned into a thoroughly engaging conversation about the many fascinating ideas Matt was exploring, peppered with his witty insights that I later learned were an essential part of his personality. As he left my office, I knew immediately that an amazing new colleague had joined WestEd and we would all be better off for it.
Matt’s impact on our WestEd community was immediate and deep. He was well respected nationally for his intellectual prowess as a psychometrician, but what distinguished him even more were his uncanny ability to translate complex research into pragmatic solutions, and his passionate pursuit of equity and social justice through his work. He was consistently focused on making a positive difference.
Matt’s work was so significant and substantial that last year, less than three years after arriving at WestEd, he was selected to receive the Paul D. Hood Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field, which recognizes staff for their outstanding bodies of work in research, development, and service and is WestEd’s highest and most prestigious honor for research excellence. In his Hood nomination, Matt was referred to as a “budding psychometric superstar” – and indeed, a superstar he was.
Matt’s colleagues outside WestEd valued him similarly, naming him the 2022 National Council on Measurement in Education program chair, in charge of establishing the theme for the preeminent measurement conference in the world.
While Matt’s career accomplishments are incredibly impressive, it is Matt the person we’ll miss the most. Andy Latham shared that “Matt was brilliant, witty, and lit up the room with his personality. He was also a dear friend. I cannot begin to put into words how devastated I am.” His loss leaves a huge hole in our community.
Matt was always amazingly generous in his interactions with colleagues. He always made me laugh and he always made me think – two of the greatest gifts you can give – gifts I am cherishing.
Matt is survived by his wife Freya and their two daughters, to whom we send our deepest condolences.
Glen Harvey, WestEd CEO