Gardner Hall opened when NC State began to recognize Biology as a highly significant teaching and research discipline. Since then, the building has been expanded to match the rapidly increased numbers of students and faculty that have joined the interdisciplinary program. The building is named after O. Max Gardner (1882-1947), provider of the prestigious award by that name which is granted for "outstanding service to mankind."
At only 16, Gardner had fought in the Spanish-American War. During his undergraduate years at NC State, Gardner was active in campus politics. After graduating, he was elected to State Senate, to speaker pro tem, to lieutenant governor, and finally to governor. He served as Undersecretary to U.S. Treasury for President Roosevelt, and as an unofficial advisor, offered many of the ideas for the Fireside Chats. Gardner died shortly before his appointment began for "loafing around the throne," as he called it, as ambassador to England. He had received an honorary doctorate of law from NC State in 1932.
The nearly 100,000 gross square foot South Gardner Hall addition was added in 1964. The addition underwent a comprehensive renovation in 2009. The addition was then named (effective 11/19/2009) in honor of Joab Langston Thomas, who served as chancellor for NC State University from 1975 to 1981.