A Place Worth Perpetuating

Blaine and Sue Garvin

Blaine and Sue Garvin

Twenty-eight years old, a graduate student at Berkeley, living with his first wife in a cheerful one-room basement apartment in San Francisco, Blaine Garvin faced the unavoidable fact that he needed to get a job. He had applied to several places with no luck. Maybe just as well, he thought. Berkeley was an exciting place even if the University research factory seemed to ignore its students. And he could have happily wandered the streets of “the City” endlessly (he says he still does in his dreams). Then Fr. Frank Costello called from Gonzaga University about an ad to which Garvin had replied, but forgotten all about.

“I came up for the interview and loved it immediately,” said Garvin. “Gonzaga was a place where moral and ethical questions were paramount and where students were at the center. It had a strong family atmosphere.”

Garvin arrived in Spokane three years before Expo ’74—there was no park downtown, just a jumble of rail yards. Gonzaga was physically a very different place from the 102-building campus it is today. Forty-seven years after he accepted the job, Garvin feels that Gonzaga is in many ways the same place it was in 1971—still student-centered, turning out good people. Over the years, he has become a recognizable and beloved campus figure, often seen walking purposefully, wearing his black driver’s cap, carrying his papers and an ornate magnifying glass. Thousands of students have passed through his classrooms and sought his guidance.

“I’m here to help bring students into adulthood and realize their full intellectual potential,” he explained. “They’re committed to their ambitions in ways that are not self-centered. I think that needs to be preserved.”

Garvin saw the value in the way scholarships could ensure a steady stream of talented and driven students in his classes. At the same time, Fr. Coughlin was seeking to grow the University’s endowment.

“The University under Fr. Coughlin wanted to raise the endowment,” said Garvin. “The Jesuits already give through their lives, so could the lay faculty give financially? It makes sense. So a small bit of my salary was directed to the general endowment. Years later, I redirected my gifts to the Frank B. Costello, S.J. Political Science Book Endowment and eventually the Thomas Jefferson Endowed Scholarship.”

Then, when he and his second wife, Susan (a 1976 GU political science graduate who earned her master’s in counseling psychology in 1982), were writing their will, they made the decision to include a gift to Gonzaga’s Thomas Jefferson Endowed Scholarship fund.

“When Susan and I got to thinking about our will, we wanted to do something for my son Sean, but also wanted to give back to this place that’s been my life’s work. It’s important to step back and show our gratitude to Gonzaga, a place worth perpetuating. The vast majority of our students end up being really solid, good citizens. They become environmentalists, rights’ activists, Peace Corps volunteers — they are making an incredible difference. Scholarships make that possible; the more Gonzaga has the better.”