Dr. William P. Garvey

| August 12, 2017

Dr. William P. Garvey, age 81 of Erie, died Aug. 9, 2017. An Oil City native, Dr. Garvey was born Dec. 9, 1935, the son of the late Dorothy Hoke and John William Garvey.

He graduated from St. Joseph High School in Oil City.

He founded the Jefferson Educational Society of Erie in May 2008 at 3207 State St., as Erie’s think tank for community progress and civic enlightenment. He was named “founder and chair of the board” of The Jefferson Society in June of this year and in April the Jefferson Society published his most recent book, “Erie, Pennsylvania Mayors: 150 Year of Political History.” He was the first director of administration of Erie County Government and the ninth and longest serving president of Mercyhurst College/University.

Dr. Garvey was an educator, historian, lecturer and public servant. He inspired the naming of Dobbins Landing and took part in the project to construct a replica of the U.S. Brig Niagara. He also led two signature Erie County celebrations—the Erie Bicentennial in 1985 and the yearlong celebration of Perry 200 in 2013, marking the anniversary of Perry’s historic naval victory of the Battle of Lake Erie. He was also the founder and executive producer of the Old Fashioned Fourth of July held for 22 years on the Mercyhurst campus.

Dr. Garvey joined the faculty of Mercyhurst in 1962 and later became dean of the college, vice president of academic affairs and was elected president in 1980. He is responsible for carrying out the coeducational transition of Mercyhurst. As president of the college, he opened 18 new buildings including the campus of Mercyhurst North East and is the founder of every Laker sports on the Erie campus.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Gannon University in 1957, was editor of the Gannon Knight and recipient of the Gannon Medal of Honor. He then joined the faculty of Pittsburgh’s North Catholic High School as a history teacher, department chairman and junior varsity basketball coach, which he was most proud of. He also taught at Duquesne University and earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in history from the University of Pittsburgh.

He was honored in 1995 as one of “100 of the United States notable Irish-Americans,” and that same year was named a Knight of St. Patrick. He received the Archbishop Gannon Medal of Distinction, the highest honor presented by Gannon University, for his outstanding contributions to higher education and for his leadership in the Erie community. He also served as president or chairman of 16 civic, fraternal and religious organizations.

He served on nine boards of trustees, including the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority; Erie Public Library; Erie Historical Society; Erie Red Cross Campaign; Torch Club; Hamot Health Foundation; Irish-American Partnership; and the Edmund L. Thomas Youth Center.

Dr. Garvey is survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Mary Kay and Thomas Songer; nephews Michael Songer and his wife Bernadette of Washington, DC; Thomas Songer and his wife Nancy, of Pittsburgh; Patrick Songer and his wife Gail of Chicago; his companion Maureen Plunkett and many cousins and friends.

Friends may call at the Burton Westlake Funeral Home, 3801 W. 26th St. (at Powell), on Sunday, Aug. 13 from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be on Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, 130 East 4th Street, Erie PA 16507 with Monsignor Henry Kriegel presiding.

Memorials may be made to The Jefferson Education Society, 3207 State St, Erie, PA 16508 or a charity of one’s choice.

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Category: Obituaries