Mercyhurst University’s ninth and longest-serving president Dr. William P. Garvey, 81, died Wednesday, Aug. 9, at LECOM Senior Living Center. Dr. Garvey had been suffering from ill health in recent years.
Mercyhurst President Michael T. Victor described Dr. Garvey as a “visionary leader whose 25-year tenure (1980-2005) at Mercyhurst was marked by a period of tremendous growth and dynamism.”
Widely regarded as an educator, historian and civic leader, Dr. Garvey strengthened the college’s commitment to academic distinction while overseeing more than $45 million in new buildings and renovations to the Erie campus. He also was largely responsible for the opening of Mercyhurst North East 25 years ago.
During his early years at Mercyhurst, he was chairman of the social sciences and education departments. He was then named dean of the college and later vice president of academic services, both appointments under the administration of Sister Carolyn Herrmann.
He put his scholarship as a historian to practice as an unpaid consultant when Erie County pursued adoption of a Home Rule Charter, and he took a leave of absence from Mercyhurst in 1977 to serve as director of administration for Russell Robison, the first Erie County executive. He returned to the college as director of Mercyhurst’s first graduate program in criminal justice before being elected president in July 1980.
In his later years, Dr. Garvey founded the Jefferson Educational Society, a think-tank devoted to civic enlightenment and community progress for the Erie region. His crowning achievement as a historian and writer came just this year with the publishing in April of his book, “Erie, Pennsylvania MAYORS: 150 Years of Political History.”
With respect for his service to the university, Mercyhurst will sound the carillon bells on its Erie campus for each of his 25 years at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday. Mercyhurst flags on both the Erie and North East campuses will be lowered to half-staff for a week in commemoration.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete and are being handled by Burton Funeral Home, W. 10th and Cherry streets.