Dec. 1, 2010

Jeanne Garvey: The President's Wife and More

John and Jeanne Garvey with granddaughters Isabella and Claudia
John and Jeanne Garvey with granddaughters Isabella and Claudia and one of their dogs, Gus, at Nugent Hall.

In October, Jeanne Walter Garvey rented a 16-foot moving truck and drove it solo from Washington, D.C., to the house in Boston that she and her family had called home.

"I filled it up with boxes and I turned around and drove back," she says, as if it were no big deal.

When she arrived back in Washington, her husband, CUA's new president John Garvey, and two students helped her unload it. Many of those boxes still sit unpacked in the garage of Garvey's new home at Nugent Hall on Catholic University's campus.

The Garveys are still completing the move from Boston where he was dean of the Boston College Law School. While her husband is already making his mark as CUA's 15th president, Jeanne Garvey says she will take some time to define her role as the President's wife, a role that has not existed at CUA for decades.

"I want to be involved and I want to be a presence. But I don't want to be just the President's wife. I'll find my own way. I have no doubt something will evolve," she adds.

Garvey has a master's degree in education from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from Stanford University. "My career has always been important to me," she says. Garvey has held several positions in higher education administration at the University of Kentucky, Indiana University in South Bend, and Boston College, where she was the director of career services for the M.B.A. program at the Carroll School of Management.

Rapid Fire: Mrs. Garvey Answers
10 Questions in 60 Seconds
Jeanne GarveyWhat do you miss most about Boston?
Our home

What do like
best about
living at CUA?

The students

What is your best advice for parenting teenagers? Patience

What is the key to a long marriage? Patience

What is your favorite place for a family vacation? The beach

What is the best part about being a grandparent? Hugs

What is your favorite kind of restaurant? Italian

What is your favorite way to spend a quiet evening? Watching TV with John

What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon? Visiting our son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren in Silver Spring, Md.

What do you enjoy about living in Washington, D.C.? Biking my way around the city

Among her business administration positions, she was the director of the Small Business Administration for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the director of marketing for a catalog company. Most recently, she was the co-owner of a small retail/gift shop.

"When you look at my résumé, there is no clear career path, just a lot of interesting jobs. I've been lucky in my ability to work in flexible situations while raising a family."

The Garveys have five grown children and 12 grandchildren. "There is nothing we haven't seen. Our teenagers got into trouble just like everyone else's. I think that makes us very relatable to both the parents and the students.

"We were PTA presidents and basketball coaches. We instilled strong values and a spirit of generosity in our children. But like most parents, we were not perfect. I used to have a watch with an alarm in it to remind me when kids needed to be picked up. But I can assure you each one of our kids has a story about being left at a soccer practice," she admits.

The decision to live on campus in Nugent Hall, which also houses the President's offices, was a conscious one, says Garvey. "We wanted to be involved in student life," she says.

Nugent Hall was originally built as a house for members of the Vincentian order. "So every bedroom has its own bathroom, which is so nice, especially when the kids and grandchildren start to visit. But there is absolutely no closet space," Garvey says with dismay. So far, she reports, that has been the only negative to her new home.
One of the best perks about living at Nugent? "Seeing John during the day. We've never been able to do that. We often have lunch together and that has been really fun," she says.

"Recently I brought lunch down to him in his office and he was in the middle of a phone conversation with the parent of a student here. This parent had a concern and had written John and he called her. He was talking to her parent-to-parent. As I listened for just a minute, I thought about how perfect he is for this job," says Garvey.

For now, Garvey says she is enjoying some quiet time as she and her husband find themselves living without any children in the house for the first time since 1977. Most recently in Boston, they had a son and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren living with them. "I went from buying three gallons of milk at a time at Costco to now buying a quart of milk that spoils before we can use it."

As she settles into life on campus at CUA, Garvey says the students have been her biggest surprise. "They are so friendly and have such a wonderful commitment to service.

"We went to a field hockey game this fall and John saw a group from the men's basketball team sitting in the stands and wanted to join them. I said 'They aren't going to want to sit with us! Let's not spoil their fun.' But John insisted. They couldn't have been nicer. They talked to us throughout the whole game."

Mrs. Garvey Prepares for a Busy and Emotional Inauguration Day

As Jeanne Walter Garvey prepares for her husband's inauguration as CUA's 15th President, she has an important "note to self": don't forget the tissues!

"I get teary just thinking about it," she says.

She mentions the Mass of the Holy Spirit as an indicator of just how many tissues she may need on Jan. 25, the day of the inauguration. The Mass, held Sept. 2 in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, marked the beginning of the academic year and it, for the first time ever, was televised on EWTN-TV.

"I was still in Boston. John called and said that I might want to turn the television on at noon to watch the Mass. He didn't make too much of it. He didn't even tell me he would be speaking. My daughter Clare and I watched and it was all so beautiful," says Garvey.

"To see the faculty members process up the aisle in their academic regalia and then all of the concelebrating priests, followed by Archbishop [Donald W.] Wuerl and John - I got so choked up. Then when John spoke, Clare and I were practically sobbing.

"I thought about this awesome responsibility he has taken on, and I was just so filled with love and pride."

Jeanne Garvey and granddaughter
Jeanne Garvey with granddaughter Bridie Garvey.

While she is bracing herself for an emotional inauguration day, until then she is focused more on preparing for the arrival of more than 20 family members. The Garveys' children and spouses, President Garvey's siblings and their spouses, and other relatives will be moving into Nugent Hall for a few days. The couple's 12 grandchildren, ages 6 and under, will stay home with babysitters.

"I'm buying air mattresses and planning to have some meals catered. Otherwise, I may just send everybody over to the Food Court at the Pryz," she says with a laugh.


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