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La Salle remembers author, teacher, friend

Brother William Garvey, a part time religion professor at La Salle, passed away on the morning of March 31, 2006. On Friday, April 7, one week after Garvey’s death, the Christian Brothers’ house was filled with students, staff and faculty celebrating the Feast Day of St. John Baptiste de la Salle. Although the Feast Day of the Brothers’ patron saint and founder was a joyful occasion, those that knew Garvey stopped to remember their friend and Brother. Affectionately known as “Brother Bill,” Garvey was the personification of the Lasallian spirit.
Born in Harrisburg on Oct. 29, 1929, Garvey entered the Ammendale Novitiate on June 20, 1947, where he took the religious name Erasmus Francis. He served as a Christian Brother for 59 years, enjoying a fruitful and exemplary career. Brother Bill spent 40 years in Asia, where he worked as a teacher in De La Salle high schools and colleges in Lipa and Manila in the Philippines. 

In addition to teaching, Garvey wrote two books. His first, Van Kaam’s Formation Science, Formative Spirituality and Religious Education in Asia, was praised as “quite useful to persons in the areas of spirituality, religious education, and interfaith dialogue” by Brother Andrew Gonzalez, President of the De La Salle University in Manila. Garvey’s second book, Theories of Human and/or Spiritual Development and St. John Baptiste De La Salle, is an article that deals with the stages of human and spiritual growth.

In Lipa, a city in the Philippines, Garvey also served as Novitiate, the director of novices. From 1990 to 1997, he worked in Colombo, Sri Lanka as the Regional Secretary and Director of Formation for the Pacific Area Regional Conference. To honor his service, Garvey was presented
with a Distinguished Chair in Liberal Arts at La Salle University in Lipa City.
Garvey taught at West Catholic Boys High School from 1952-1958 and at La Salle College High School from 1958-1961. While at West Catholic, Garvey met Joseph Willard, a student who eventually followed Garvey in joining the Christian Brotherhood. Now Brother Willard is Executive Assistant to La Salle’s President Bro. Michael McGinnis. Willard remembers Brother Garvey fondly both as a teacher and a colleague. 

“He taught German at West Catholic,” Brother Willard said, “and he was in charge of the debate team there.” According to Willard, Garvey had a “tremendous impact” on La Salle’s campus.

“You’d make a friend immediately.” Brother Joseph L. Grabenstein said of Garvey. “He was spiritual without being ‘churchy.’” According to Grabenstein, even in the short time that he spent at La Salle, people were drawn to Garvey’s gentle and approachable personality. Grabenstein noted that Brian Fisher, a 1986 graduate of La Salle, was so greatly affected by Garvey that he traveled three hours from his home in Philadelphia to attend the funeral in Ammendale, Md.

Garvey was “extremely enthusiastic and lots of fun to be with” said Brother Charles Gresh, another friend. “I know the students thought very highly of him.”

Freshman Chris McNabb agreed. “He always asked how classes were going. He was always interested in what was new in our lives. He will be greatly missed,” McNabb said.

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