For Jean Garvey, education was a passion

A lifelong philanthropist, Garvey sought to improve the lives of others

Jean Garvey

This 2005 photo is of Jean Garvey accepting the Fairmount Founders’ Award from WSU President Don Beggs, left, and Barry Schwan, chair of the WSU Foundation National Advisory Council.

“School is where my heart is,” Jean Garvey once remarked to a gathering of people.

   Throughout her long life, she gave testament to that time and again, not only by founding The Independent School in 1980, but also through her financial and passionate support of Wichita State University.

   Garvey, whose philanthropic spirit was legendary in Wichita, died on Dec. 30 at the age of 90. Her family and many friends described her as gracious, caring and selfless.

   “With her positive outlook and genuine interest in others, Jean lifted the spirits of everyone around her,” said Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the WSU Foundation. “She defined philanthropy as who you are, not just what you do. We will be forever grateful for the support Jean and her family have provided Wichita State, as well as numerous other organizations throughout our city.”

   Though Garvey was not a graduate of Wichita State, her loyalty to the university was deep and heart-felt. She supported the College of Fine Arts and the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but is probably best known for establishing the Willard W. Garvey Professorship in Business History, named in honor of her husband, a businessman and philanthropist.

“She defined philanthropy as who you are, not just what you do.”

- Elizabeth King, WSU Foundation president and CEO

   Robert E. Weems Jr., who holds the professorship, said it brings distinction to Wichita State because it is one of only a few endowed positions in business history in the United States. He said that, given Garvey’s frail physical condition, he was honored when she attended the Faculty of Excellence Luncheon sponsored by the WSU Foundation last October. He was a guest speaker at the event.

   “As the faculty member designated to speak briefly about our research, it felt good to inform her and the audience of how being the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History has positively impacted my work,” he said. Weems called Garvey “a down-to-earth person who cared deeply about other people.”

   Garvey and her family also contributed generously to support the James Sutherland Garvey International Center Endowed Fund, providing scholarships for students, stipends for faculty and international program development. A life member of the WSU Alumni Association and recipient of the 2005 Fairmount Founders’ Award, Garvey was honored in the WSU Plaza of Heroines in 2009.

Jean Garvey

Jean Garvey and Robert E. Weems Jr. visit at the Faculty of Excellence Luncheon last October. Weems is the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History at WSU.

    Born in Wichita, she graduated from North High School and pledged Sorosis while attending the University of Wichita. When World War II interrupted her collegiate plans, she worked for Swallow Aircraft and, later, the Boeing Company in the accounting department. Following the war, she met Willard Garvey. They were married in 1946 and had six children.

   Garvey served on the boards of the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, Wichita Symphony Orchestra and the Wichita Center for the Arts, and campaigned tirelessly for the League of Women Voters. In 1963, she and Willard, along with a group of parents, founded Wichita Collegiate School and in 1980, she founded The Independent School, for which she served as lifetime trustee.


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