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Communicating with Care
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:00 AM
Barbara Garvey sits beside her husband, Mike, and laughs at jokes told by some of her peers from the Hanover College Department of Communication. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Barbara Garvey’s daughters, Allison Garvey, left, and Cara Gray, talk about growing up in the home of a professor who often had students over to the house throughout the academic year. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
When Dr. Barbara Garvey, professor of communication at Hanover College, interviewed at the college 36 years ago, she was taking a gamble.
Garvey had already worked at two other colleges and was looking for a place to work that was close to her fiancé - now husband - Mike. She was also looking for a small, liberal arts college like the one she attended. Hanover College fit the bill.
"There was just one problem," Garvey told a crowd of professors, students, colleagues and friends at her retirement party on Saturday at the college.
"It was for technology and media. But, I wrote a wonderful letter about the rhetorical impact of media on our society, and I'm sure people thought that no one would be stupid enough to apply for this job who can't even turn on a VCR."
Garvey interviewed with Dr. John Horner, Hanover's president at the time, and she knew she had to come clean.
"When I met with him he said 'Is there anything I need to know about you that I don't know right now?' And I said 'Only one thing. I can't do media.'"
Garvey told the eclectic crowd that the statement had left the president of the college speechless. Despite the acknowledgment, she was able to convince Horner she was the right person for the job.
For 36 years, Garvey worked at the college. She eventually became head of the communication's department. She taught hundreds of students in courses like political communication, intercultural communication and gender and media studies.
Garvey said she decided to retire three or four years ago. She wanted to give her department enough time to decide where to go when she left. She added that it's difficult to know exactly the right moment to retire, but that it's better to leave a little too early than a little too late.
Her departure is concerning for some. At the event, several of Garvey's colleagues from the communication's department said she would be difficult to replace.
Garvey isn't worried.
"Every person in the department is amazing," she said. "But, it doesn't become their department until I'm gone."
"I really wanted it to be a very carefully and cautiously thought out process."
After her time at Hanover, Garvey, who is the daughter of two teachers, says she's grown tired of teaching. While she loves educating people, what Garvey calls the "managerial" part of teaching - dealing out punishments and working with students who don't want to be in class - is wearing on her.
Garvey says she will never teach again. "When you've had the best, why would you want to go some place else?" she said.
Despite the fact that she's leaving Hanover and was thrown a retirement party, what Garvey has planned isn't exactly retirement.
"I'm not going to be planting flowers or crocheting," she said.
Garvey is taking another gamble with the next phase in her life.
She is in talks with the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation, a foundation designed to promote discourse, debate and compromise in the political process. Garvey could be working with high school aged children on making political discourse more courteous for future generations.
Garvey said that Clay, known as the great compromiser, made it his mission to promote dialogue and debate.
"What is important, is we have to get the civility back into politics. Our democracy is based on compromise, which means nobody gets what they want," Garvey said.
One thing that will be different this time around is the hours. Garvey said that working at Hanover the way she did is a 24/7 job. With this new stage in her life, she wants to make sure her family is put first.
"There were times, just because of the nature of succeeding in this profession, that I put my career over my family."
"I feel like this is the time in life, while I'm still young, that I want to make sure that my daughters, my grand-daughter, my husband, that I really put what they need first."
Garvey said she's taking this as a chance to slow down and learn more about herself.
"Did I live the way I did, balancing 1,000 things a day because that's how I had to do my job, or is that just my personality?"
She's already planned her first big trip with her husband and their dog, Louise. Garvey said her husband has always wanted to go on a Route 66 trip.
All three will hit the road and travel across the iconic stretch of American highway in late summer.
"We're doing that, starting Labor Day, because if I'm going to have any buyer's remorse, that's when it's going to hit," she said.
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