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Providence College receives $1.32 million to aid students studying for the priesthood

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A woman’s wish to honor her brother’s life as a Roman Catholic priest has resulted in a $1.32 million gift to Providence College that will provide annual scholarships for students studying for the priesthood.

The College was notified in January that it is the beneficiary of The Rev. Joseph McGarry Memorial Scholarship Trust, established by Isabel T. McGarry to honor Father McGarry, who was a priest in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., for nearly 50 years. Father McGarry served at parishes in Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury, West Hartford, and Windsor before his death in 2004.

The trust, valued at $1.32 million, is expected to generate about $65,000 a year for scholarships.

The money is to be used “on behalf of a student who is studying for the Catholic priesthood, or is an ordained Catholic priest seeking a graduate degree related to his vocation, or is furthering his education to better serve the Roman Catholic Church.”

“This gift is most meaningful and most appreciated,” said Gregory T. Waldron, senior vice president for institutional advancement. “It reflects Ms. McGarry’s generosity and her commitment to the faith she shared so deeply with her brother. We look forward to the opportunity to amplify their generous spirit through the example and the service of those who will benefit from it.”

A lunch and tour at PC in 2007

The trust was established by Ms. McGarry in 2008. The former director of nursing for the City of Minneapolis, she resided in Charlestown, R.I., in retirement. She died in 2011 at age 85.

Ms. McGarry established the trust because she wanted to help young men from the Hartford area who chose to enter the priesthood, as her brother had done, said Matthew H. Thomsen, her attorney and trustee, and Stephen M. Greene ’81, a C.P.A. assisting with the trust administration. Much of the money in the trust came from the sale of a vacation home the McGarry family owned in the Shelter Harbor area of Westerly.

Ms. McGarry began exploring possible beneficiaries and reached out to Providence College. In 2007, Joseph P. Brum ’68, special assistant to the president for development projects, and Rev. John S. Peterson, O.P. ’57, chaplain to National Alumni Association, went to Westerly to meet with Ms. McGarry and her financial adviser. Later, they invited Ms. McGarry and her adviser to a luncheon at the College for a tour and to meet the chaplain and Dominican faculty who teach and counsel students.

The visit went very well, Brum said, but despite follow-up calls, the College never heard from Ms. McGarry or her broker again and assumed she had made other estate plans. “This comes as a nice surprise,” Brum said. “None of it would have happened without the invaluable assistance of Father John. We are blessed to continue to benefit from his wise counsel, thoughtful assistance, and spiritual guidance.”

Academic, financial need to be considered

The bequest gives preference to students who are recommended by the Archdiocese of Hartford, the Diocese of Norwich, Conn., and the Diocese of Providence. Academic merit and financial need are considerations. Thomsen and Greene will continue to meet with members of the Providence College community to explore ways to promote and administer the scholarship.

Ms. McGarry “displayed a strong desire to benefit Providence College and, in particular, young men from the Hartford area who chose the priesthood and Providence College,” said Thomsen, who is a trustee of the McGarry Trust. “She was very smart.”

“She knew exactly what she was doing,” Greene added.

Because the College is its sole irrevocable beneficiary, the entire $1.32 million is counted as a contribution toward Our Moment: The Next Century Campaign for Providence College, which seeks to raise $140 million to improve academic programs and facilities, support student scholarships, further the Catholic and Dominican mission, and increase unrestricted support through the Annual Fund.

Father McGarry moved to Connecticut with his family after spending his childhood in Ohio. He was educated at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield and St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester, N.Y. He was ordained at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hartford on May 19, 1955, and later received a master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Iona College.

At the time of his death, he was the retired pastor of St. Peter Claver Church in West Hartford.

— Vicki-Ann Downing ​​​

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Joseph P. Brum '68, special as​sistant to the president for development proj​ects


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Elizabeth Oliveira Manchester, J.D. '02 director of planned giving​​​​