Mystery Zag: Sister Mary Garvin

August 05, 2019

Meet the "Mystery Zag" featured in the Fall '19 issue of Gonzaga Magazine.

Sister Mary Garvin, S.N.J.M. - Professor, Religious Studies (1939-2013)

 After completing her Doctor of Ministry degree from Andover Newton Theological School where her major research focused on the intersection of the International Women’s Movement and Vatican Council II, she never lost her passion to champion for women’s rights. Sr. Garvin later participated in the United Nations Commission on Women.

She was also a highly respected international scholar and one of Gonzaga’s most revered professors. She touched many lives both within and outside the University community, serving as adviser, author, spiritual director and leader. She was a firm advocate for the liberal arts and their impact on each student’s education. She often said, “I have immense gratitude for my own Jesuit, Catholic education,” and she gave back blessings to her students. In addition to teaching, she served as associate director of GU’s Credo Program. An ardent sports fan, you might have been a little surprised by her habit to launch an occasional sharp, smart-aleck remark directed at the umpires at Pecarovich Field.


Reader Responses

Your Zag is Mary Garvin. One of the best teachers on GU’s campus. She was an effective bridge between conservative & liberal Catholics. She was brilliant. And I miss her.

- Maureen English (’00), Spokane


I’d know that face anywhere - that’s Sr. Mary Garvin, and she was my adviser. I liked her so much that I chose to keep her as my adviser even after I switched majors. She was the best, always smiling during our semester check-ins. She had total trust and faith in my capabilities and my thought processes, and she respected who I was and the direction in which I wanted to go. I’m feeling further and further removed from my Gonzaga student experience these days, but when I do catch myself thinking about it, she’s one of the first people who come to mind.

- Shannon Kestell (’11), Spokane


What I remember most about the Women and the Contemporary Church class that I took with Sister Mary Garvin is not the beautiful and vibrant ways that women animate the Catholic faith around the world but the grace, love and hospitality that infused Sister Mary’s teaching. At the time, I thought little of it, but now, as a professor myself, I often consider Sister Mary’s example. From heaven, she reminds me that we learn more than subject matter in the classroom, we learn how to be with one another.

- Laura Collins (’07), Colorado Springs 


I knew Mary Garvin since I was a junior at Gonzaga Prep in 1954. I met her earlier that year at one of the Sodality mixers, and took her to my first dance, Prep’s Junior Prom, at the Davenport Hotel that spring. Mary was smart, gracious, and a person of great faith. It didn’t surprise me that she became a nun, and that she also became an esteemed faculty member at Gonzaga University. A wonderful person who is now sharing in God’s glory.

 - Robert Hanson (’59), Spokane


Your Mystery Zag is Mary Garvin. She was instrumental in my returning to Gonzaga to get my master’s degree in religious studies (1999). We had many wonderful conversations at school and over lunch. She was a great asset to Gonzaga and someone I truly admired. What a blessing to know her.

- Judy Sweeney (’99), Richland, Wash.


I loved Sister Mary Garvin. She was my undergraduate adviser and mentor in the Religious Studies department. Kind, intelligent and committed to justice. GU was a better place having her in it.

- Jessica Spracklen (’09), Cheney, Wash.

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