Farewell, Dr. Garrison

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By Emily Webb

Dr. David Garrison will be leaving LaGrange College in February, but his impact on this campus will remain here for many years to come.

Dr. Garrison has worked for LaGrange College for six and a half years. He has been in the Provost’s role since he began working at the college. He taught English and Cornerstone classes before he stopped teaching in 2014.

“It was one of those experiences where I had a terrific teaching experience with an exceptionally wonderful class, and I thought, why go on?” He joked.

Before working at LaGrange College, he worked at four other universities: Georgia Southwestern, Georgetown University, University of Tennessee, and Spalding University. He has been teaching for forty years.

“My mother was an elementary school teacher, and when I was a kid, from the time I was probably nine or ten years old, I would grade tests for her at the kitchen table,” he said. “So I guess there was some inclination to be part of that sort of world. When I went to college, I thought I was going to major in elementary education. But I found out, pretty quickly, that I really, really enjoyed reading literature and thinking about it at much more complex levels than I’d ever had a chance to think about it before. That led me to graduate school in English, where I did a lot of teaching, and I really liked that world, where you get a fresh start every semester. You get to go in and try new things and meet new people. You learn a lot from being a teacher over and over and over again.”

Dr. Garrison was an English teacher before he landed a leadership role. “I think most administrators in colleges and universities become administrators by accident,” he said.

He started working in a leadership role at Spalding University. “I was minding my own business, as an English professor, and somebody came to me and said, ‘We need someone to be the Chair of the Department of Humanities. Would you like to do that?’ And I have always been somebody who said, ‘Yes,’ and so I said, ‘Yes.’ I became a department chair. After a little while, somebody says, ‘Maybe you should be a Dean. Do you want to do that?’ Because I’m someone who says, ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘Yes.’”

The job at LaGrange College suited him. He said, “This particular job was the kind of job that I had decided many years ago would be a really great job: to work at a small school where you would get to know all the faculty, the students, and you would have a chance to have an influence on how people thought about teaching and learning, and have a life of intellectual work on a college campus. And it came along. I applied. Stakes were made.”

The challenge of working out at a small school, he said is “making the most out of limited resources, which is almost always true for most places in higher ed. But because it’s small and because it’s a private institution, you’re always trying to do innovative things and use resources in an intelligent way, and you can never take your eye off the relationship between ideas and possibilities and resources.”

“I’ve had terrific opportunities in the last six and a half years to work closely with faculty members, to get to know staff members from all across the campus, to be part of the life of students who pass through here on their way to adulthood or beyond. It’s always been full of new challenges and neat surprises and great opportunities,” he said when asked what the best part of working at LaGrange College is.

Dr. Garrison’s wife, Donna Barger, is the Vice President of Clinical Services for WeCare TLC. The pair is moving to Florida.

His plans are “to buy a utility boat with room for at least one other person, one Beagle, and sandwiches. I hope to do some writing, take lots of photographs, and learn to draw. I will also probably work, perhaps in a consulting role regarding teaching or assessment. I’m open to new ideas, so if something new comes along that’s really cool, I’ll try that.”

“I keep waiting for folks from Daytona to call me and see if they offer me a job running a Speedway,” he said. “When the phone rings, I always jump if it’s a Daytona number. That’d be a cool job. I’ve already talked to Justin, the guy who runs the cafeteria, and I’ve offered him a job. I said, ‘You know, if I get to run a Daytona Speedway, will you come down and take care of all the food services related to the Speedway all year long? And he said, ‘Yes.’ So if the phone rings, I’m ready.”

Dr. Garrison gives the following advice to students interested in going to LaGrange College:

It’s a good idea to go to school. We live in a world where most of the time, the more education you have, the more capable you’re going to be of navigating through the challenges of adulthood, citizenship, just being a responsible human being. Once you decide that you do want to go into higher education, choose stuff you love. Choose the things that you really want to do.

“Take advantage of the tremendous talent in the college faculty and staff,” Dr. Garrison advised the future provost. “Take advantage of the commitment those people have to the success of students. And if you don’t already, make sure that you acquire at least three or four Beagles, which will help keep your life balanced.”

Emily Webb is a Senior English Major at LaGrange College. Her work has previously appeared in The LaGrange Daily News.

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