We got off to a sad start this semester with the passing of our dean at the College of Science and Health, Dr. Larry Garrison Sullivan.
Larry’s death was unexpected and came just a few days before the start of classes. He had served Avila University for 47 years and was my dean and supervisor since I joined the faculty in 2006.
Larry was the person who first called to tell me I would be offered the position that would bring me back to my hometown of Kansas City, after some two decades of living and working in Costa Rica. He presided over a School – recently designated a College – where collaboration and mutual respect were ideals to be sought after and upheld.
He was very conflict-averse; he did not enjoy upsetting people and while I never asked him directly, I often thought this must have been the most difficult aspect of his job, because you can’t be a dean without upsetting someone at some point. Larry always listened, even to blunt criticism and even when his faculty got angry – and we could be quite curmudgeonly! He always found something positive to say about every situation, no matter how seemingly dire.
One of Larry’s greatest gifts as an administrator was that his meetings were always well-organized, concise and to the point. Meetings never ran over time, yet he still somehow found a way to allow everyone a chance for input.
He loved our students, every single one of them. He always saw the greater potential of each individual, no matter where that person came from or what challenges they were facing. It’d be difficult to count the number of people in this world now who owe some aspect of their happiness and professional success to the faith Dr. Sullivan had in them, and the support he gave.
I miss Larry. It’s so hard to imagine Avila University without him. Yet here are, almost two weeks after his death, moving forward with classes, students, projects. It’s what he’d want us to do, of course. Nothing was more important than the students and this institution that he dedicated most of his life to.
But sometimes when death happens, I wish I could stop the clock, stand still in time and fully absorb, for one more precious moment, everything the world was when the person who’s now gone was still here.
Rest in peace, Dr. Sullivan. You were well-loved, and you will always be well-remembered.