As you enter the campus of Saint Mary’s College, you’re greeted by the elegance of the Chapel, the rhythmic sound of the bells, and the inspiring statue of Saint John Baptist de La Salle. Within the Mission Renaissance-style buildings with red rooftops lies Mary Candida Garaventa Hall, a gift from a family whose love for the college is surprising because neither Silvio Garaventa Sr. nor Mary Candida Garaventa actually attended Saint Mary's. And yet their passion for the liberal arts and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition were the driving forces behind their contributions.
Brother Dominic Berardelli, special assistant to the president of the college, was well acquainted with the late Silvio Garaventa Sr. and his wife, Mary. “They were just a pair of lovebirds,” he says with a grin.
Garaventa Hall was built in 1996 and named in honor of Mary Garaventa, the matriarch of the close-knit Garaventa clan.
Brother Dom, as he is known, got to know the Garaventas during his years in the Development Office at Saint Mary’s, where he worked with donors on fundraising opportunities. He recalls that Silvio never signed any official documents for the College because he was a firm believer that “his handshake was as good as a signature.”
The spirit of giving has not stopped with the loving couple. Of their five children, two are active participants in Saint Mary's. Daughter Louisa Garaventa-Binswanger attended SMC, graduating in 1977, and serves on the Board of Trustees. Son “Sil” Garaventa Jr. serves on the school's Board of Regents. Working closely with the president, fellow board members and the Brothers, Louisa and Sil Jr. are key contributors to making the campus as successful as it is. Not only has the family funded physical gifts to the college, such as Garaventa Hall and the Sil Garaventa Sr. Soccer Field, they also participate as key decision makers for Saint Mary’s.
With guidance from Sil Sr. and Mary Garaventa, the rest of the family has made a name for themselves as entrepreneurs. Garaventa Enterprises, founded by Sil Sr. and now run by Mary and her children, is one of last family-owned disposal services in Northern California and has served the East Bay community since the 1930s.
The Garaventas rely on their faith and each other to get them through any struggles that arise. “From a young age, Mom and Dad impressed upon their five children the importance of our faith," Louisa says. She adds that they were also encouraged to improve themselves through education and to give back to their local community.
The Lasallian traditions that Saint Mary’s College models are the reason for the family's continued generosity.
“It is our hope that our involvement has resulted in the College’s ability to focus on the student; to cultivate their strengths, enrich their hearts and minds with Christian values and prepare them to make a positive difference in our society,” Louisa says.
The legacy of the Garaventa family lives on as people who want the best for the students of Saint Mary’s College – as educated adults and participansts in the community.
By Erica Omran '13