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MWCC Pays Tribute to James O. Garrison, Longtime Community Supporter and Philanthropist

On Thursday, September 17, MWCC hosted a gathering of family and friends to honor the life of longtime trustee, supporter, and community leader James O. Garrison in front of the MWCC Garrison Center for Childhood Education which he made possible.

Joining family members were current and former members of the MWCC Foundation Board of Trustees and college administration members including GFA Federal Credit Union President and CEO Tina Sbrega, Winfield Brown, President and CEO of Heywood Healthcare, Mark Hawke past Mayor of Gardner, and Daniel Asquino, retired President of MWCC.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to get to know and appreciate Mr. Garrison’s generosity,” noted master of ceremonies, MWCC President James Vander Hooven. “I know that his gentlemanly demonstration over many decades of community leadership and service was not a result of business success, it was a result of character. Every time I come over to read a story to the children at the Garrison Center for Childhood Education, I am reminded of the domino effect of his impact on the region.”

Tina Sbrega Garrison Tribute
Tina Sbrega, President and CEO GFA Federal Credit Union

“Over the years Jim’s wisdom, sage advice and guidance improved us all. He was a much sought-after member on many community boards, “no” was not in his vocabulary and he always found time for us. His quiet yet unassuming way challenged us to always be our best, to make sure we lived up to the mission of serving our members and community,” remembered Sbrega. “His time with us was indeed a gift and a blessing. He meant so much to the Greater Gardner Community and the business he touched so generously. A humble man, a man of integrity, a genuine gentleman who leaves an indelible mark in our community.”

Winfield Brown Garrison Tribute
Winfield Brown, President & CEO Heywood Healthcare

“A testament to his character was his dedication to the people of the Greater Gardner area,” added Brown. “Jim understood people, their challenges, their potentials and spent a lifetime creating opportunities. It is fitting that we stand before one of their major contributions to the college and the region. Jim’s contribution to the health and social wellbeing of the Greater Gardner helped to weave a sustainable network of resources that were scarce and that without today would pose monumental challenges to our regions most vulnerable residents and social service organizations.”

“It is not only the large things he did, but truly the small acts of kindness and humanity that deeply touched me,” continued Brown. “Jim’s noble character and kind spirit live on in my organization, the Heywood Healthcare group. Jim was a blessing to Heywood Healthcare and the region at large and his legacy lives on and will endure.”

Dan Asquino Garrison Tribute
Dan Asquino, Past President MWCC

Dan Asquino, retired president of MWCC, remembered his close friend “We did not golf together, fish together, boat together, we just spent time together. Our friendship developed over many years and was enhanced over that time. The world in my estimation is a better place because of Jim Garrison and his family, while at the same time we are a little bit emptier because of his loss.”

In honor of the Garrisons enduring legacy, a scholarship has been established through the generous contributions of Heywood Healthcare, GFA Federal Credit Union and The MWCC Foundation. The James and Peggy Garrison Scholarship Fund will provide a $1,000 scholarship per academic year to a student in the MWCC Early Childhood Program selected as an “exceptional student” by faculty.

“I am pleased to introduce the first recipient of the James and Peggy Garrison Scholarship, Ms. Julia Richard,” announced President James Vander Hooven to the gathering. “Throughout her time at Mount Wachusett Community College Julia has maintained an exemplary GPA while working for the Department of Developmental Services in a group home for gentlemen with intellectual and physical disabilities. Julia is an active member and officer of the Early Childhood/Elementary Education Club. She is always willing to work with her classmates whether fundraising, planning, or implementing events with a positive and enthusiastic attitude. She embodies the qualities essential to being an early childhood professional: passion, positivity, intelligence, empathy, and flexibility.”

Julia Richard and Jim Vander Hooven
Julia Richard (with James Vander Hooven) Receives 1st Annual Jim and Peggy Garrison Scholarship

“Julia would tell you that some of the many lessons and skills she learned from the Garrison teachers were kindness, the importance of positive interactions and relationships, and creating a safe and loving environment for children,” said Garrison Center Liaison and Associate Professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education Maureen Provost.

“Julia’s goal is to teach first through third Grade,” added Rosanne Morel, Early Childhood and Elementary Education Chairperson. “Children and families are fortunate indeed to have Julia as their teacher. She cares about others and will be impactful in her work. And, like Mr. Garrison, truly understands the importance of high-quality Early Childhood Education.”

Due to the need to social distance, in-person attendance at this event was limited. However, the event was live-streamed by the MWCC Media Services department, and the recording is available at