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A community comes together

by Anthea Ayebaze | Sep 28, 2016

The truest test of a community is crisis. We’ve faced our share of them in recent years – a fire in Schwalm Hall’s basement last fall and the shooter hoax last spring come to mind – but none compare to those that involve students or co-workers.

Two weeks ago, a colleague, Chris Garber, was stricken with an as-yet-undiagnosed medical problem that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down and on a ventilator. At one point, he was going to be removed from life support and he remains in intensive care as I write this.

You have to know Chris to know why his hospitalization constitutes a campus crisis. His role as vice president for operations has him out and about most of every day on both of our campuses. A former electrician and all around handyman, Chris would rather roll up his sleeves and dig into a project than work at his desk (in fact, he hates to work at his desk). Ask a colleague about Chris and they will start with “he is always upbeat and smiling.” Everyone loves Chris.

Throughout his ordeal, Chris’s Manchester extended family and those in the community have rallied around him and his wife, Kathy. An impromptu gathering held in Petersime Chapel to pray for him during his darkest hour drew more than 100 Manchester colleagues and a second, held around the fountain behind the Administration Building, brought out more than 50 from the North Manchester community.

Some express worry from time to time that, as we change and grow, we are losing the sense of being a family that has always marked Manchester. It sometimes takes our shared response to a crisis to remind us that we are still blessed to be part of a close and caring community.