Community gathers to pay tribute to Gavaghan

More than 400 people braved the torrential downpour and hurricane-strength winds Tuesday morning to say goodbye to Bill Gavaghan.

Gavaghan, 59, was an adjunct professor in the College of Education. He suffered a fatal heart attack on Thursday while running on the track behind the Health and Recreation Center.

His funeral was held at Holy Cross Church yesterday.

Mourning friends and family were barely audible above the thunderclaps. Some stood in the back; all of the pews and extra folding chairs had been filled.

Gavaghan, an Indianapolis native, had been working for two years as a professional-in-residence at Butler.

COE Associate Dean Deb Lecklider worked with Gavaghan since the 1970s, when they both taught at Lawrence North High School together. She was instrumental in bringing him to Butler.

“I have to thank Dr. [Ena] Shelley, Dr. [Jamie] Comstock and Dr. [Bobby] Fong,” Lecklider said. “I really wanted [Gavaghan] to come to Butler, but they made it happen.”

Lecklider worked with Gavaghan on several leadership initiatives.

He helped develop a leadership camp for teens called “Leadership: The Butler Way.” More than 180 teens from five states attended to learn how to lead with passion, unity, servanthood, humility and thankfulness.

She said leadership was a passion of Gavaghan’s, who himself was a great, but quiet leader.

Tim Litwin, Gavaghan’s son-in-law, spoke at yesterday’s funeral about the ferocity with which his “second father” stuck to his core values—humbleness, commitment, humor, love, care and quiet strength.

“He quietly got things done,” Litwin said. “If he wanted something done, he would get it done but he never wanted recognition.”

Those who spoke could barely make it through their words, as they remembered Gavaghan as a committed husband, son, brother, father, grandfather, colleague and teacher.

Senior education major Julie Glenn was one of the students who worked with Gavaghan on a regular basis. She and other students on the COE dean’s advisory board had the idea to create a leadership program within the COE. Gavaghan made it happen.

He took their ideas and created a leadership class for the spring of 2011 and a leadership certificate. Glenn said the students hope to turn it into a minor, eventually.

“He took all of our ideas and made them come alive,” Glenn said. “He went above and beyond anything anyone asked for.  I strive to be like him.”

COE Dean Shelley explained his role best.

“He was a lovely person who made each of us aspire to do more and be better,” Shelley said in an e-mail to The Collegian. “He will very missed and we are grateful for the time we shared with him.”

Gavaghan collapsed while running on the track at the HRC last Thursday. Those on the scene—including students, staff and emergency personnel—tried to revive him, but were unable to do so. A message announcing his death was sent to the entire Butler community Friday.

Running was part of Gavaghan’s everyday life. He began competitively running in grade school and hadn’t stopped since. He completed six Boston marathons.

In an online message board remembering Gavaghan, Lecklider said that while she doesn’t know when she will be able to visit the track again, she is “thankful that Bill was doing something he loved.”


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