Margaret Robins Garrett, US Navy (Transcript)

Interview with Margaret Robins Garrett, US Navy

Name: Margaret Robins Garrett

Military Branch & Rank: US Navy, Lieutenant

Dates of Service: 1971 – 1978

Villanova Degree: B.S., Nursing, 1972

Date of Interview: May 6, 2019

Interviewer: Michael D. Brown

Audio Producer: Laura Bang

Length of Interview: 47 minutes

Transcribed by: Nicholas Coscarelli

Edited and annotated by: Meg Piorko

URL for Audio: 



MICHAEL BROWN (INTRO): Thank you for joining us today. My name is Michael Brown and we’re here today at Villanova University, recording another installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans.

MICHAEL BROWN: Hello, my name is Michael Brown. I am the Director of Military and Veteran’s Services here at Villanova University. Today, May 6th of 2019, we are interviewing:

MARGARGET ROBINS GARRETT: My name is Meg Garrett. I’m actually Margaret Robins Garrett, but I go by Meg. And I’m here today to have an interview with you guys.

WOODY: Great, and we are in the Great Book Room here at Villanova University, within Falvey Library. Welcome, Meg. It’s good to have you back on campus. I appreciate you, and you are a Navy veteran. Is that correct?

GARRETT: That is correct, a Navy nurse.

BROWN: Alright. So, let’s go back before your time before the Navy and talk a little bit about your childhood. Where were you born and raised? And what was that like?

GARRETT: So, I was born in a small town called Shamokin, PA. My parents met during World War II in London. My dad was a military man from America and my mom was an Irish nurse who immigrated to London during World War II. And they actually met during the Blitz in 1943, I think it was.[1] My mom never wanted to be a war bride and so, she came to the United States as a nurse, and moved to Cleveland, OH. And my dad moved back to Shamokin, PA, and they started a long-term, long-distance relationship. Probably not too long-term; they got engaged within a year. And my mom moved to this amazing small town in Pennsylvania right in the middle of the Coal Region. And I was born several years later. I had a brother who was born two years prior to myself in 1948; and I was born in 1950 in a little hospital called Geisinger in Danville, PA. And we lived in Shamokin with my grandfather until he passed away, and then we moved to Louisburg. My dad was the Associate Warden at the federal prison in Louisburg, and the three of us grew up and went to Louisburg High School. My brother graduated from there and he was the first Villanovan in the family; he came to Villanova in 1966 and was Navy ROTC. Two years later, I decided to come here to the nursing program and my twin brother, James, came in the engineering program. My brothers both lived in Delurey Hall, and I was the first group of women to live in Good Counsel. We didn’t get to do an orientation here because the dorm was not completed until after sometime in mid-September. So, growing up in Central Pennsylvania – Louisburg was a beautiful place – we were lucky as high school students to attend classes at Bucknell. You know, we spent a relatively simple childhood. We went back to Ireland, where my mom was from, a lot of summers. And we did really great kid things like ride bikes and not watch television. I started delivering newspapers with my brother who wanted to, when I was 12. We lived in an area that was pretty open so we had a lot of exercise and were in great physical health. But Louisburg was a fascinating place; it was Union County, which was quite Republican and very Protestant. We had a small Catholic Church in the town called Sacred Heart, and we were somewhat ostracized. There were a couple Jewish families in town and a couple Catholic families. And I mean, the college students came to our church. And I picked Villanova because I didn’t want to be different anymore. When we first moved to Louisburg, we had come from Shamokin where there were ten Catholic churches, and we went to Catholic school. Nobody ever talked religion; my dad wasn’t Catholic, but nobody ever talked it. We never asked anybody what their religion was. I started fourth grade and one of the first questions I got was: “If you weren’t Catholic, what would you be?” Well, I didn’t know anything; I didn’t know any of that kind of stuff. But it became a challenge the older we got. Parents didn’t want their children dating Catholics and you know, it was right before Vatican II,[2] so it was quite challenging. So, I made the decision that I wanted to attend a Catholic university where I could feel a part of something rather than be someone who is isolated. Best decision I ever made. I applied here and I applied to Georgetown, and another Catholic college I think in Eerie, PA, but here was certainly the place. Plus, my brother was here. There’re some really cute guys. Especially since it was the first year it went co-ed so. It was a fascinating experience because there were so few ladies’ rooms around, and so we basically commandeered the bathrooms in Tolentine to be for women and that kind of thing. So, started in the College of Nursing – wasn’t really sure if I wanted to be a nurse. I certainly wanted a college degree; it was back in the day when you [Insertion: <women>] were either a nurse, a teacher, or a secretary.

BROWN: Sure.

GARRETT: And nursing certainly seemed consistent with what my life patterns were so, and my passions – my passion had always been to help people.

BROWN: Was your mother a help in guiding some of those career choices?

GARRETT: Yes, she was. So, my father had always thought I should be a teacher. So, that was kind of interesting. And I certainly didn’t really want a three-year program; I wanted a college degree. I came here and, as I was just saying to the Dean a couple minutes ago, I got on the Dean’s List the first semester, the Dean’s List for a perfect 2-0 [laughs]. Needless to say, I enjoyed Villanova immensely.

BROWN: And the cute boys.

GARRETT: And the cute guys! I mean, and I had a Friday afternoon lab from 4:00 to 6:00, a Saturday morning lab from like 9:00 to 12:00 – it was just not consistent with the social lives I had chosen. I had a perfect D in Zoology and a D in Psychology. But I aced chemistry, and I aced some other things. So, after that point in time, I think I realized that you probably need to hit classes and pay attention to stay awake. But it was a humbling experience because it took me forever to get the cumulative up to somewhere that might be decent.

BROWN: Did it help having your brothers here on campus with you?

GARRETT: Oh, it definitely helped. Well, it helped in some ways. It helped because, socially, it was great. The challenge was that they were also not the best students. My one brother, who was two years older, made Dean’s List all the time. That same semester, he got a special Dean’s List letter too, as did my twin brother. So, the three of us at Christmas was not fun in 1968. But they had a tendency to periodically tell mom and dad some things – that was not the best part. But in the end, it was probably a good thing because we all bonded together and made it through Villanova.

BROWN: Did you find that, coming from the area of Louisburg where you felt sort of isolated, that here did live up to what you were hoping?

GARRETT: Absolutely. Nobody cared what religion you were. It was all about the person you were. There were no prejudices: be it Black, White, purple, Jewish, Catholic, or whatever. There were certainly nurses of every variety. It was a little challenging because, again, being a woman on campus, some of the guys were not happy and they continued to do the panty raids[3] at Rosemont rather than at the Villanova Good Counsel dorm. But we did get them to start coming by going to Sears, used to be down the street, and we would walk to Sears, and we would buy the 40, triple X bras and large underwear and throw them out the window of Good Counsel. And so it became a little bit more humorous for them to come to the girls’ dorm.

BROWN: Sure.

GARRETT: And we became accepted [laughs]. We had to make our own mark.

BROWN: Alright.

GARRETT: I’m sure that’s really something you expected to hear.

BROWN: No, I appreciate that and that’s what this is for, talking about these kinds of stories. Talk about the environment on campus during the 60s. Was it tumultuous like – I mean, there were riots happening in Detroit. There’s going on around the country. What was it like here at Villanova during those times?

GARRETT: Well, it became tumultuous. ’68 was somewhat quiet. ’69 started a lot more protesting about the Vietnam war, SDS on campus,[4] black bands,[5] all that kind of thing. And it was fascinating because, you know, we still had basketball, but the political world really started overtaking what was going on here at Villanova. I could go into more detail in a minute, but you know, Villanovans certainly stepped to the mark. In 1970-71, I applied for the Navy scholarship. Mainly because I had done volunteer work at the Navy hospital in Philly. Did not believe in the war, absolutely not. I really cared about these guys; they were younger than me and they had body parts blown away. I was a lucky one. My family was lower-middle class, but I was blessed because my parents started saving for college the day I was born, as well as for my brothers. And we had scholarships and loans, and whatever. But there were many people, including kids from my high school, who didn’t have that opportunity, and so they were drafted. And, you know, we lost a number of kids in my high school class by the time I was 20 years old here at Villanova. So, I went for the interviews, and they asked me what I thought about the Vietnam War, and I very point-blank, you know, “I really don’t believe in it, but I also believe in protecting these guys and trying to do something to make their lives better.” And so, I was accepted for the scholarship my junior year, then I had second thoughts: do I want to be committed so long? And that kind of thing, so I chose not to take it junior year, and by junior summer, I had made the decision that this is what I really wanted to do and where I really felt my calling. And so, I was sworn in in November of 1971. And, again, at that point in time, the war was raging; the politics was raging. I mean, it was an unbelievable period of time. And what was fascinating – pushing forward, when I graduated in 1972, they invited Elmo Zumwalt[6] to be the guest speaker for the graduation. So, graduation was really kind of a raucous. I never wore uniform on campus because I didn’t even have a uniform; we didn’t do ROTC with the rest of the folks. But it was fascinating. We had graduation and everyone was wearing black bands, this, and that and the other. You know, I made it clear that I was military; my friends didn’t criticize me for it or any of that kind of thing. And I think it was different being in the helping world rather than others. But my brother had graduated the year before in Civil Engineering Core, through ROTC here and so on. But again, I think we felt that this is something that we wanted to do. He built bridges and airfields in Hawaii, tough duty station. And I proceeded on with my time, but Villanova was an outstanding experience because, first of all: you grew. You learned to grow and you were able to – you were accepted – and you were able to speak up and speak out. And the nursing program wasn’t very old. So, this was ’68, probably ten years old. Again, first time co-ed campus, and I watched it grow even in that short period of time. Dorothy Marlow, she was the Dean at the time, and then Louise Fitzpatrick was there shortly after, a couple years later. But it was awesome. You know, and being the only women dorm and so on. Frat parties – I hated beer but it’s – you still go to frat parties. And it was fun. But what you learn from a nursing standpoint, because I really didn’t do military here, is the values and the virtues. And I will hire a Villanova nurse any day above a Hopkins nurse or anybody else. Because, if they believe in what they’re doing here, we cared about our patients. We learned about all the physiology and so on. I actually minored in Criminal Justice while I was here, because I needed something beyond just straight sciences; and it was fascinating. I had a Palazola – I can’t remember – he was really interesting, kind of a different mindset and so on.

BROWN: Yeah, that’s a really interesting major/minor.

GARRETT: Totally. Totally different.

BROWN: And you felt like that was the right choice?

GARRETT: I did because, first of all, it was something I could fit in with the nursing, which I already had too many credits to begin with. But I ended up being in the field of psych – psych nursing – to help me understand the mind. And it was, last week I was cleaning stuff in my house, you have to do that, and I found a paper I had written for him on Lee Harvey Oswald.


GARRETT: And I read it again like, “Wow, I was pretty good for a 20-year-old.” You know, a 21-year-old. Yeah, it was pretty fascinating. So, graduated from here and went to New Port, RI.

BROWN: And what year was this?

GARRETT: 1972, with a B.S., Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I did not graduate cum laude, or magna cum laude, or any of the other stuff that people graduates.

BROWN: You graduated.

GARRETT: I think I finally hit a 3.0, but after a 2.0 it’s pretty hard. So, then I went to New Port, RI, for officer candidate, which was six weeks in the middle of summer, which was heaven. I met the Lt. Commander, who was not pretty old, but he had a sail boat. So, I sort of majored in sailing and minored in whatever you’re supposed to learn. But I remember him having a conversation about shooting a gun, and I told him I wasn’t shooting a gun. And we actually made our way through it. I didn’t shoot a gun, but I – you know, having them paying Villanova for a year, and they gave me instant salary for my whole year at Villanova senior year – I kind of didn’t think they’d get me off. And then I was stationed in Boston, in Chelsea which was right across the river – the Mystic River in Boston – at a very old, traditional Navy hospital which was phenomenal. Absolutely fantastic. And I got there in July of 72, or August. So, they toured me through the hospital, and the only place that was air conditioned outside of the ICU was Orthopedics. And so they said, “Where do you want to work?” I said, “Orthopedics!” So, then probably within six months of me arriving there and taking my Massachusetts Nursing Boards, I was actually in charge of a 30-bed orthopedic unit, and I had a number of Corpsmen working for me. And there were some nurses who were lower ranking because they backdated my rank so much here because of Villanova and so on. So, there were nurses who were working for me. And, again, that was probably one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

BROWN: And why was it so rewarding?

GARRETT: Because these guys, who were stuck in a bed for a year, two years, three years, open unit – so there was no specific officer unit – it was officers enlisted. All significant war injuries. And, you know, to make their life better was unbelievably rewarding. And my Corpsmen were all college graduates, and they were all drafted. Because they didn’t want to go to officer candidate, they were either drafted or whatever. Some of the smartest people I had ever met in my life. The orthopedic docs were outstanding, and it was a good sense of humor. Everybody, you know, it was all for one and one for all. And, you know, it was just a fascinating place. So, as 22 years old, I had like 16 people working for me – 12, 16 people. So, I had to learn how to do fitness reports and stuff like that. We would make rounds every morning, and one specific I actually mentioned when I was at the library was that I would make rounds with the captain. John de Wall was the Captain of Orthopedics. And a bunch of other younger guys and my Corpsmen, we would walk around making rounds. So the one day, the Captain would say, “Tell me about this guy,” you know, “What pain meds,” and so on. And, I’d go, “He’s really good in bed.” And everybody on the whole unit is just cracking up. And they’re going, “Dammit, Robins!” And I’m like, “I meant he’s really good at his exercises in bed!” So, everyday thereafter, the captain would say, “Is he good in bed? Is he good in bed?” But that was the kind of unit I ran. So, we gave back rubs, we read to these guys, you know, we played cared with them. It wasn’t just giving them meds and doing this. I mean, they were stuck there. So, it was just a fascinating place. And then Teddy Kennedy would come one Saturday a month. He was living in Downtown Boston, and he would come over. The only place he really spent time was in Orthopedics. And, you know, he would read to the guys; he would play and do that kind of thing. It was nice, just to see that. Tip O’Neil would come, you know, anyone from the Boston area. So, while I was at Boston and doing the Orthopedics – I was there from 1972 to the summer of ’74, when Nixon closed all the bases in Massachusetts because it was the only state that didn’t go for him [laughs] – I was chosen to, sorry, political—

BROWN: No, I appreciate it.

GARRETT: So, I was chosen to work with the POWs when they came back in late 1973. Chelsea actually had five or six; I can’t remember their names. But I was chosen to run the unit for them. We outfitted a beautiful space; it was kind of in an out cove kind of thing, couple private rooms, beds, so on. And my job was to take care of them, babysit them, take them to the bars and make sure they all came back safely, which was a challenge. These guys had been locked out for eight, nine years. So, it was myself and two Corpsmen that would take these four or five guys out in the daytime; we’d try to do stuff and so on, so forth. We ran them through all the gamma and medical, you know, not to keep them there too terribly long because you wanted them to rejoin their families. But we also needed to do certain things, naval services, everyone was involved. But taking them into Downtown Boston was a challenge. I tried to take them to as many officers’ clubs as possible, because they were all officers.

BROWN: Sure.

GARRETT: So that I could keep an eye on them. But they became a rowdy crowd. But these guys were locked up for nine years.

BROWN: Right?

GARRETT: I was very blessed. Very fascinating experience. I also got to take them to D.C. to meet the White House and that kind of thing, and we brought all the POWs together. But it was, again, very rewarding trying to teach them about life as well as make sure they were safe.

BROWN: What were some of the biggest challenges with that readjustment?

GARRETT: Emotional. Emotion. I mean, they had been involved in ground combat and so on. They had been kept in little caves, had been berated; they had been beaten. So many things, malnutrition. You know, the whole thing you read about with POWs. It was so much more severe. They had been there for so long. And the Vietnamese did not treat them well. But they were so happy to be home. And they were so happy to be free. But it’s fascinating; I had just thought about them recently. It would’ve been nice to, at some point in my life, keep up with them. I was 23 years old, so it was not at the top of my list at the time. So, I left Boston June of ’74. While I was there, Boston was fantastic. As a new college graduate, I tried to take advantage of every situation.

BROWN: Sure.

GARRETT: I learned to sail on the Charles at one of the sailing centers there. And then I got fairly good – in Shamokin, PA we didn’t sail – and I ended up teaching at the MIT sailing center, which was fun because I got to meet some of the MIT people. It was a nice little brain truss and so on. So, did that, met some amazing people, took the real estate exam. Got a little bit of real estate just on the side, because, in nursing we worked a lot of evenings and nights, so there’s a lot of extra time. I also took a mixology class at Harvard, which was a three-night class, because I had to say somewhere on my resume I went to Harvard. The first two nights you learn about mixing drinks and so on. And the third night was a lab.

BROWN: So, you’re a Harvard mixologist?

GARRETT: I’m a Harvard mixologist! And I actually just found that certificate. So, anyhow, the third night was a lab in one of the big lecture halls. And I remember getting called down; I had to make a Manhattan, and something with grasshopper, with the green liquid stuff. It’s disgusting; you’re supposed to taste it. I probably tasted a couple – it was before Uber. So, I walk out onto Harvard’s campus and I see all these naked men. I’m like, “Woah, I drank too much! This is not right!” So, I get in my car and drove home; I felt perfectly fine. And I turned on the news; it was the first night they streaked on Harvard’s campus. I’m like, “Wow, this is pretty fascinating. I can drink again!” But, you know, then I went to Northeastern and took Statistics so when I went to grad school I wouldn’t have to worry about it. All in two years, and it was a great experience. I certainly enjoyed what I did. And then I moved to Charleston, SC July 1, 1974. And I was stationed at the Navy hospital. I guess, July third, fourth, fifth – I got to the Citadel, which is the military academy in Charleston. And they were allowing women to come into their graduate program. So, I had taken the Miller Analogies to get in there, which is like the whatever GRE. So, they accepted me, and I started in September in their Master’s in Education and Counseling. I didn’t really have any good Master’s programs for nursing in the city. But it was fun; it was great and met some awesome people. I worked at the Navy hospital; I was originally put in charge of a medicine oncology unit. And then I took over the psychiatric units, which were a fascinating experience because Parris Island was south of Charleston, and we ended up with a lot of Parris Island recruits in the psych unit.

BROWN: Kids who just got kicked out sort of thing?

GARRETT: Well most, but what happened is that back in those days, the judge would either say “You’re gonna join the Marine Corps or you go to jail.” So, these kids weren’t really mature to begin with. A lot of them had drug and alcohol programs, and they would be drinking all the way up to the last minute of recruitment. Then they’d come to the Navy hospital with DTs[7] and all that kind of thing. Most of them go boarded out with a 30- or 60-days kind of thing. But anyhow, it was still a rewarding experience. So, the Navy allowed me to do my counseling internship on the Navy psych unit, with the psychiatrist being my mentor. Yeah, so, Charleston was awesome; I had my first sailboat, a 22 ft. O’Day,[8] and I went to the Charleston yacht club and said, “I’d like to put my boat here.” Well, I was a woman, and it was 1974, and they had still believed in the “War of Northern Aggression,” which I had never heard of. But, I had to learn that I was a Northerner, and was a woman, and how could you dare in Downtown Charleston want to put a 22 ft. O’Day? So, I kind of protested, did a little bit of legal stuff, and I did get my sailboat there, and I kept it for three months and then I ended up moving it over to Mount Pleasant. But it was just a matter of principle. It was an awesome experience; I met a lot of really great people. I really felt like I had been able to give back. Less war injuries – Charleston Naval base was a huge base, between the subbase and all that kind of stuff. We were starting to see in medicine, more oncological issues, and it may have been the start of seeing the Agent Orange stuff. But at the time, we certainly didn’t recognize it. So, I stayed there until January ’77. I got my Master’s in December ’76, and then my next duty station was Bethesda. I decided it was probably time to grow up and see what the real Navy was like [laughs]. I moved to D.C. in January after leaving South Carolina, with blue skies to terribly grey skies in Bethesda.

BROWN: What’d you do with your boat?

GARRETT: We sold it, which was sad, but I sold it. I didn’t think I’d have time to bring it over to Annapolis and do that kind of thing. But it was an amazing boat. It was also great being a woman and having a sailboat. I mean, I never sailed alone. I don’t know if any of you have been to Charleston, but you can kind of show off with the boat, you know that kind of thing. There was a fabulous restaurant called Scarlet O’Hara on the waterway in Charleston. And I remember one day, we were coming about and the wind shifted, and the boat somehow just happened to hit the Scarlet O’Hara. Everybody’s waving, having a good time, and I was like, “Eh, don’t have much insurance on this.” But really good experience from a sailing standpoint because you had to really watch the tides. The subs would be coming in; you had to watch for the periscopes because they didn’t care, you know? They could come off almost anywhere, and it was pretty easy to run a ground. So, you always knew to bring extra water and stuff,  because you had to wait for the tides to change.

BROWN: Did you go on any long expeditions while you were there in Charleston on your sailboat?

GARRETT: I did. The Navy chaplain actually had a sailboat and we sailed – not with my sailboat, because it was too small – but he had a 42’ Westman, I think, and we sailed down to Bermuda. They did the racing and all that stuff. I was very lucky; chaplains always seem to have different pieces of equipment. The Navy chaplain had the sailboat in Charleston; the Navy chaplain in Boston had an airplane. And he needed to get out, so he’d take me over to the Cape for breakfast, and you know that kind of thing. We had it made.

BROWN: And you were always willing, it sounds like.

GARRETT: Always willing! So, I left Charleston and moved to bureaucracy at Bethesda. I was in charge of the psych units, which were very busy. Again, postwar, the veterans moving to D.C., and that kind of thing. It was a fascinating experience. I, again, enjoyed D.C. immensely; I took a lot of photography classes and did a lot of neat things. I enjoyed Bethesda, but really got in with the Brass kind of thing. I actually went for an interview at the White House, for the White House nurse situation. So, it was a Friday afternoon; I was going to the Officer’s Club and it was at my house – it was pre-cell phones, of course – and I got a call from a guy who said his name is Admiral Lou Cash. I said, “Hm. Ok, I’ll be at the Club in a little while.” I thought it was one of my friends teasing me asking when I’m coming to happy hour. And so, Monday morning, the head of the Bethesda psych unit calls me and says, “You hung up on Admiral Lou Cash.” I said, “Hm. Who’s that?” They said, “He’s the White House physician.” I said, “Oh, I remember that!” [laughs]. And so, I went for the interview, and actually – you know, everything was open in front of the White House. So, I drove my silver Cutlass Supreme to the front of the White House, and actually got out and took pictures because I knew my parents wouldn’t believe me. I couldn’t Instagram them or anything like that. But it was a really good interview; I was actually accepted. But at that point in time, I had started dating my husband, and it was Navy, 24-hour commitment, versus whatever my future would be. So, I ended up staying in the Navy; we ended up getting engaged, and I got out in August 1978. We got married in August.

BROWN: So, did you become the White House nurse? Or did you turn it down?

GARRETT: No, no. I mean, it was a huge commitment. You’re traveling everywhere and I had to make a decision. By that time, I was 27 or 28, maybe 29 years old.

BROWN: And what rank were you at this point?

GARRETT: I had been selected for Lt. Commander, but I had to put it off. So, I got it really as Lieutenant. So, you know, I was very blessed because the Navy paid for my Master’s at the Citadel. And I got married; I met my husband going into the Officer’s Club at the Naval station in Bethesda. He opened the door for me, which was nice. We were supposed to be friends and we ended up having a couple drinks, and you know—

BROWN: The rest is history, as they say.

GARRETT: And the rest is history! Right.

BROWN: So, he was also in the Navy I’m assuming.

GARRETT: He was a Navy doc – he was an anesthesiologist. He was a Duke undergrad, Tulane Medical School, but he was one of the Berry Planners[9], which was the way Navy medicine went. So, he did summers in like San Diego as a resident, whatever. Then he joined the military after residency.

BROWN: Summers in San Diego.

GARRETT: Yeah, it’s tough. Really tough. But we didn’t meet until he was already getting out – he was almost getting out at that point in time. So, we had a long-distance relationship and then we got married. And it was a hard decision, getting out of the military, because I enjoyed what I did. I felt like I had a purpose in life, and it was really my passion. But we moved to Columbia, SC, which the closest base was Charleston, and you know, with the reserves and all that kind of thing, it just wouldn’t have worked out. And I certainly wasn’t doing Army.

BROWN: What was the driving force for you to get out eventually? Was it just you wanted to move on?

GARRETT: It was marriage, and you know, making decisions. My first child was born on our 11-month anniversary, and by that point he was a little bit older than me. We wanted to have kids, and so on. So, he was a physician in South Carolina and, for the first time in my life, I was sort of unemployed, which was not easy for me. And so, it was New Years, and my son was six months old, and we were at a party. It was all docs, nurses, and so on. Somehow a conversation about nurses being professional came up. I figured, “Eh, it’s alcohol, so.” And they were saying that, well, we really weren’t professionals. And I had worked very hard for nursing to be on the elite side. And so, the next day, January 1st, I said, “Well, you know, I remember this discussion.” And he was like, “Well, you know.” OK, so I took my six-month-old to Border’s, or Barnes & Noble, whatever, and I bought the guide to the LSAT, the law school achievement test, on February 2nd. I got accepted into law school in South Carolina on March 5th. I was probably one of the first nurses, and certainly veterans, you know, and that kind of thing. So, the GI Bill paid for law school. It was just really hard being a Northern woman with a bunch of Southern women who were doctors’ wives. “This is Dr. So-and-so,” and it just wasn’t me. So, there was a daycare at the law school, which was fantastic, and Gregory was there. And then second year doing exams, my second child was born, James. And my twins: Erin, who is a Villanova grad, and Brian, were born after the Bar Exam. And then we moved to Maryland; I actually finished my last year of law school at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. I was not really looking for a job. I had helped start the American Association of Nurse-Attorneys, but I had four kids under six. And Hopkins called me, inviting me for an interview. So I bought some clothes, got rid of the drooling and puking, and went for the interview. And they offered me a job right at that point. And I’m like, “I have four kids under six.” And so, I said I couldn’t take it, but then they offered me two days a week. So, 33 years yesterday, I started Hopkins as a nurse-attorney in the legal department. And then from that, just blossomed into the Vice President and all that kind of thing. But that was sort of all the academics and moving. I have four of the most amazing children that God created. I have Greg, a Duke grad; he’s 39. He is a partner in a law firm in Baltimore. He has a lovely wife, Jess, and two amazing children: Alana and Keren.[10] Alana is 18-months and Keren is 4-months. So, they’re very busy. I have my son James, a University of Maryland graduate, and works for the DoD.[11] He lives three blocks from me and has an amazing wife, Lauren, and my three-year-old granddaughter, Amelia. I have a daughter who graduated from Villanova, undergrad and with a Master’s in business. She’s a fantastic person and works at SEI,[12] and she’s worked there since she left college. And she lives in Conshohocken.

BROWN: Just down the street.

GARRETT: Just down the street; it’s a great place to stay when I’m in town. She and I travel a lot together; she’s very involved here still at Villanova. And also involved in a lot of women’s things and so on. Just an amazing human being, and still hasn’t found the right guy yet. She’s dated every Brian and Kevin and Michael that go between here and Boston probably, but I don’t even want to know their names anymore now until I have to. And then Brian is Erin’s twin, and he’s Vice President at Goldman in New York. He has two amazing children: Sophia is two and Calista, who we call Kelly, is five-months. We all just attended her baptism yesterday in New York. So, I pretty much single-handedly raised these little munchkins. My husband, being a physician, was not around.

BROWN: He was doctoring, yes.

GARRETT: Yeah, he was doctoring and, you know, getting up in the middle of the night to do anesthesia and that kind of thing. I was lucky to work two days a week. And I hired a babysit to come into the house. With four kids, you’re not taking them out. And it’s fascinating because I learned what rates are for babysitters yesterday. I made $11.54/hour at Hopkins when I first went there with three degrees, and I paid the babysitter $12/hour [laughs]. So, it was kind of like an internship program as far as I was concerned. I can’t say that’s my salary anymore; I don’t have to pay babysitters anymore. But what was great about Hopkins – well, a lot of great things about Hopkins – is that it was #1 in the country 20 plus years straight for healthcare. It’s great for innovation; it’s got its heart in the right place, really patient’s safety and quality care. So, every day was a new adventure. Being home with my children was fantastic; they went to Catholic school, K-8. My boys all went to Catholic high school, and my daughter went to a Catholic girls’ school. I used to volunteer as the twins got into the second and third grade; I would be a substitute teacher on Friday. You know, so it really helped me to get an understanding of who their peer groups were, and maybe impart something onto the kids. I ran the Science Fair, and we had kids participating in K-8. As they grew, their projects grew. Really tried to avoid having the parents do the projects to have the kids really learn something. So, I got very active in PTAs and all of that kind of thing. Very active in my community; we have a Community Association I was in charge of, that was great. The kids were all on swim teams, Irish dance; we did a little bit of everything. It was fun having all four of my kids together yesterday because they reflected on how awesome their childhood was, which was nice to hear as a mom, and Mother’s Day coming up. There was no anger; I’m sure there must be somewhere along the line when I maybe said to someone, “You shouldn’t be dating that one,” or whatever.

BROWN: [laughs].

GARRETT: [laughs]. I really tried to keep my distance. I guided them, but I wasn’t their best friend, but you know, it’s fun. I have a St. Patrick’s Day party every year and they all come, and all their friends come. So, it’s a three generational party now. And we like to travel. So, I think somewhere along the line, I did something really great. And they all take care of themselves and they’re very good to each other; it’s really good. So, that’s kinda really where I’m at. About two years ago, my husband passed away from cancer. That was challenging, but we pulled together as a family and got through it. It’s a humbling experience, and it’s good for the children to have to deal with that to understand and to learn to be empathetic, and those sorts of things. It’s sad, but at the end, it was better for him as he was losing […][13] We were both proud of the kids we raised, and the family we had. All the good times.

BROWN: Absolutely. And so, now you’ve been at Hopkins for 33 years. You’re about to retire. And you’re back on Villanova’s campus. So, what brings you back today? Are you just touring, getting the lay of the land, and to meet some folks? It’s great to have you on campus, by the way.

GARRETT: Well, first of all, I love Villanova. And I must say, two years ago I had the best experience of my life at the Final Four. Two and half years ago, I was at the Final Four, in Houston. It was something I had always wanted to do. That Saturday night here at Villanova, prior to when we were in the Four, I was on campus, and I received a medallion from the College of Nursing. It was so exciting to be back on campus. But we had already bought a non-refundable ticket for the Monday night game. And I had sent my nephews to the Saturday night game, with cash [laughs], hoping that we’d be going. And we had flights out Sunday. But being on campus that Saturday night was just awesome, with all the students. We all watched it together in Driscoll Hall. And then flew out Sunday and was at the game Monday night. And if I didn’t have a heart attack or stroke that night, I’m never going to have one. I said, “[…][14]” And you can see me on Sports Illustrated; I bought $2 blue hats here on campus at the bookstore that Saturday night. It was one of the most amazing experiences. Villanova is what got me where I am. My parents, God bless them, they were always my supporters. But Villanova got me where I am. And it got me there by giving me skill sets that I never could’ve gotten anywhere else; I couldn’t feel as good. I could’ve gotten something at Hopkins; I possibly could’ve gotten something similar at Georgetown, but the Augustinians and what we believe in here, is what it’s all about. I still, today, I got here early, and I walked around campus – 2200 steps. There’s still that excitement every time you walk on campus, and that’s what brought me here. And as I’m coming to the end of my work life – financial work life – I want to give back. I’ve always wanted to give back. I was on the Board of Consultors here, and I was very proud to be. I mean, I love Louise; she’s an awesome human being. And she believed in what we believe in. Villanova believes in what we believe in. And as we move forward, I want to be part of that, and I don’t ever want to dilute what we believe in. I’ve seen that happen in certain programs, and so on. I’m also a faculty at the College of Nursing at Hopkins, and an adjunct at the Law School. Thirty years ago, we started the healthcare program at the University of Maryland’s Carey School of Law, and I’ve had over 200 of their students as their mentor. Some of them are judges; it’s awesome. And now we are the #1 Health Law program in the country. I think I was telling Julie, they offered me a position to start whenever I want, to be in charge of that program. Teach some, mentor some, and so on. But I haven’t made a commitment. I’m stilling growing; I still want to figure out where I can best do what I want to do. So, I met with Dean Havens this morning and we had an outstanding conversation. She’s giving me a faculty position – I forget the name of it – which will be great, and coming back on the Board of Consultors. I was on from 2009 to 2015.

BROWN: Well, great, it sounds like you have some options.

GARRETT: Oh, I’m excited. I’m very excited. I mean, Villanova is our family. Both my brothers graduated from here, my daughter, my several nieces and nephews. And my brother, John, Class of ’71, was the first to graduate. I mean, really, even from college, in our family kind of thing, we were the first. And I’m glad we came here; it’s been great for each of us. John ended up Civil Engineering Corps, got out in four years, owned several of his own companies, got into the steel business and that kind of thing. He’s done really well; he’s worked closely here with the College of Engineering. My twin brother, even though he got that Dean letter freshman year, he didn’t pay as much attention to it so Villanova kicked him out for a year. But he came back, and he was the fastest getting his Master’s. And he worked at SEI initially, and then Premier, and then he had his own consulting company. He retired at like 50-something, early fifties, and he has houses all over the Outer Banks and what have you. So, both of my brothers are retired and they’re very excited about me retiring because, even though I travel a lot, they expect to see more on Facebook. Yeah, I love Villanova; my heart’s here and always will be.

BROWN: Well, great. I love hearing that. Fantastic.

GARRETT: Yeah, absolutely.

BROWN: So, as we wrap up, and think about your story: is there anything you’d like to add that you haven’t been able to talk about?

GARRETT: No, I think, not only was Villanova a great experience, but it also feels like the military experience broadened me to look at things in different ways. It, certainly from a leadership perspective, it’s either sink or swim. Thank God I swam fairly well. And I think it’s been an awesome career; I think I’ve made some pretty great career choices. I’ve been very blessed; it’s kind of fallen into my lap. And I have four of the most amazing children and now five grandchildren. I just can’t say enough about how blessed I am. My roots were Central Pennsylvania, for God’s sakes. You know, if I had stayed in Shamokin, I’d probably been doing meth or all of that. I mean, it’s really a sad situation. There’s one Catholic Church left. You know, I drove pass it, and thank heavens it was the church I was baptized in. But, they’ve combined all of them, and it’s really sad what’s happened to some of these communities.

BROWN: Sure.

GARRETT: I was saying to the Dean, I’m very involved in healthcare for the homeless. We’ve got a great program in Baltimore, which needs enhancing, so I’m on their board helping to draft a risk management plan for them. So, we’re making sure that the patients there are getting the same quality care and safety that they would at Hopkins. And it’s kind of my passion, and I’m also working with the veterans in D.C. Having been a psych nurse, and with a degree in counseling and all of that. What we have done for the veterans is somewhat abysmal. I mean, PTSD has really just begun coming around when I was around in ’73, ’74, ’75. You drive down the streets in D.C., and you know what you’re seeing. We need to do more. The VA – I’ve worked with them on some projects, from a safety and quality standpoint. So, outside of the work world, I have a number of passions. I’m on the Board of the American Society of Healthcare Risk Management, which is part of the American Hospital Association. With a little luck, maybe I’ll get President in the next year or so. But, again, our goal is safe and trusted healthcare. And part of the reason to retire – also, I’ve realized I’m turning 69 this year, which I’ve totally lost track of – is to be able to do some of those kind of things. My first commitment is to Hopkins, and I’ve got like 30 people working for me and so on. But I really want to be able to commit to other things. I think I have a lot to give. I’ve never said the word “bored” in my life, and hopefully never have to say it again. But I’m excited.

BROWN: Well, good. I appreciate you coming here today and giving us your time, and letting us listen to part of your story. Eventually, some of those young grandkids will be able to press play.

GARRETT: And hopefully they all come to Villanova! I started those 529s for them.

BROWN: I hope so too! But I do really appreciate your service, both to the community and to the country, and to Villanova. It means a lot to all of us, so thank you very much for coming on today and being a part of it.

GARRETT: Thank you for having me.

BROWN (OUTRO): That concludes this installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans, a joint project of the Villanova University Office of Veterans and Military Service Members, and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Departments. Thank you for listening. For more information and to listen to more interviews, please visit us online at

[1] The Blitz was a German bombing campaign against the United Kingdom, in 1940 and 1941, during the Second World War. The term was first used by the British press and originated from the term Blitzkrieg, the German word meaning “lightning war.”

[2] The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. Pope John XXIII called the council in order to “update” the church and to connect with 20th-century people in an increasingly secularized world. The Church felt its practices needed to be improved and its teaching needed to be presented in a way that would appear relevant and understandable to this new audience.

[3] Panty raids were American college pranks in the 1950s and early 1960s in which groups of male students attempted to invade the living quarters of female students and steal their underwear as trophies.

[4] Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a national student activist organization in the United States during the 1960s.

[5] To protest the war, students would wear black armbands as a symbol of protest.

[6] Elmo Zumwalt was a United States Navy officer and the youngest person to serve as Chief of Naval Operations. He was an admiral and later the 19th Chief of Naval Operations; he played a major role during the Vietnam War.

[7] Unknown phrase.

[8] O’Day Corp. was an American sailboat builder, located in Fall River, Massachusetts.

[9] The Berry Plan was a Vietnam War-era program in the United States that allowed physicians to defer obligatory military service until they had completed medical school.

[10] Unknown spelling. Best guess.

[11] Best guess: Department of Defense.

[12] SEI Investments Company, formerly Simulated Environments Inc, is a financial services company headquartered in Oaks, PA.

[13] Inaudible phrase.

[14] Inaudible phrase.

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