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Matt Garber

The endowed fund named in Matt’s honor will provide funding for students-in-need who wish to study music or nursing at EMU.

Matt Garber Organ

Garber’s classmate and friend Melissa Sikes, also a 2008 EMU grad, says “I know I can be a better nurse – using my critical thinking to really connect all the points in a patient – thanks to Matt and his insights.”

Contribute to the Matt Garber Endowed Scholarship Fund


Matt Garber Endowed Scholarship Fund

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“Responding to God’s call is about stepping out in faith… and finding great joy as [we] see our calling affirmed time and time again.” These were Matt Garber’s words as he described his experience in EMU’s Ministry Inquiry program, through which he explored pastoral ministry within local Mennonite congregations.

Garber, 22, a well-loved student leader, musician, and 2008 nursinggraduate, was known for his strong faith and good sense of humor. He drowned in Costa Rica on July 1, 2008, shortly after graduating with honors.

EMU hopes the newly established Matt Garber Endowed Scholarship Fund, aimed at helping music or nursing students-in-need, will encourage other students to discover their calling.

Scholarship Fund Goals

Fund planners hope to raise $50,000 or more through donations from family and friends over the next several years. Supporters are invited to Give Now or plan a future gifts such as a bequest.

As soon as the fund accrues $10,000 or more, EMU will begin to grant scholarships in Garber’s name, reports Kirk Shisler , vice president of advancement. “We believe that this permanent fund in Matthew’s memory is a meaningful way to celebrate his legacy of faith in Christ and love of life and others,” said Shisler.

EMU financial aid and admissions staff will choose the student recipients based on financial need.

A Season of Loss

A native of Elizabethtown, Pa., Garber was spending the summer in Costa Rica assisting a missionary family and learning Spanish when he was caught in a riptide while swimming with friends in an area not known to be dangerous. He planned to begin a position in the emergency room at Lancaster (Pa.) General Hospital at summer’s end. He was one of ten graduating EMU seniors honored with the annual “Cords of Distinction” recognition for their “significant impact” on campus and beyond.

Garber’s passing hit the EMU community hard. Nearly 150 classmates, relatives and friends quickly posted messages of love and loss on EMU’s tribute blog. Busloads of community members traveled to Elizabethtown on July 13 for Garber’s memorial service. And in November of that year, the music department’s annual concert centered around “Death Cannot Separate,” an original work composed by EMU alum Nathan Bontrager as a tribute to Garber, his classmate and friend.

A ‘Model EMU Student’

“From time to time, one who could be considered the ‘model EMU student’ comes along,” said Ken L. Nafziger , vice president for student life. “Consider a young man who, as an expression of his Christian faith, is prone to service, committed to community, loves to sing, makes friends with ease and is kind, caring and scholarly, and you have Matthew Garber. While we grieve his passing, we are heartened by the way he touched and influenced so many people in his time on this earth,” Dr. Nafziger added.

“We in the nursing department remember Matt for his smile, his positive attitude and his infectious sense of humor – that he often used to relieve tension during some tense group projects,” said Arlene G. Wiens, former nursing department chair.

Classmate Melissa Sikes, who graduated with Garber in 2008, described him as “wise and mature beyond his years; he was very immersed in life, involved in everything he touched. But with tragedy there is hope,”she added," and I know I can be a better nurse, using my critical thinking to really connect all the points in a patient – thanks to Matt and his insights."

Give to the Matt Garber Endowed Scholarship Fund.