EMU community mourns death of recent grad

Item by Jim Bishop

The Eastern Mennonite University community gathered this morning to mourn the death by drowning of recent graduate Matthew R. Garber in Costa Rica on July 1.

Garber, 22, of Elizabethtown, Pa., was swimming with a group of young people in a cove that was not known to be dangerous. A riptide apparently caught several of the swimmers; all but Garber managed to return safely to shore.

Garber had graduated with honors from EMU Apr. 27 with a bachelor of science degree in nursing, with a minor in Bible and religion. He was spending the summer in Costa Rica assisting a missionary family and learning Spanish. He planned to begin a position in the emergency room at Lancaster (Pa.) General Hospital at summer’s end.

Garber was among a select group of 10 graduating seniors honored with the annual “Cords of Distinction” recognition. The students were selected for their “significant and verifiable impact” on the university campus and beyond.

Garber was a well-loved student leader, known for his musical talent and friendly nature. He had sung with EMU’s select Chamber Singers for four years, frequently planned and led student worship, was involved with the Young People’s Christian Association and served as a community advisor in campus residence halls for three years. He also completed a summer internship in the Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP) at Plains Mennonite Church, Lansdale, Pa.

Reading from comments shared about Garber at the Cords of Distinction ceremony, vice president for student life Ken L. Nafziger read, “From time to time, one who could be considered the ‘model EMU student’ comes along. 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.”

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber read a reflection Garber had shared at the pinning ceremony for the 2008 nursing graduates at EMU. He reflected there that, “As I think back over my time in the nursing program, I can’t picture having a richer, more fulfilling experience. … Thank you to EMU and the faculty for challenging us and providing a ‘different’ kind of place for us to learn and grow. Most of all, I thank God who led me to EMU, who led me to nursing, and who will lead all of us from this place as nurses to minister to his people.”

Garber is survived by his parents, Todd and Deb, of Elizabethtown, as well as four siblings. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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