by Andy Weston
Resilient is a word to describe Rebecca Garvey.
She’s one of the 12 students who received the MSUM Founder’s Scholarship this year, a prize awarded to those who have persevered through hardship and are continuing on their path to higher education.
I was tasked with interviewing Garvey for Campus News, and it being my first real time putting together a story, I found myself ill-prepared.
My photographer and I were setting up outside a practice room in the basement of the Center for the Arts, and I hadn’t had the forethought to make sure there would be access to the space. After texting Garvey to let her know I was locked out of our meeting location, she was more than willing to trek to the library to get a key.
We met for the first time outside the practice room, and I got the impression she wasn’t prepared to be greeted by the likes of me. She’d already had several interviews about the scholarship, and I’m guessing she wasn’t expecting to see some bearded thing in a T-shirt and jeans.
Nevertheless, she managed to keep a smile and shake hands as it was decided what to do about the size of the practice room being too small for a shoot. Thankfully, she knew of a classroom that could be used instead.
After doing some of my work for me, Garvey sat down to talk about receiving the scholarship and the hardships she faced on her way to realizing her musical aspirations.
She grew up in the small town of Balsam Lake, Wis. where she took part in numerous organizations and activities like 4-H and volleyball. Her real passion however, came in the form of music, specifically singing. It was this passion that lead to her enrollment at MSUM.
“I’m a music industry major,” she said. “It’s just something I’ve always dreamed about.”
Garvey applied for the Founders Scholarship with an essay detailing her battle with cancer. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2010, but decided then that she wouldn’t let the news dampen her resolve.
“I was very adamant that cancer wasn’t going to ever stop me,” she said. “We’re going to do chemotherapy and radiation and I’m going to hate every moment of it, but I’m going to get through it.”
She said when facing these tough odds, she never lost her fighting spirit.
“I never really thought about cancer beating me. It was never even a thought that crossed my mind,” she said. “I knew I was going to pull through and be stronger because of it.”
When going through chemotherapy she had to remind the people around her not to view her so sympathetically, she added.
“You’re going through something that’s so terrible, but I never wanted to be treated differently than anyone else,” she said.
She was cleared of all cancer that same year, but is quick to give credit to those who helped her, including her family. She says her parents were “instrumental in everything,” as well as the people of her home town.
“The community in Balsam Lake was just amazing. The people that you don’t even realize know who you are and are supporting you.”
It seems her strength in those trying times helped lead her to receiving the Founders Scholarship.
“I was really happy that I’d gotten the scholarship,” Garvey said. “I knew that I had put a lot of work into the scholarship and had done a lot of work prior, going through high school, keeping my grades up.”
Now at MSUM, Garvey continues to put the same amount of work into her studies here.
“When I go and sit in a practice room, I sit in a practice room for like two, two and a half hours,” she said. “I practice piano, I practice singing, going through choral music.”
She says the commitment to practicing doesn’t end when she leaves the piano.
“I sing constantly,” she said. “I don’t think I ever stop. I’ll be walking down the street and just singing whatever tune is stuck in my head.”
She answered all of my questions, all of which, I’m sure, she had answered in previous interactions with the media. She played the same piano tune nearly a dozen times so we could shoot video for our news story. Still, she managed to stay upbeat.
We left the classroom and parted ways. My time talking with Garvey, although brief, was impactful. Her willingness to help others and the resolve she had in the face of such hardship was humbling and certainly something I won’t soon forget.
The Founder’s Scholarship is funded entirely through proceeds raised during the Founders Scholarship Gala, which takes place this Friday at 7 p.m. in the CMU ballroom. A social precedes the event at 5:30 p.m. The scholarship’s recipients will attend.