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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The Theatre Group honors beloved educator and his achievements

Courtesy of Judy Garey.

Thomas “Tom” Garey, former City College theater department chair & Academic Senate president who retired in 2011, passed away on April 6. 

According to an email sent out by Superintendent-President Erika Endrijonas on April 11, Garey passed peacefully among family.

Previously serving as Academic Senate President for two years, Garey heavily impacted the City College community, not only through his governance but also as an educator in theater from 1976 to 2011.

In many ways, “he was wanting to make sure City College was successful,” said Patricia Frank, co-chair for the department of theater arts and the director of design and technology.

Garey was part of the committee that hired Frank in 1985, leading to 30-plus years of friendship, co-directing and co-educating. The two spent countless hours together, designing sets and collaborating on all things theater-related.

“He was quite humorous,” Frank said. “He had a dry sense of humor and a big laugh. He was a great teacher. His students really liked him.”

In 1986, Garey also helped hire Pam Lasker, City College’s current theater manager for the Garvin Theatre and for the Theatre Group at City College, which led to another long-lasting partnership specifically within the theater community.

“We worked closely on the budgeting and overall business aspects of the Theatre,” Lansker said in an email interview. “I always knew that Tom supported me in any situation, which made working here a comfortable place.”

Among Garey’s various life experiences and achievements, Frank noted that one of his most significant accomplishments was planning and completing The Garvin Theatre Modernization Project, which finished in 2012. 

“I think his crowning achievement was the renovation of the building,” Frank said. “He took that on and collaborated with the music department and all the people that would be using the building to make sure it could be the best renovation possible.”

Due to his retirement in 2011, however, Garey was unable to spend much time in the building he had dedicated multiple years to. Nonetheless, his guidance, organization and involvement in the project were essential to bringing the building to life and providing students with “state of the art” facilities, according to Frank.

“He pretty much retired by the time they opened the building,” Frank said, laughing. “So he really didn’t get a lot of time in ‘his baby.’”

In addition to his execution of renovating The Garvin Theatre, Garey was also a beloved teacher whose passion for theater inspired and left a lasting impression on his students.

“He launched a lot of kids out into the theater world, pushing them to four-year schools,” Frank said. “We’ve had a number of students that have gone on and made a big difference in theater, and it was thanks to him.”

It remains evident that Garey had an extensive impact on City College through his time serving on multiple committees and various leadership roles. In and out of the classroom, Garey was a “fountain of knowledge,” according to Frank, who lived to learn, inspire, and serve his community the best he could.

“Tom was an amazing advocate and supporter of the theater department, Theatre Group, and the college overall,” Lasker said. “He was involved in the shared governance of the college, taught many students, and still had the creativity and time to design beautiful sets for the shows.”

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