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Meet the Garbers
Among the faculty and administrators presenting prizes at the College of Arts and Sciences Awards Ceremony each spring for the past 31 years have been two gentlemen whom students likely didn’t recognize. Paul W. Garber and Philip C. Garber are brothers (Paul is older by five minutes), and on Sunday, May 19, they were seated onstage at Robsham Theater for the annual ceremony in their capacity as the Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Chile.
Honorary Consuls are a common part of the diplomatic infrastructure in many cities. Appointed, but serving as volunteers (the Garbers’ office is a subterranean room in their Brighton home), the brothers process visa applications and legal documents such as birth and death certificates, and otherwise “offer bread-and-butter support for people coming from or going to Chile,” says Philip. The Garbers joined the diplomatic fraternity in 1974, their acquaintance with Chile dating to 1968, when Paul, then a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, was posted to Santiago as an advisor to Chile’s navy.
Paul now holds the title Gran Oficial de la Orden del Libertador (“Grand Officer of the Order of the Liberator”). His diplomatic duty at Robsham was to present the Andrés Bello Award, “given to a senior who has excelled in Spanish,” as the program noted. For the occasion, he wore a replica of the formal uniform of a 19th-century Chilean diplomat—a navy-blue tailcoat trimmed in gold braid and dark trousers with a matching gold stripe down the leg. He had commissioned the outfit from an image in a Chilean book on consular law and practice. (The full uniform includes a plumed bicorne, which he rarely dons.) Philip, Comendador [Commander] de la Orden del Libertador, dressed in a dark modern-day suit, presented the Princess Grace of Monaco Award (“given to a senior who has excelled in French”). Both men wore the hefty golden Grand Cross Star of the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins on red and blue ribbons around their necks. Named after the 19th-century independence fighter, the medal is Chile’s highest civilian honor bestowed on foreigners.
Paul (“I’m the one with the Joseph P. Kennedy glasses. I’m older and wiser, but Philip is bigger and computer-competent”) and his twin both earned their bachelor’s degrees at Harvard University in 1956, followed, in 1961, by juris doctorates from Harvard Law School. For 51 years they practiced law—at Garber & Garber, in Boston—focusing on commercial and real estate matters. By avocation, they are collectors—of maritime art, books on Judaica and American history, and oriental art, to name a few enthusiasms—and modest philanthropists. “Philip and I are into education,” says Paul. “That’s where we donate what little we can give.” They have donated books to Harvard museums, a scholarship to Regis College, and artwork and 500 volumes on Chile to Boston College’s Burns Library. They also have established a fund at the O’Neill Library to purchase books in the field of international studies.
Their link to Boston College came about through a mix of neighborhood spirit and international diplomacy. In the early 1980s, the chair of the Romance languages department, Vera Lee, approached various members of the Boston consular community to ask for support of Greycliff Hall, then the University’s language residence, home to some three dozen French and Spanish language students. The Garbers contributed pieces of furniture and, through a client in the restaurant supply business, arranged for donations of equipment to furnish the kitchen. “It was a professional affair by the time we finished,” says Paul. With that project completed, then-President J. Donald Monan, SJ, asked the brothers if they would consider some other contribution.
The Garbers decided to create the Bello Award, in honor of Andrés Bello (1781–1865), whom Paul calls “the greatest polymath of Latin America in the 19th century.” A poet, jurist, legislator, philologist, and the founder of the University of Chile, Bello was also a diplomat both for his native Venezuela and his adopted Chile. The Princess Grace prize was developed by Hélène Day, honorary consul in Boston for the Principality of Monaco; she gained approval from Monaco’s Prince Rainer to honor his wife, who had died the year before (in 1982).
To endow the awards, the Garbers contributed their own funds and, with Day, organized benefit performances at Robsham, including one by the Chilean folk musicians Los Huasos Quincheros. The two awards, each now accompanied by a $700 check, were first presented in 1983, with Day handing out the Princess Grace award and Paul the Bello prize. In 2009, Philip assumed responsibility for presenting the Princess Grace award.
In all, the University this year named 72 undergraduates, mostly seniors, to receive 57 awards, from The Frank J. Bailey Sr. Award (established by his daughter Kathleen Bailey, lecturer in political science, for a student with “a distinguished academic record in the field of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies”) to the Max Wainer Award (created by Anneliese K. Wainer, Ph.D.’72, in honor of her husband and given to “the senior who is deemed the outstanding student in Classics”). Philip preceded Paul (for once), awarding the Bello prize to Patrick Vale, an international studies and Hispanic studies double major from Mansfield, Massachusetts, who will spend the next year serving with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Portland, Oregon. The French award went to Mary Goetz of Minneapolis. Goetz, a major in French and English, also received the William A. Kean ’35 Memorial Award, given by James Kean ’40, MA’47, in honor of his brother to an outstanding English major (presented by English professor Suzanne Matson). Goetz will pursue a master’s degree at the Columbia School of Journalism.
When Paul Garber handed Goetz the envelope containing the Princess Grace prize, he proffered a vigorous handshake and a large smile—the standard protocol. Then he bent and kissed the back of her hand. As the crowd applauded, he told her, “the handshake was for the English award, the kiss was for the French prize.” He turned her to face the audience, which cheered again. That last maneuver, he said later, was “so mom and dad could get a good picture.”
Read more by Thomas Cooper