Laverty, The Rev Dr. A. Marshall (1912-2011)

[Pictured: Padre Laverty at a sunrise service.]
Padre Laverty at a sunrise service.
[portrait of Marshall Laverty in 1947]
The Padre in 1947
[Padre Laverty in Grant Hall]
Padre Laverty in Grant Hall

Known to generations of Queen’s students as “Padre,” Rev. Dr. Alexander Marshall Laverty came from the battlefields of Europe to serve as university chaplain from 1947 to 1983. In that time, he was a central fixture and a benevolent and outgoing force in the daily life of the university. In an increasingly secularizing society, the Padre perpetuated Queen’s founding instinct that education was not just about learning, but also about social assistance and communal betterment.

Born in Toronto, Laverty was ordained in the United Church in 1937 after his education at the University of Toronto (graduating with honours in 1937) and Emmanuel College.

He was ordained as a minister in the United Church of Canada the same year and served in parishes in Toronto, Manitoulin Island, and Stirling, before enlisting as a Chaplain in the Canadian army in 1942 and serving in Europe where he ministered to signals and artillery troops. That experience of tending to the spiritual needs of people of all faiths shaped his approach to the ministry.

His appointment as Queen's Chaplain in 1947 was the first of its kind to a Canadian university. His duties included assisting all religious organizations on campus. Laverty acted as a minister, advisor, counsellor, and friend, and his organizational skills and contacts across Canada were of immeasurable benefit to the university.

Laverty ensured that his door was always open. The presence of hundreds of vets seeking a belated education at Queen’s gave the new chaplain a ready constituency and the lasting nickname of “the Padre" – a nickname he acquired during his wartime service.

Padre Laverty permeated campus life. He had a remarkable ability to remember names and faces. He held a service in Grant Hall every Sunday morning. For many students with academic, financial and personal problems, he played the role of fixer. For years, he and his wife Frances successively invited every first-year student to their Albert Street home for a Sunday evening get-together.

[Padre Laverty in United Way bed race]
Padre Laverty in United Way bed race

Padre Laverty also performed countless baptisms, marriage ceremonies, and funeral services for Queen's people, both during his tenure and after retirement.

In the fiscally tough 1970s, a Senate committee recommended that the chaplaincy be abolished, but few others agreed. Most recognized that students required spiritual and practical guidance in life and that the Padre’s open door was a passage to stability.

Famed for his rhetorical skills, he was also active on behalf of numerous charitable organizations in the Kingston area and served on the Frontenac County Board of Education for more than 30 years. And each fall, he headed out of town in his Buick to visit high schools across Ontario and Quebec to talk to thousands of would-be applicants.

He retired from his position as Chaplain in 1983 and was succeeded by Brian Yealland, who, in his term as chaplain, continued Laverty’s work on increasingly multicultural campus community.

The Padre enjoyed a long retirement in Kingston, but remained extremely active in the university community and frequently served as a Queen’s ambassador.

He received numerous awards from Queen's and other Canadian institutions. He was invited as a member of the Order of Canada in 1985 and received an honorary doctorate from Queen's in 1991. He also received the University Council's Distinguished Service Award, the John Orr Award, the Montreal Medal as a Maker of Queen's, and the Alumni Association's Kingston Award, which was renamed in his honour in 1991.

In 2003, the Padre and Frances Laverty Bursary was established by Queen's friends to honour the couple's longtime devotion to Queen's students.

He died in February 2011.