Video produced in November 2008 by Chris Hansen, class of ‘09.
A funeral service for Msgr. James “Scooter” Lavin has been set for 9:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 21, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus, university officials said Tuesday. The prominent St. Thomas figure died Monday, Sept. 17 after a Mass in his room at the Little Sisters of the Poor residence in St. Paul. A reception following Friday’s service will be held in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex field house.
Prior to the service, a visitation is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at O’Halloran and Murphy Funeral Home in St. Paul.
University officials said memorials can be made to the Little Sisters of the Poor or two St. Thomas funds: the Peanut Butter and Jelly Fund or the Monsignor James Lavin Endowed Scholarship Fund.
Lavin, 93, died of natural causes, Doug Hennes, vice president for university and government relations, said. Lavin had been in poor health, Hennes said.
Lavin arrived on campus in 1936 and graduated in 1940. A few months after his ordination on Aug. 18, 1945, he returned to St. Thomas and taught religion until 1967. He lived in Ireland Hall until 2002.
He was affectionately referred to as “Scooter,” a nickname given to him in 1964, because of his signature brisk walk.
Lavin commented on his nickname in an Aquin interview: “When I first came to St. Thomas, I was known as ‘Jumping Jim’, but I slowed down and it became Scooter,” he said.
In 1989, the restaurant Scooter’s, named after him, opened in the Murray-Herrick Campus Center. It is now located in the Anderson Student Center.
In May 1985, Lavin was honored with the William B. Malevich award, which is given to a staff, faculty or administration member whom students feel have shown support and direction both in and out of the classroom.
Junior seminarian Colin Jones said he was struck by how devoted Lavin was to the entire priesthood and education system at St. Thomas.
“For a priest to work in the education system for that long is really cool,” Jones said. “Especially considering the fact that I’m sure he built up considerably the Catholic identity of the university.”
Lavin said one of his proudest achievements with his students was, “living with them and feeding them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” His peanut butter sandwiches are known as “Lavin Burgers” and the tradition continues to live on every Sunday night in Ireland Hall.
Senior Brian LaVallee said “Lavin Burgers” were one of the highlights of his weekend.
“I just loved knowing every Sunday night there was going to be ‘Lavin Burgers’ for me to eat while studying in Ireland Hall basement,” LaVallee said.
Sophomore Thomas Friedrichsen said Lavin was instrumental in creating a bond among Ireland Hall residents.
“He instilled a tradition of pride among Ireland residents. His legacy was that of building a community, a family,” Friedrichsen said.
Lavin was very close with his students and was often seen around on campus. During his time in Ireland Hall, he took students rock climbing and snowshoeing. Lavin even bailed students out of jail.
The most common advice Lavin gave to students was, “study and love what you are working at.”
Jones said he knew Lavin must have been an incredible man, an incredible educational figure and a great priest.
“I appreciate everything he did and everything God did through him,” Jones said.