After a prolific 45-year career of impactful service at Marymount University, Professor Donald Lavanty retired this past spring.
Originally specializing in health care policy and legislation in Washington, D.C., Lavanty arrived on campus in the fall of 1979 through a mutual friend’s recommendation to guest lecture on health policy to Marymount Nursing students. Despite lacking in formal teaching experience, he created a lesson plan that resonated with students, and was offered the chance to teach law and health care for the University’s Paralegal Studies program. He ‘fell in love’ with teaching after his first class, sparking a career in education that spanned more than four decades and five Marymount presidential administrations.
During his tenure, Lavanty served for five years as Chair of the College of Business, Innovation, Leadership and Technology’s (BILT) Health Care Management and Legal Studies programs. He also established Marymount’s Center for Ethical Concerns, and recruited members of Congress, medical experts and ethicists to present for the Ethics of Managed Care program. Over the last several years, he was a familiar sight at commencement ceremonies as he carried the mace at the front of the processions.
“I love Marymount — this University is a family,” Lavanty said. “My advice to my colleagues is continue to respect each other and our students, their views, opinions and beliefs. Respect for those differences is today’s most important character trait.”
Before making his mark on Marymount, Lavanty attended George Washington University for both his undergraduate and law degrees while working as a police officer on Capitol Hill. He then enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967, serving in the 1st Marine Brigade Legal Office where he conducted court martials, provided legal aid and prepared appellate briefs involving Marines in the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (NAM) for his service. After his discharge in 1969, he worked as legislative counsel for several prominent health care professional associations, including the American Optometric Association and the American Hospital Association, for which he presented to Congress how legislations and regulations would impact medical practices.
While he recalled the challenges of balancing his teaching with his work as a health care policy consultant, Lavanty says it was actually advantageous as he was able to introduce real-world applications of health care policies to both Congress and his Marymount classrooms. Developing numerous courses revolving around law, health care management and ethics, he was instrumental in the University receiving the American Bar Association’s approval for its Paralegal Studies program as well as in the creation of the nation’s first master’s program in legal administration.
“I don’t believe in A’s, B’s and C’s. My responsibility to every student is to provide whatever is necessary in every class for the student to succeed,” Lavanty said when asked about his teaching philosophy. “I think teaching students is an incredible opportunity. To have the chance to make somebody learn is so precious to me.”
In 1990, Lavanty developed the M.S. in Health Care Management, sought after by enlisted military members and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Management Education (CAHME). Two years later, he worked with Congress on legislation that established the Mammography Quality Standards Act of 1992, for which he was later honored by the American College of Radiology in 2017 for his trailblazing efforts. Recognizing his accomplishments and positive impact on the University, students in Marymount’s Health Care Management program at the time established and endowed the Donald Lavanty Scholarship, which is still awarded annually to two graduate students.
As a ‘love letter’ to his career in health care law and policy, Lavanty published a book in 2017, The Political Aspects of Health Care, documenting changes within the health care system from 1935 through the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Lavanty also holds a deep respect for his fellow faculty members. In the early 2000’s, he chaired an ad hoc committee dedicated to improving academic performance, and was also a member of the first Rank and Tenure Committee to establish criteria for faculty advancement, rights and salary.
Donald Lavanty and his wife, Delphine, will celebrate 61 years of marriage this month. They have two children who are Marymount alumni. He hopes to continue teaching in some capacity, whether through Zoom or as a guest lecturer in future classes about law or health care policies.
“My legacy, I hope, is to have had a positive impact and influence on my students, colleagues and the University,” Lavanty shared. “I loved to teach. It was not a job, it was a blessing.”