Towson University to host life celebration for Greg Giovanazzi, 54, former NCAA, Olympic volleyball coach

The Towson University community is expressing condolences this week to colleague, Deb Moriarty, for the death of her husband, Gregory Giovanazzi.

Moriarty is vice president for student affairs at Towson University, and also serves as president for the Towson Chamber of Commerce.

Giovanazzi, 54, of Catonsville, died in his sleep Monday, March 19, at home. A "Life is Good" celebration in his honor is scheduled to be held Saturday at Towson University at noon in the West Village Commons Ballroom.

In a statement to Towson University faculty, staff and students, TU President Maravene Loeschke acknowledged Giovanazzi's death and expressed the university's condolences to Moriarty.

"Those who were fortunate enough to know Greg and the remarkable relationship he shared with Deb, also know that Deb attributes much of her personal and professional career to his understanding and unwavering support as a husband and father to their daughter Casey," wrote Loeschke.

"Let us all keep this beloved member of our campus family in our thoughts and provide her support during this difficult time," Loeschke wrote.

And Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson chamber, said, "Our chamber is truly saddened by the passing of Greg. He was a wonderful father, a great husband and always supportive of Deb's role as a community and chamber leader."

Giovanazzi was a member of the 1976 NCAA National Champion UCLA Volleyball team, and spent several years traveling internationally playing professional volleyball.

The obituary for Giovanazzi, published by Sterling-Ashton-Schwab-Witzke Funeral Home of Catonsville, notes that, "though he loved to play volleyball, his greatest impact on the sport came through coaching. Greg spent 30 years inspiring young adults, primarily women, to love and understand volleyball."

He was a coach for the UCLA National Championship teams for 1977, 1978 and 1984, as well as the 1992 U.S. Women's Olympic Team that captured a bronze medal in Barcelona.

He served on the college coaching staffs for UCLA, the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland Baltimore County and, most recently, Johns Hopkins.

He also coached the 2011 Columbia Volleyball Club Comets team — and he coached his daughter, Casey, in club volleyball. She is finishing up her first year at the University of North Florida.

The Baltimore Sun noted Giovanazzi suffered from debilitating migraine headaches for more than half of his life, and that for two years, he'd taken part in a study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy at Boston University. His family has donated Giovanazzi's brain and spinal cord to science for research.

"For someone who'd been in such pain, for so much of his life, there's some comfort in knowing that Greg died peacefully," his wife told The Sun.

Saturday's memorial service will be informal, per his request, his wife told The Sun.

"We're asking people to wear Hawaiian shirts, sun dresses and flip-flops," she told The Sun. "That was Greg, all the way. He got robbed, leaving us at 54, but this is a man who lived a very full and rich life."

In a 2008 Baltimore Sun article, reporter Mike Klingaman wrote of Giovanzzi:

"In the worst of times, when horrific headaches drive him to a darkened bedroom for days, Greg Giovanazzi struggles toward the light.

Brow knitted, eyes clenched, he wades through the pain to think of stuff that matters — family, friends and job. It helps him ride out the migraines that have hounded him for decades ...

"Coaching motivates me to get out of bed, manage my depression and start the healing process," he said. "It gives me reason to continue. That might sound dramatic, but ... I don't want to miss time with my players. I want them to have the opportunity to be the best they can be."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Giovanazzi is survived by son George, brother Gary of Pismo Beach, Calif., as well as extended family and many friends across the country.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Greg's memory to one of the following:

• Boston University School of Medicine CSTE (Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy) at 72 East Concord St., Suite L219; Boston, MA 02118, or online at

• Towson University's Student Leadership Initiatives to support the development of college student's leadership potential, at the Towson University Foundation, P.O. Box 17165, Baltimore, MD 21297-0219, or online at

Mike Klingaman of the Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.

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