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Building Pride

Jerry Farley reflects on 20 years as president of Washburn University

President Jerry Farley

From The Ichabod - Spring 2017

“He is on the move, constantly.” That is the way Tim Etzel, bba ’64, H ’07, would describe Jerry Farley, president, Washburn University.

Etzel sat on the presidential search committee 20 years ago when they hired Farley. The committee knew then they had the right person for the position.

“If you take a snapshot of what Washburn looked like 20 years ago and what it looks like now, it is phenomenal,” Etzel said. “I think his biggest asset is that he wears so many hats and he wears them so well. You’ll rarely find someone that is comfortable in as many seats as he is. In addition to being very visible on campus with students, faculty and staff, he works with local businesses and state and city legislative officials. He has also been very involved in not-for-profit and charitable organizations. In every way he promotes Washburn and serves the community. He has traveled around the world to establish relationships with other universities. His energy makes him quite the leader. He and his wife, Susan, are Ichabods through and through.

For the past two decades, Washburn University has moved at an ambitious rate to make the campus attract more traditional students, and continue to provide educational opportunities to Washburn’snon-traditional student base.

“In 1997, Washburn was just at the point of making a significant change and taking a big step forward,” Farley said, reflecting on his 20 years at Washburn. “I did not know we could not do something, so I just assumed we could. It came down to setting a tone and actually listening to what other people said, because they knew what Washburn was and what it was capable of being. They knew what needed to be done. It was up to me to listen to them and facilitate implementation of their ideas.”

Marshall McGinnis, ba ’03, jd ’07, started working as a student in the president’s office in 1999. He said when he started at Washburn he did not have a feel for the renaissance that was starting to occur with the transformation into a more traditional campus. Looking back as an alumnus, he knows what it takes to make those changes, because he saw it happen firsthand.

“I think you have to be inspirational,” McGinnis said. “Not everyone has that ability, but I think Dr. Farley certainly does. He is also great at developing relationships, because if you have the relationship, it is easier to make things happen.”

And things have happened. More than a dozen new buildings or building renovations, numerous new academic programs, bringing Washburn University Institute of Technology under the umbrella of Washburn University, increasing enrollment, helping to create a better community for alumni to build careers, and creating more student life on campushave been hallmarks of the past 20 years.

Making people – both alumni and community members – proud of Washburn University has been a part of the process of those accomplishments. Farley said there is a role for business and government in making public facilities look grand, and the same is true for Washburn University.

“Our environment should reflect positively on what we want to do and what is being accomplished,” he said. “Big public and business structures, such as a state capitol or a university, must have that kind of purpose. It is about perpetuating the pride that was already here about Washburn.”

Etzel said the foundation for Washburn University has been laid for the future.

“The campus has been transformed from a local flavor to a university that attracts people from all over the Midwest,” Etzel said. “It is more of a traditional campus now, and I see that continuing into the future, especially with the recent additionof Lincoln Hall.”

Farley said the success Washburn has had in its recent capital campaign, 150 Forward: The Campaign for Washburn University, is a reflection of pride the alumni and community members have in Washburn University.“

We really are a landmark in Topeka, which should demonstrate to everyone if we take pride in what we do and build a campus that is beautiful, students and Topeka citizens will want to be a part of Washburn University,” Farley said.

Spring 2020 Alumni Mag

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2019-20 spring edition online and look for it in mailboxes in May.

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