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Admiration and Gratitude

Colleagues and alumni share memories of President Farley


Denise Ottinger, Vice President Emeritus for Student Life, Washburn University

I joined the Washburn family and Dr. Farley’s team in January 2000. I was hired to fill a newly created position; the charge: to reinvigorate student life. Fencing was up and bids were being prepared for the construction of the new Living Learning Center. During my first week on the job, Dr. Farley said he had a new project for me: exploring the feasibility of a student fitness center. And just like that…we were off and running!

During my 16-plus year tenure at Washburn, we tackled renovations, new construction, applications of new technologies and delivery systems. It was heartening to see such focus on new facilities and programs for students. In the midst of this movement was Dr. Farley. He was unique in his focus on the student life experience. The construction of the LLC, Washburn Village, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center and Lincoln Hall speaks volumes.

While promoting the new projects on campus, Dr. Farley walked the talk. He attended numerous student events/programs each night. It was hard keeping up with him! But the students loved it! He was a true advocate for their experiences inside and outside the classroom.

It was a pleasure to work with President Farley. He was a great mentor, colleague and friend. I will always remember being at Washburn at a time of historic growth and development.

Richard Ross, ba ’71, jd ’75, Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation Trustee

President Farley’s legacy is his total transformation of the Washburn University campus. Every aspect of the Washburn experience felt his commitment. Within the first two weeks of his arrival on campus in 1997, I sat before him in his office to explain the dilemma of the Mulvane Art Museum, said to be the second oldest art museum west of the Mississippi River. Following the devastating 1966 tornado, the museum’s basement and second floor spaces became necessary classrooms for the art department, leaving the art museum’s first floor as its only gallery space. I had been on five different study committees over the years, proposing a solution to the problem, but all ended without any progress until Dr. Farley became President. He listened intently to me, asking questions that indicated he was interested in resolving the situation; he ended the meeting by telling me he would put that on his long to-do list. In 2006, a state-of-the-art new art building opened on campus, allowing the Mulvane Art Museum to be renovated from top to bottom (basement to second floor galleries). At the ribbon cutting ceremony, President Farley asked me if he had completed what I had asked of him. He had remembered our first meeting, and he followed through with his promise. In 2024, the Mulvane Art Museum will celebrate its 100th birthday on the Washburn campus. Thank you, Dr. Farley, for your passion to make Washburn University a great university for all students.

Jacki Summerson, ba '68, h '18, Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation Trustee

Susan and I first met when got paired together on the golf course. We hit it off right away (maybe because we were both math majors). We also enjoy playing bridge together. I met Jerry soon after that and we all became good friends. Jerry got me involved with the Washburn University Foundation which I have thoroughly enjoyed. It's amazing to look at the Washburn campus today compared to what it looked like when I went to school there right after the tornado in 1967. Jerry Farley has had an amazing impact on the campus as well as the university itself. He has definitely left his mark on Washburn and will be missed!

Garry Cushinberry, ba '80, Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation Trustee, Senior Vice President, CoreFirst Bank & Trust

I knew Dr. Farley was the right choice for president of Washburn University after our first personal conversation during the interviewing process. I knew then that he was the right person at the right moment with the right message. Fast forward two decades plus, and I’m proud to say I was right!! Thanks 

Eric Showalter – Instructor, Collision Repair, Washburn Tech

Since we first participated in NABC’s Recycled Rides program in 2011, Dr. Farley has been an avid supporter. It takes backing from administration to make anything successful, and he has been there for us. He has been a speaker at all but one of our vehicle giftings. Dr. Farley has always taken time to visit with the students who worked on the vehicles and the recipients of those vehicles. Dr. Farley, we thank you for the support of our campus activities.

Mike Racy, bba ’87, Commissioner, The MIAA

I have known Dr. Farley for a number of years. We first connected when I was working at the NCAA office in Indianapolis. As a Washburn alumnus, I knew I could count on Dr. Farley for help on NCAA projects and presidential task forces, especially matters involving NCAA Division II finances. When my father passed away in 2007, Dr Farley was one of the first non-family members to contact me. He sent me a beautiful, hand-written, sympathy card (that I still have in my office desk drawer) following my dad’s funeral – that meant so much to me! Dr. Farley and I have been able to work more closely together following my appointment as the MIAA commissioner in 2016. Dr. Farley is a well-respected leader on intercollegiate athletics, and I appreciate that he always forms a position on important issues by prioritizing what is best for our student-athletes. He cares very deeply about student success, and he understands that intercollegiate athletics participation helps prepare student-athletes for success after graduation. Thank you for your leadership, Dr. Farley, and for everything you have done to make the MIAA an elite conference in NCAA Division II!

John Dicus, Chair and President, Chief Executive Officer, Capitol Federal

Dr. Farley has been a true asset to Washburn and the Topeka community during his time here. Capitol Federal and our Foundation have been real partners with Washburn in improving the campus and Washburn’s importance as an integral part of Topeka. Jerry was the first to call on the Foundation in 1999, and from that call we made our first contribution to the Living Learning Center. The thing I have always liked and appreciated about Dr. Farley’s style is he always came with multiple projects that were important to Washburn and let us determine where our interests matched. Due to that leadership, we have found common ground on many projects.

Dr. Farley’s leadership and involvement extends well beyond the Washburn campus. He knew early on that if he was going to see his vision for Washburn succeed, he needed to be out and involved in the Topeka community, and he went above and beyond in that regard. Washburn and Topeka will benefit for many years to come from his efforts and we all owe a great deal of gratitude to him for that.

Jerry, thank you for a job well done.

Marshall Meek, mba '17, President, Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation

Dr. Farley is retiring from a different university than the one he began leading 25 years ago. Washburn has been forever transformed under his leadership and is perfectly positioned to provide students with the authentic college experience deep into the future. Our campus is now an ideal setting for a vibrant student-life experience. When coupled with Washburn’s long history of access for all, small class sizes and professors who truly care about the success of their students, it makes Washburn University a very special place. Dr. Farley’s role in helping to create this reality is undeniable.

Rugena Hall, ba ’00, Assistant to the President, Washburn University

My favorite Dr. Farley quality is his positivity. Over the 21 years we’ve worked together, his positive attitude has helped us through a number of situations. That attitude spreads to the entire office. Helping us believe we “will survive” no matter how dire the situation seemed at the time. Along with the positive attitude, he has a very calm demeaner. In 21 years, I have only seen him truly angry twice. (Afraid, he can’t say that about me.) Both times, a person had been unfair to another person. He has been a good mentor, leader and friend to me. I will miss teasing him about “no chicken, no chocolate” and only flying one airline.

Baili Zhang, Director, International Programs, Washburn University

Since his arrival on campus 25 years ago, President Farley has been an ardent promotor of international education, which is pivotal for our success. His involvement at the individual student level is truly inspirational. For example, he would go to recruitment events and speak to students, parents and counselors, treating every prospect as a five-star recruit. With his steadfast support and direct involvement, new heights were reached in the 2015 academic year: 305 international students from 38 different countries/regions were studying at Washburn and 204 students studied abroad in a dozen countries. Many of our students come from or study abroad at our partnership schools, many of which President Farley helped to establish. He is a big reason why international partners like to work with us. His genuine enthusiasm in his profession, brimming pride in Washburn, intense interest in helping students grow, endless optimism when facing challenges and friendly persona in his interaction with others would quickly win people over everywhere we went.

President Farley played a critical role in my professional development and personal growth. By observing him at work I learned a great deal about how complicated issues could be approached, what effective communication should be and how much a positive attitude could help accomplish. His work ethic and stamina are just astounding and awe-inspiring – I have never heard him use the word “busy” to describe his schedule. At most, he would only say “a bit hectic at times.” He sees every challenge as an opportunity to get better.

I have had the great benefit and privilege of traveling with President Farley to many international destinations – another wonderful learning opportunity for me. He is fun and easy to travel with. He would be content as a clam if I would do two things: to schedule sufficient time for his daily jog, which sometimes can be broken into two or three segments when the schedule gets “a bit hectic,” and to secure a place to buy bottled water, Coke Zero or Diet Pepsi.

He and Susan love interacting with international students and visitors who came to our campus.  For 25 years they have honored my countless requests for receptions, as event speakers or hosting international guests. They have entertained hundreds, perhaps a thousand of them, over the years.  Students love having photos taken with them to share with families back home!

Pat Munzer, Professor Emeritus, School of Applied Studies, Washburn University

I was on Dr Farley’s search committee. What I remember most at the time was his easy, relaxed manner. He was personable, and I thought he would work well with the faculty and staff of Washburn and with the community of Topeka/Shawnee County.  

As chairperson of the School of Applied Studies allied health department, the health care community came to me several times to help them meet the workforce needs of Topeka and the community. What was exciting for me was that Dr. Farley was always open to a proposal to expand an allied health program or to start a new one.  

When Dr. Farley hired me as dean for the School of Applied Studies, he asked me what he could do for me in my new leadership role. I remember saying, ‘Don’t say no to me when I ask for something.’ I remember him chuckling and saying, ‘Have I ever?’ When I think back on the allied health programs that were expanded or started under my leadership as chairperson of the allied health department, he never did say no. He truly understood what was important and needed for Topeka and Washburn University.  

I have enjoyed working with Dr. Farley. He has allowed the SAS to move forward and to be innovative. He will be sorely missed.

Susie Hoffmann, bba '87, Director, Washburn Alumni Association

I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Dr. Farley the entire 22-plus years of my career. In that time, both the University and Alumni Association have grown and evolved into something bigger and better than ever before. His enthusiasm and vision are infectious, and alumni overwhelmingly admire him. He values and understands the importance of the work we do at the Alumni Association. Not many university presidents would come to events such as After Hours and tailgate parties, travel with us to cities across the United States to meet with alumni and friends or take a seat on the motorcoach with travelers on one of the Alumni Association’s international group trips. Alongside him for nearly all events and travel is his wife, Susan. They’re a dynamic duo; as an alumni director, I couldn’t have asked for two better people to represent and lead Washburn University, thereby making alumni proud of their alma mater.

Personally, I’ve been lucky to work alongside Dr. Farley and had rare opportunities to sit beside him when he piloted his plane across Kansas to alumni gatherings or have casual conversations with alumni about things outside the Washburn realm. He’s a people person, and alumni and friends naturally gravitate toward him. Many call him a friend.



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