Students, RWU community celebrate President Farish

Kayla Ebner | Editor-in-Chief

President Farish was generous – he wanted to make sure each student not only gained knowledge during their time at RWU, but also learned how to apply that knowledge in the real world.

President Farish was intelligent – his passion and knowledge in higher education propelled him to make tuition affordable for students from all income levels.

President Farish was courageous – he was not afraid to stand up for people who are different, and made sure he learned everything he could about them to understand more about who they were, and how he could help them feel more comfortable. He turned his thoughts into actions, and made strenuous efforts to welcome diversity. 

President Farish was selfless –  he always put others before himself and strove to make every student on campus feel like they matter. 

These are the qualities of President Donald J. Farish that were celebrated on Wed., Sept. 12. At the Field House, students, faculty, staff and community members gathered to remember his life and his remarkable legacy at RWU.

After his tragic passing in July, people took the stage to speak on their personal memories with President Farish, all sharing common themes: commitment, kindness, honesty and more. There were also performances by RWU Dance Theatre, a cappella group Hawkward and more. 

Senior Phoebe Thaler said that President Farish helped make RWU feel like home for her, and supported her when she made her transition from male to female. 

“With President Farish at the helm I always felt safe being out and proud and was comfortable being myself on campus,” she said.

Former Student Senate President Jake Brostuen, Class of 2018, noted that Farish had a lot to do with his choice to attend RWU.

Brostuen said a student “didn’t have to be a member of the Honors Program or a captain of the sports team to have a personal relationship” with Farish. 

“He genuinely cared about the well-being and success of every student,” said Brostuen.

In an interview with The Hawks’ Herald, Maia Farish emphasized everything that had been said at the ceremony, and noted that Donald was not only committed in his professional life, but also his personal life.

“He just had a soul and a heart that would not quit, would not waver from doing the right thing, even when it was hard,” said Maia. “He wanted every single student on this campus to do the right thing, even when it’s hard.”

She ended with a quote from Donald that he said during Convocation in 2014:

“Treat your fellow students kindly and with respect as if they were members of your own family. I want you to commit to helping create and sustain an open and inclusive community that is safe for everyone. I want you to be prepared to intervene should you see examples of harassment or discrimination or sexual assault. In short, I want you to look our for each other. Help us preserve a community at Roger Williams that, like our namesake, does not merely tolerate, but actively celebrates the diversity of backgrounds, beliefs, and heritages that collectively make us such an interesting and intriguing place to be.” 

“I want people to know that in addition to all of that, he was such a committed partner and husband and always thought of me and the other people in his life before himself,” said Maia. “That didn’t just happen in his professional life, it was very much who he was, and it was always about ‘What can I do to make the other person’s life more comfortable?’”

President Farish left a mark on every person he came in contact with at RWU. His selflessness and passion is instilled in RWU students and community members, and will continue to shape the university for years to come.