Doc Farber's Life of Public Service: “Consider the Possibilities”

Published date01 March 2014
Date01 March 2014
Tom Brokaw, one of the most trusted
and respected f‌i gures in broadcast
journalism, is author and special
correspondent for NBC News. Hired by NBC
News in 1966, he anchored the Today
show and was anchor and managing editor
of NBC Nightly News for 21 years. He
has received numerous honors, has an
impressive series of f‌i rsts, and became a
best-selling author with the publication of
The Greatest Generation.
Doc Farber’s Life of Public Service: “Consider the Possibilities” 141
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 2, pp. 141. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12195.
Tom Brokaw
NBC News
Editor’s Note: is Perspective is the second
in a series of ref‌l ections about ASPA’s
founders in commemoration of the Society’s
75th anniversary.
His formal name was W. O. “Bill” Farber,
but to students, administrators, and friends
alike, he was simply “Doc,” a born teacher
with a PhD in political science and an appetite for
knowledge that knew no bounds.
Doc Farber came to the University of South Dakota
at the height of the Great Depression and dedicated
his life to the students of that prairie institution. He
never married, but he had a family larger than anyone
else in the state—all the young people who had been
the benef‌i ciaries of his friendship, counseling, and
Doc didn’t conf‌i ne his advice to political science
majors. He had a radar system that alerted him to
problems for an accounting major or a star athlete, a
faculty member or a local merchant. I watched him
on many occasions, his rotund f‌i gure bouncing across
campus, as he stopped a student to quietly confer
and pat the young man or woman on the back and
move on.
His home on a street bordering the campus was
famous for its homecoming daiquiri parties and
reunions of former students. It was not unusual to see
a freshman chatting up the governor or a senator, all
of whom were students of Doc.
He was famous for his aphorisms, such as “Consider the
possibilities!” which he repeated to me when he tried
to persuade me to join the CIA. When I demurred,
he said, “Consider the possibilities! You could start a
coup in Guatemala.” And then he burst into laughter.
We could never pin down his political af‌f‌i liation. As
best we could tell, he was a Republican when they
were in of‌f‌i ce and a Democrat when they held power.
He needed friends in both parties to get the grants
that f‌i nanced many student studies of local and state
government or tribal politics.
When I lost my way for a time, Bill counseled me to
drop out for a while and “get all the wine and women
out of your system.”
It worked. I returned, working full time and attending
classes full time. It was the most important advice of
my young life.
When I graduated, I still didn’t have a job, so Doc drove
me to Omaha, where we had heard of an opening.
I got the job, and Doc stayed in close touch for the
rest of my career. When I began to get honorary
degrees, one of the schools called him to ask about my
undergraduate scholarship.
Bill said, laughing, “To be honest, we thought the
degree we gave him was honorary.
When he died, the f‌l ags across the state were f‌l own
at half staf‌f , a unique tribute to a university professor
who “always considered the possibilities.
Doc Farbers Life of Public Service: “Consider
the Possibilities

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT