College of Arts & Sciences Farber Fund

About Doc Farber

Doc Farber

 

William O. 'Doc' Farber

(1910-2007)

William O. "Doc" Farber's distinguished career in political science at the University of South Dakota is a study in the acceptance of challenge and the application of exceptional talent in hurdling obstacles, whether financial, traditional or institutional.

His own 1955 statement to the State Legislative Research Council on the occasion of relinquishing its directorship to return full-time to his University duties said it best: "...while there have been tough moments, looking back, I would not have traded even these for better times, since, without obstacles, there is not sufficient challenge, and continued 'sweetness and light' can be tiresome."

Dr. Farber was born on July 4, 1910, in Geneseo, Illinois, and was educated in the public schools of that city. He received his B.A. and M.A. from Northwestern University, graduating with honors and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He came to the University of South Dakota in 1935 with a Wisconsin Ph.D. and an appointment as assistant professor in an institution suffering the trials of a depression-ridden state. The challenge of a chairmanship lured him to North Dakota State in 1937, but one year later he returned to the University of South Dakota as Chairman of the Department of Government, a position he held until 1976, with interruptions for war service and for leave-of-absence teaching at Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Seoul National University in Korea. 

In the 38 years of his leadership, the Department staff expanded from three to twelve, enrollments soared despite the fact that high grades in political science never have been easy to come by, and exceptionally gifted students were attracted to the study of political science, including four Rhodes Scholarship winners and many recipients of distinguished awards at leading American universities for graduate study.

Strongly committed to research as a means of pursuing truth, Farber was most attracted to the kinds of research which could be used in tackling the practical problems facing the small towns of South Dakota, and beyond if the opportunity existed. This preference lay behind his initiative in the creation of the University's Government Research Bureau and was especially exemplified in a distinguished personal performance as the first Director of the Legislative Research Council, and for 10 years, Chairman of the Vermillion, SD City Planning Commission. He was also a leading member of South Dakota's Constitutional Revision Commission and Local Government Study Commission, and has been on the State Educational and Cultural Affairs Planning Commission since 1976.

Along the way, Dr. Farber also had time for national service. He was state price executive for the Office of Price Administration (1942-43); warrant officer with the Army Air Forces with overseas service (1943-46); member, Regional Loyalty Board, U.S. Civil Service Commission (1948-52); and minority counsel and consultant for the U.S. Senate Jackson Subcommittee (1960-61, 1965-72). In this latter capacity, he became Secretary of the North Atlantic Assembly's Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs (1966-70), of which Senator Karl E. Mundt was chairman, and which involved numerous trips to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. 

Professionally, he was a member of the executive council of the American Political Science Association (1963-64) and has served as president, Midwest Political Science Association (1963-64), and in 1983 was elected honorary fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Sandwiched in were numerous research and publication activities, including studies of such diverse subjects as Indian tribal governments, planning, city manager government and South Dakota government. He has served as a consultant for the Brookings Institution's studies on general revenue sharing, community development, and public service employment. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, ODK, Pi Sigma Alpha, and Lambda Chi Alpha, he has been listed in Who's Who in America. He is a charter member of ASPA and the Vermillion, SD Lion's Club.

Despite his many off-campus concerns, Doc Farber's students always came first. The door of his office or home was always open to them for advice and counsel, given without stint. Beyond the purely individual satisfactions gained by countless students from these never-to-be forgotten encounters, one can hardly exaggerate the extent to which the cause of better government was advanced by the encouragement he gave students to enter public service, to contribute something, whether on the highest levels of the state and national governments or in the smallest South Dakota communities.

--contributed by T.C. Geary