In Memoriam, Spring-Summer 2020
Greg Farrell, founding president and chief executive of EL Education and the original executive director of the Fund for the City of New York, died March 29 in New York City from complications of acute myeloid leukemia. He was 84.
Mr. Farrell recounted the founding and development of EL Education, originally called the Expeditionary Learning Schools, in an article in the Winter 2019 issue of this newsletter titled “Making Schools Better”.
He described it as “a radical and surprisingly successful national school reform organization and public school network” in which teachers “would talk less. Students would talk more. There would be structures, like student-led parent-teacher conferences, portfolio presentations…and exhibitions of student work that would help put them in charge of their own learning and motivate them to do their best work.”
He was inspired to help found a new way of teaching when, in 1964, when he was an admissions officer at Princeton University, he took a month-long instructors’ training course at the Colorado Outward Bound School, where he was “moved by my experience to think schools would be a lot better if they were more like Outward Bound.”
Later, in a brief memoir he wrote for students, he described the rigorous wilderness training provided by Outward Bound as one in which “you learn important things you never forget and that you can apply to new circumstances, you do things you think are impossible, sometimes with style, and the idea is to get everyone over the mountain rather than to see who can get over the mountain first….
“I thought,” he wrote, “schools would be better if they were more like that, and wondered if you couldn’t learn reading, writing, science and math and the rest the way you learn how to find your way and acquire the skills and understanding you need on an Outward Bound expedition.”
It worked well enough that the schools he and others created in New York City in the early 1990s have grown into a network of hundreds of schools in 35 states teaching more than half a million students, lauded by an Aspen Institute study as “a growing movement dedicated to the social, emotional and academic well-being of children.”
Citing in his newsletter article the Aspen report’s conclusion that children “learn best when we treat them as human beings, with social and emotional as well as academic needs”, Farrell described that observation “as one of those truths we used to hold as self-evident, have let slip away, though never entirely, and are now rediscovering.
“It used to be in the drinking water. I feel fortunate to be having a hand in getting it back in there.”
Mr. Farrell retired from EL Education in 2008, but remained with the organization as a board member and, at the age of 81, led a group of EL staff, founding board members, educators and other leaders on an Outward Bound course.
Prior to going to work on the Outward Bound schools movement in 1990, he had been the first executive director of the Fund for the City of New York, hired in 1970 when the Ford Foundation created the organization to encourage innovation in municipal government and improve the quality of life in the city.
When he left the Fund an editorial in The New York Times praised him for leaving “a strong, vibrant organization and a 20-year record of unique service to the city and its people.”
At Mr. Farrell’s death, Richard Stopol, president and CEO New York City Outward Bound Schools, said that “what best defines Greg Farrell and stands out above all else is the quality of his character. He was, quite simply, an extraordinary human being, the rare individual who was equal parts wise, kind, funny, curious, empathic, gentle and generous….
“He didn’t just interact with people, he embraced them fully, recognizing their strengths while accepting their foibles and always making them feel wanted and loved.”
His wife, Catherine Otis, who was a professor and dean at LaGuardia Community College, died in July 2019. He is survived by two sons and two grandchildren.
“I had a generalized humanitarian instinct I didn’t know quite what to do with,” Mr. Farrell said in describing himself in the early years after graduating from Princeton University in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in English. “I was looking for some kind of adventure. If there had been a Peace Corps then, I would have tried to get into it.”
Irene Hirano Inouye, a former member and chair of the board of trustees of the Ford Foundation and president of the United States-Japan Council, died April 7 after a long illness. She was 71.
Ms. Inouye, who was the widow of former United States Senator Daniel Inouye, was named founding president in 2008 of the council, which was created to develop stronger ties between the two countries.
Prior to that, she had been CEO and president of the Japanese American National Museum in the Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles for 20 years, overseeing its development from being housed in a small warehouse to becoming an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
“She was a genuine leader,” said the actor George Takei, who had served as chair of the museum’s board of trustees. “She had the vision and she was able to get people to share that vision with her. She played a key role in connecting Japanese Americans with the Japanese heritage that we have. She helped bring us pride in our heritage.”
Ms. Inouye, who had a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California, met the senator when he was chairman of the museum’s board. They were married in 2008, the second marriage for both. He died in 2012.
Survivors include a daughter, a son, a sister and a brother-in-law.
Federico “Fredy” Herrera, the first person hired by the Ford Foundation staff in Peru when it opened its office in Lima in 1965, and who served as its principal driver until the office was closed in 1992, died earlier this year.
No details on his death are available, but a tribute to him was published in the Peruvian Times on May 28 by Shane Hunt, an economist who specializes in the Peruvian economy and has published several works on that country’s public finances, economic history, and industrial trade and labor policies.
Hunt met Ferdy when he was a visiting Ford Foundation professor in the university extension program of the Banco Central de Reserva del Peru, and, again, some 30 years later, when he was working with a USAID project that was hiring staff.
“I was delighted to lure Ferdy out of retirement,” he writes. “From my earlier days in the Ford office, I remembered him as thoroughly dependable, attentive to detail, always on time.”
Hunt then recounts “Ferdy’s story”: life in a small, impoverished village; little schooling; impressment into the military; work as a fisherman when he returned to civilian life; tragedy in his family when his sheep-owning father was murdered by rustlers; deprivations when the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas occupied his village; eventual migration to, and a better life in, the capital.
“I’ve often thought,” Hunt writes, “that Ferdy’s story is the story of Peru. There are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Peruvians whose life stories are similar. They begin in remote rural villages, continue through a difficult transition to a nationalist society, and end with a place in urban society that offers more comfort and broader horizons….they persevere, mostly through their own hard work….
“For most, it is also a journey of upward social mobility. In Ferdy’s case, both of his daughters went to university and have had secure professional lives. One is an accountant.”
S. David Freeman, a passionate advocate for renewable energy who worked on energy policies under four presidents and headed public utilities in three states, died of a heart attack May 12 in Reston, Va., at the age of 94.
He worked briefly at the Ford Foundation in the early 1970s where he wrote a major report on energy policy in 1974, “A Time to Choose”, which was sent to all the nation’s governors, one of whom, Jimmy Carter of Georgia, was so impressed that when he became president he named Freeman to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1977. He became its chairman the next year.
Mr. Freeman began his career as a young lawyer at the TVA, then moved to Washington in 1961 to work on the Federal Power Commission under President John F. Kennedy. He worked on energy policies through the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson and then worked for the new Environmental Protection Agency, created during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.
In every governmental post, and in his positions with public utilities in Texas, New York and California, he championed energy conservation and renewable sources of power production and opposed nuclear energy.
Two salient quotes illuminate his personality and career, one about him and one by him.
“He was like a dog with a bone,” one associate said. “When he felt he was on the right track, he was relentless.”
He once told The New York Times he was influenced by a saying of his father’s about the importance of planning and resource management: “Any fool can buy an umbrella on a rainy day. It takes a wise man to buy an umbrella on a sunny day.”