Legacies of caring, making a difference

Monday, April 4, 2005

Former students, colleagues say goodbye to Dr. Farrell

Former students, colleagues, and friends of SCSU Professor Emeritus and philanthropist Crumpton Farrell gathered to honor his memory at a reception and program Dec. 2 in Ritsche Auditorium.

A number of alumni responded to the news of Dr. Farrell’s death with tributes recounting the indelible impact he had on their lives. With his unusual teaching style and personality, the professor of finance earned a mixed reputation as a demanding taskmaster and tenacious teacher determined to help his students succeed.

Jay and Erika Vora, longtime friends, neighbors and colleagues on the SCSU faculty, echoed Myres’ sentiments with praise for the friendship and interest he showed to those who got to know him. “He influenced many students to excel in the business community,” said Jay Vora, professor of management who came to SCSU the same year as Dr. Farrell. “He took a personal interest in them, their families, and was proud of their accomplishments.”

Professor Farrell had come to teaching late in life, after a 26-year career as a U.S. Naval aviator from World War II to Vietnam. He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He worked as a stock analyst before turning to education. He joined the SCSU business faculty in 1978.

Besides endowing several scholarships in his name and in the names of others to benefit SCSU students, Dr. Farrell was a generous benefactor to MIT and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

A sampling of alumni remembrances:

“It is often said we don’t appreciate what our parents did for us until we get much older. In Dr. Farrell’s case, that adage carries over to teachers.”

“If there is one professor at SCSU that I will always remember it is Dr. Farrell. Although I thought his teaching style was a bit zany, I have held onto the things I learned from him most. Many a time in the last 20 years I have heard his advice in my head.”

During the program, 1983 graduate Brian Myres delivered an eloquent tribute to his mentor. “When I think of all my professors, no one has had a more lasting impression on me,” he said. “He wasn’t easy … he’d throw books or a Wall Street Journal at students and tell them to write a report. If you didn’t perform you got sent to Ma Perkins in the writing lab.”

“It was a unique way to run a classroom,” said Myres, currently head of Midwest operations for ING DIRECT USA. “But he was interested in seeing students succeed, and writing skills were very important to him. He could be gruff, but inside he was a wonderful person. That $168 I spent on his class was the best investment I ever made. ”

She brightened community with her passion for arts, education

Arlene Helgeson was one of five outstanding alumni honored for lifetime achievements during President Roy Saigo’s welcome-back convocation address to the campus community last fall. His tribute, printed right, focused on her enthusiasm for life and her support for campus and community projects. While celebrating her 75th birthday on a cruise this past January, Arlene died as the result of a snorkeling accident off the coast of Costa Rica.

“I’m pleased to introduce someone many of you know from our own community, artist and arts advocate Arlene Helgeson. A 1951 graduate, Arlene’s majors in English and speech helped the once-shy student develop the confidence to become a major force for the arts in Minnesota. During her student years, Arlene served as staff photographer for the Talahi yearbook and Chronicle, and reigned as Miss St. Cloud.

“This photo (left) was taken during the time she was competing for Queen of the Lakes at the Aquatennial. While the other contestants stayed dry on the sidelines, the always-enthusiastic Arlene took advantage of an opportunity to do some powerwater skiing.

“Arlene has poured that same gusto into a long line of accomplishments to benefit our campus, community, and region. She has been involved in statewide initiatives in the arts. In the 1960s she chaired the planning committee for Atwood Center and served as director the first year the student union was open. In 1974 she was honored with the SCSU Alumni Service Award. In the community, Arlene helped start the YMCA in St. Cloud and the St. Cloud Community Arts Council. She commissioned The Granite Trio, the large granite sculptures in downtown St. Cloud.

“Keeping the arts vital in St. Cloud and encouraging others to participate in and enjoy every aspect of the arts has been Arlene’s main goal as a patron and member of the arts community. Thank you, Arlene.”

Scholarship fitting tribute to aviation graduate

During his too-brief lifetime, SCSU aviation graduate Sean Gonia seemed to fly in perfect formation with family, teammates, mentors and friends. When the traditional “Missing Man Formation” aerial maneuver was carried out for the aviator upon his death, it was a fitting symbol of the empty spaces he left behind.

On Sept. 11, 2004, the young man whose flight through life was fueled by enthusiasm, curiosity and love of learning was killed in a motorcycle accident, a stunning tragedy for father Laur, mother Sylvia and sister Tara, an SCSU senior.

Sean’s parents knew immediately how they would honor the memory of their son, whose life had been a string of distinguished accomplishments: honors student, award-winning writer, championship swimmer, and outstanding aviation student and instructor.

The Gonias, whose home is in Fond du lac, Wis., had established a trust a year before the tragedy. According to their plan, upon their death some of the funds would go to SCSU, the school that had become such an integral part of their family’s lives. They didn’t hesitate to put the scholarship in motion within hours of their unexpected loss. The Sean Paul Gonia Aviation Scholarship will go to junior and senior aviation majors who display the qualities of leadership and involvement in activities that characterized Sean, qualities that earned him an Excellence in Leadership Award.

Before deciding to enter SCSU as an honors student, Sean had looked at large universities and military academies, but SCSU was his clear choice – big enough to offer what he wanted but small enough to have personal attention, his father said. “It embodies what a university should be.”

Sean arrived on campus with a well-developed fervor for the two things that topped his long list of interests – aviation and swimming. An ardent flight enthusiast since age 12, he excelled in both. He still holds several Husky records in swimming and became captain of the team his senior year. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation and was nearly finished with his master’s thesis in technology education.

The Gonias speak with great affection for SCSU’s effect on the lives of Sean and Tara, a special education major. “Sean loved this university and he loved the opportunities it provided,” Laur said. “That’s why the scholarship is here. We feel more kinship with SCSU than with our own universities where we earned degrees and taught,” said Laur.

On Nov. 29 the university hosted a private ceremony to present Sean’s family with his posthumous master’s degree, attended by 10 of Sean’s aviation and environmental and technological studies instructors who characterized him as “a professor’s dream,” responsible and hard-working. “He would have finished in December, and he’d just been hired as adjunct faculty in aviation,” his dad said. “(The ceremony) provided closure in a sense, but it was more to recognize the work that Sean had done. Each professor had a very personal kind of thing they remembered about Sean and expressed it.”

“Sean was unique and this was a unique ceremony,” Laur said. “He went out on the ultimate high; he had accomplished so much. He was just on the tip of the iceberg; he was going to be giving back what he had received.” And so, in tribute to their son’s memory, the Gonias are giving back, to help other students discover the satisfaction of opportunity and achievement Sean experienced.

Remembering Jesse Lhotka

Family, friends, and professors of Sgt. Jesse Lhotka, ’04, whose courage under fire in Iraq had tragic consequences, remembered a man whose honor and character permeated roles of husband, son, and student as well as comrade and soldier.

Jesse died taking care of an injured soldier Feb. 21 in Baghdad along with two other members of the Minnesota National Guard’s 151st Field Artillery. He was a true hero, admired and respected by his comrades. But he also was a bright, energetic young man who’d been married shortly before his Montevideo unit was deployed. He and wife Stacey were a young couple in love, with big dreams of home, family and careers.

Lhotka’s SCSU advisor Bill Hudson remembered Jesse as a motivated, conscientious student with a promising future in the finance field. “He had a positive attitude and a positive outlook,” Hudson told the University Chronicle.

“Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him on our campus were touched by his humor and dedication,” said finance professor David Christopherson. “May his widow and family know that many of us at his alma mater feel deeply honored to have experienced his wonderful expressions of mirth, maturity, courage, and love.”

The SCSU Finance Department has commissioned a plaque in honor of Jesse to be hung in the G.R. Herberger College of Business building.

- Marsha Shoemaker

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