Skip to main content

Massey Award: Farrar: Calm & courteous, strong & wise

This is the first in a series on the four winners of the 1996 Massey Award.

Steady, dependable, always looking for ways to help others. This is how Thomas P. Farrar’s co-workers at Davis Library describe the mail center supervisor.

The 37-year library veteran makes sure a complex international flow of information moves to and from the library. But his official title only describes part of his role for the Academic Affairs Library. He also oversees equipping and supplying 200 employees in three buildings and heads a receiving unit checking in some $1 million in equipment and supplies annually.

Daily he deals with international postal, insurance and handling regulations. Because of the volume of incoming and outgoing mail to destinations worldwide, Farrar must be familiar with foreign regulations and customs, and he works directly with the U.S. Postal Service.

The volume of mail to be processed has increased tremendously during the years, Farrar said. Now for instance, each week the mail center processes about 3,500 incoming letters, journals and books, and it routinely sends out some 100 books to other libraries each day.

All of these things Farrar masters with devotion, care and humor, say his coworkers–one reason he won a 1996 C. Knox Massey Award for distinguished service.

“In all these detailed, complicated operations, [Farrar] is a steadying influence on his hard-pressed colleagues, a calm and courteous source of strength and wisdom,” the award citation said.

Joe A. Hewitt, associate provost for university libraries and director of the academic affairs library, called Farrar a wonderful citizen of the library.

“He is always supportive of people in the library and uses his great sense of humor to cheer people up,” Hewitt said.

Larry P. Alford, senior associate university librarian, has known Farrar since the early 1970s, when Alford joined the library.

“Mr. Farrar is one of those unsung staff heroes who make this University work,” he said.

Marcella T. Grendler, associate university librarian for special collections and planning, described Farrar as someone who cared not only about the library but about the entire University community.

“He understands the University’s educational mission and knows that what he does is important in helping the University accomplish its mission,” she said. “Tom follows everything, from the chancellor’s latest decision to current information about the basketball team.

“In fact, when we did an exhibit to celebrate the library’s bicentennial, Tom was the first person I suggested to be photographed. He represents the best of the support staff in the library and the University staff as a whole.”

An example of Farrar’s best occurred a few years ago when a mailroom employee had to be out of work for several months following back surgery. Farrar assumed her duties, trained and supervised a temporary employee while he checked all paperwork for accuracy and donated two week’s leave to supplement hers.

Characteristically, Farrar is modest about his contributions.

“When you’ve worked with someone for 15 to 20 years, it’s like helping a member of the family,” he said. “She’s a great person and would have done the same for me.”

Barbara DeLon, former library personnel officer for nine years who became director of housekeeping services May 1, said Farrar’s actions in helping his coworker were typical of his ability to bridge gaps.

“What can I not say about Tom,” DeLon said. “He is warm, a dynamic leader who is very effective and dependable. He has provided rock-steady leadership here and will be missed when he retires.”

Actually, Farrar already is missed. He retired at the end of last month.

With his “leisure” time, Farrar said he planned to take care of his wife, who is ill, enjoy his four grandchildren, fish and volunteer with his church’s Head Start program.

But, he said, he would miss being around the young people on campus.

“Young people have a way of keeping you young,” Farrar said. “I haven’t slowed down too much yet. And working around such great folks all these years is what kept me here so long.”

Library personnel are searching for a replacement for Farrar–tough shoes to fill, both in terms of the work he did and the person he is.


Originally published by University Gazette: May 8, 1996

Comments are closed.