‘Doc’ Farber has lasting presence on USD campus

'Doc' Farber has lasting presence on USD campus Gov. William Janklow laughs and Dr. William O. "Doc" Farber reacts with surprise as Dick Brown of Sioux Falls tops off Saturday's unveiling of a statue honoring Farber with a hat similar to the type associated with the retired professor over the years. (Photo by Randy Dockendorf) by Randy Dockendorf At 92 years young, Dr. William O. "Doc" Farber still looks out for University of South Dakota students.

But the retired political science professor will keep an eye on USD students in a new way. Farber was honored Saturday when USD officials unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of his likeness between Slagle Hall and Old Main.

"Oh, that does look like me!" Farber said as he peered at his metal clone.

Sensing something was missing from the statue, dignitaries quickly added a hat similar to the one adorning the professor's pate.

Farber came to USD in 1937 and retired in 1976. During that time, he taught political science and mentored scores of future political leaders and celebrities, including NBC News nightly anchor Tom Brokaw and television celebrity Pat O'Brien.

O'Brien, who returned to campus for the Dakota Days homecoming festivities, admitted that Farber steered him back on the academic path.

"Doc Farber said he wanted to talk to me about college. I told him that there was no problem, that I was having a great time, and he said that was the problem!" O'Brien confessed to a round of laughter.

However, O'Brien launched a highly-successful television career as one of "Farber's Boys" who still stay in touch with their USD mentor.

O'Brien gained millions of fans in his network sportscasting career, and he still draws millions nightly on his Access Hollywood program devoted to


Despite his popularity, O'Brien jokingly admitted it wasn't the same hard-hitting news broadcast by Brokaw, who was unable to attend Saturday's event.

"Now, I take care for the world with news of Ben Affleck and J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez)," O'Brien said. "Doc just says (my star-studded program) is a terrible situation!"

On a serious note, O'Brien said the newly-unveiled statue could just as easily represent the thousands of students who have benefited from Farber's mentoring and gone forth in the world to build successful careers.

Acting USD President Don Dahlin said Farber offered him a job at USD, and he has remained ever since. Over the years, hundreds of women have

joined the "Farber's Boys" ranks, and the professor maintains a lifelong interest in them, Dahlin said.

"Once you are in the clutches of Dr. Farber, you'll never get away. He mentors you forever," Dahlin said.

Gov. William Janklow, who attended Saturday's ceremony, initiated and funded this project during his spring visit to USD for Girls State.

"When a student comes in contact with Bill Farber, he comes away feeling someone deeply, deeply cares about him," said Janklow, a USD Law School graduate.

Janklow related the story of a Freeman student who asked if the governor ever wanted to teach. Janklow said no, because he couldn't bear the thought of forming a bond with a class and then losing them every year.

A teacher stopped Janklow afterward, saying she entered teaching because she knew each class left at the end of the year with a part of her.

Farber exemplifies the same spirit, Janklow said.

"William Farber demands integrity and displays a zest for the truth and a demand for the facts," the governor said.

Farber's influence is not limited to top students such as the four Rhodes Scholars he mentored, Janklow said.

"For those (Rhodes scholars) and all the other students you touched, you made a difference," Janklow said.

Bad River Artworks of Aberdeen, the same company that created the World War II Memorial Figures on the capitol grounds in Pierre, created the Farber statue.

Besides his USD duties, Farber has directed the Legislative Research Bureau and chaired the Vermillion City Planning Commission. He was a leading member of South Dakota's Constitutional Revision Commission and Local Government Study Commission.

He has also served on the State Educational and Cultural Affairs Planning Commission since 1976.

Just prior to the Farber statue unveiling, a celebration was held in front of the Old Armory/Women's Gym to kick off the building's renaming and renovation into a new student-services center.

The building was renamed in honor of Dean Belbas, a Sioux Falls native and 1956 USD graduate. Belbas, the retired senior vice president of General Mills, has been involved with the USD Foundation for more than 20 years. He co-chaired the Save Old Main Campaign and was a steering committee member on the Century II and Challenge to Excellence fund-raising campaigns.

"(Belbas) has been tireless in his efforts for furtherance of USD into the best small public university in the United States," Dahlin said.

Belbas has been instrumental in fundraising for the Old Armory project. Earlier this year, he issued the "Belbas Challenge," promising to contribute the last $500,000 of the $2.2 million needed for the renovation project if the USD Foundation could raise the remainder by Sept. 1, 2002.

The challenge was recently met and the Dean Belbas Center will house the admissions, financial aid and registrar offices.

"We would normally hold a ground-breaking, but there is no new building, so we are hammering nails into a board," Dahlin said in explaining the ceremony, which included Janklow and U.S. Rep. John Thune.

The Old Armory has stood on the USD campus for nearly a century and currently houses the USD Facilities Management Department workshop and offices.

Construction of the Belbas Center will begin in summer 2003, with tentative plans for occupancy by January 2004.

The fund-raising campaign has drawn support from 180 donors, and a National Park Service grant was obtained with assistance from the offices of U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD).

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