Our living legends are hard to replace living legends

Our living legends are hard to replace living legends
It's easy to define Vermillion in terms that, at first, may not seem flattering, but yet they are accurate.

We're small. We're quiet. We suffer from, especially in the eyes of young people, a malady that's common to a majority of South Dakota communities, mainly the "There's nothing to do here" syndrome.

In so many ways, however, we're the top of the mark. We challenge anyone to find a better community in which to raise a family.

Yes, we're a quiet, sleepy town at times, but there are always people working to make sure that Vermillion remains a place with a rich culture by offering a wide variety of social, recreational and intellectual happenings.

Many of those people were faculty members of The University of South Dakota. We are learning, the hard way, of the invaluable impact they have not just in Vermillion, but in our state and nation.

Some of the USD's best educators, sadly, are no longer with us. It's been a tough year as we've watched, helplessly, as we learn of the death of one beloved professor after the other.

Several months ago, Frank Slagle, a long-time professor at the university's School of Law, succumbed to cancer. Slagle, a Renaissance man who was active both on and off the USD campus, was highly respected, and upon word of his death, the Vermillion community reacted with an outpouring of affection.

Former USD math professor and Dean of Men Howard Connors died Feb. 28. He was an educator at the university for 40 years, and inspired many students, including Tom Brokaw and USD President James Abbott.

This weekend, flags will fly at half-staff as Vermillion deals with yet another major blow: the loss of the much-loved William O. "Doc" Farber.

Upon his retirement as chairman of the Department of Government at USD in 1976, Farber wrote:

"To my students:

I believe that dedicated public service is the noblest of the professions. To enter it, whether as academic or as practitioner, is the greatest good fortune. Thus, I have sought to encourage all in my purview to share the joys and rewards of this commitment.

You who came to me with some inner flame, it has been my mission to nurture, to feed that flame, at at all costs never to kill it. With all the world's contemporary challenges, the chance to motivate, to simulate, to kindle, remain the high calling, and ever to remind that in catastrophe there is opportunity, out of weakness can come strength. My hope has been that none of you has left my presence feeling the worse for the encounter.

The keys to a happy, acceptable, and productive life are participation, involvement and concern for others. I have hoped, by example, to inspire you to be change agents. Often your intellect, I know, has been superior to my own; only my experience has been greater and that I have tried to permit by association 'to rub off on you.'

To broaden one's horizons, travel, experimentation, and bold thinking must be the goals. I have sought to teach the importance of the backgrounds to know, the vision to see, the will to do. Like others before me, I have often learned more from you than you from me. But always, for more than 40 years, has the joint educational venture been intensely human, exciting and worthwhile."

Farber will always be linked to Brokaw, Pat O'Brien, and other USD alumni who have rose to prominence after having that "inner flame" nurtured not only by "Doc," but also many of the other legendary intellectuals who have educated thousands of young men and women over the years here on the South Dakota plains.

Al Neuharth, founder of USA TODAY, reminded the Plain Talk this week that "? it was not just Doc Farber, but the entire campus environment at USD that helped inspire people to do great things. It was the Doc Farbers and Howard Connorses that taught us that you could do anything."

We noted several months ago, after Slagle's death, that he will be impossible to replace in his role as USD faculty member and Vermillion citizen.

We once again find ourselves challenged with the loss of Connors and Farber.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net.

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