For 60 years, the Robert and Marycatherine Farrell family story has been built around Wagner College.
Robert and Marycatherine met in 1957, on their first day of classes in Wagner’s Evening Session, which at that time was a fully accredited counterpart to the daytime program.
Their daughters, Roberta and Marion, retell their late parents’ romance story like this: Robert saw Marycatherine’s father dropping her off at the campus. Robert asked her if she needed a ride home. “He started giving her rides, and that was it,” says Roberta. They were married in 1959.
The Evening Session allowed Robert to attain a college education while also running the family business, H. S. Farrell Lumber and Millwork, one of the anchors of the Port Richmond business district. He finished his bachelor’s in business in 1965 and his MBA in 1969.
Marycatherine, a graduate of St. Clare’s Hospital School of Nursing, worked as a registered nurse while studying for her bachelor’s degree at Wagner. When she started having children, in 1961, she persisted with her college studies, completing her BS in nursing in 1964.
“Our parents had such pride in Wagner and they passed it down to their children and grandchildren,” says Roberta. She remembers seeing her parents study for class and attending her father’s graduation. Robert gave back to Wagner by serving on the Wagner Board of Trustees from 1983 to 1986. He also donated building materials for special projects, such as the Athletic Hall of Fame Room in 1988 and the Early Childhood Center renovation in 1996. He served on the board of the Richmond County Savings Bank Foundation, which helped the College build a state-of-the-art residence hall, Foundation Hall, in 2010.
All three of Robert and Marycatherine’s children — Thomas Farrell ’82 M’85, Roberta Farrell DiVuolo ’85 M’89, and Marion Farrell Anderson ’86 M’89 — went to Wagner. Roberta’s husband, Thomas DiVuolo M’90, got a master’s at Wagner. They are members of Wagner’s Anchor Society, which recognizes longtime annual giving. Roberta and Tom DiVuolo have made annual gifts to Wagner College for more than 20 years. In addition, Roberta and Marion participate in the Wagner College Guild, an organization that has supported the College for nearly 100 years.
Five members of the next generation are attending or recently graduated from Wagner: Thomas’s son, Andrew ’14, and daughter, Emily ’17; and all three of Roberta’s sons — Steven ’15 M’16, Matthew ’16 M’17, and Brian ’18. Marion’s 9th-grade daughter, Catherine, wants to go to Wagner, too.
In 2009, Farrell Lumber closed after 120 years in operation. That same year, Wagner College helped to found the Port Richmond Partnership in order to build up the community and provide hands-on educational opportunities for students. Through their classes, the Farrell grandkids have become re-engaged in the community their grandfather loved. “Our father thought the Port Richmond Partnership was wonderful,” says Roberta. “Wagner and Port Richmond were two of his two favorite places.”
Both Robert and Marycatherine passed away in 2014. While they are terribly missed, their family legacy lives on at Wagner College.