With 50 years of experience in higher education including 11 as a full-time faculty member, esteemed educator, scientist and attorney Donald J. Farish, Ph.D., J.D., became the 10th president of Roger Williams University in June 2011.
A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, President Farish immigrated to the U.S. in 1963 to pursue his graduate education after receiving his bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of British Columbia. He holds a master of science degree in entomology from North Carolina State University, a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University and a juris doctor from the University of Missouri. A respected scientist in his field, President Farish is the author of six biology textbooks and has authored and co-authored numerous articles on entomology and animal behavior.
A celebrated academic leader, President Farish joined Roger Williams following a 13-year post as president of Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., where he transformed the respected regional institution into a world-class university known for its innovative academic programs. At Rowan, President Farish was responsible for the physical expansion of the campus, including the construction of new academic facilities for science, medicine, teacher education and technology research; almost 2,000 additional student residence beds to accommodate rapidly expanding enrollment; and a 26-acre downtown redevelopment project to connect the borough of Glassboro with the University.
Throughout his career in higher education, President Farish has demonstrated tremendous commitment to teaching and learning, always considering himself a member of the faculty who also provides administrative leadership. During his tenure at Rowan, President Farish elevated the institution from second tier to top tier, where it was ranked third among public master's level universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report. He also created incentive programs to enhance student-faculty interaction and established a plan to bring an additional 50 tenure-track faculty members to the university.
Prior to assuming presidency of Rowan University in 1998, President Farish held academic and administrative positions at Sonoma State University, the University of Rhode Island and the University of Missouri. His commitment to shared governance has earned him a reputation as a collaborative and inspirational leader dedicated to preparing students for life in a just society, and to turning challenges into opportunities. A sought-after voice in higher education, President Farish served as one of 20 sitting presidents and chancellors at a July 2010 Presidential Roundtable organized in Washington, D.C., by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education to discuss the future of higher education in the U.S.
Since joining Roger Williams in 2011, President Farish has guided the university community in articulating an agreed-upon identity that defines the distinctive elements of an RWU education. As a result of that conversation, he launched the Affordable Excellence initiative, which has positioned Roger Williams at the leading edge of the national dialogue regarding cost, debt and job-preparedness for today’s college graduates. One of the most visible elements of Affordable Excellence is an expanding focus on meaningful experiential learning projects for students across the academic disciplines, many of which are facilitated through the Community Partnerships Center, created shortly after President Farish joined the University.
Via his President’s Blog and other community outreach efforts on both the local and national level, President Farish has established himself as a voice for the change he believes is needed to make higher education more relevant, more affordable and more accessible. In 2013, he was selected to lead the Executive Board of Rhode Island Campus Compact, a coalition of college and university representatives dedicated to supporting and expanding campus-based community service initiatives at schools across the state. He served on the governing boards for the New England Council and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, among other organizations. He currently chairs the boards of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, and the Commonwealth Coast Athletic conference.
President Farish and his wife, Maia, live at the University Residence on Ferry Road in Bristol, R.I. Ardent supporters of arts, cultural, educational and social service organizations across Rhode Island, they are patrons of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and are committed to showcasing the performing and visual arts on campus.