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VERMILLION, S.D. | Legacies of all kinds endure on college campuses everywhere.

Names of famous alums and generous donors adorn buildings. Statues honoring professors and leaders look out over the college grounds.

You might not find a legacy anywhere as unique as the Farber House at the University of South Dakota.

For years, professor William O. "Doc" Farber, the longtime chairman of the political science department, lived here, taking in students who needed a little extra attention. After Farber's retirement, he continued to host seminars, inviting students, alums and faculty into his living room to talk about public policy and other issues.

When Farber died in 2007, he willed the house to the political science department through the University of South Dakota Foundation, and it's become an extension of the department, a home to faculty offices, a place for students to study and do research and temporary quarters for visiting academics.

"He wanted the house to be used as fully as possible for the political science department," said Bill Richardson, the current political science department chairman. "He wanted students to get the most out of it. The fact that there are classes here would have thrilled him."

It's a fitting legacy for a man who dedicated his life to USD and its students. Farber came here in 1935, retired in 1976 and remained an emeritus professor for several years after. He bought the two-story house on Clark Street across from campus in the 1960s so he could be as close to campus as possible.

It also allowed Farber, who never married, to become closer to his students.

"He married the university," Richardson said. "This was his life. He didn't have cats, he didn't have dogs. He had students."

And he looked after them as if they were his own children, even giving them a room if they couldn't afford tuition or needed to focus on their education.

"The house has a magic way of influencing behavior. That's of course because of the person who lived there," said Dick Brown, who attended USD from 1962 to 1967, completing bachelor's and master's degrees in political science.

Farber invited Brown to live in the house after noticing he was too involved in other activities and needed to refocus on his studies. Brown lived there for 3 1/2 years.

"That home, it was a springboard. I don't think anyone ever left there without thinking, 'I better get my act together,'" said Brown, who lives in Custer, South Dakota, and is the development director of the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation.

Over the years, Farber invited more than a dozen students to live in his home. He invited dozens more in to talk, a list that includes some of USD's most well-known alums: former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw; the late Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today and the Freedom Forum; and media personality Pat O'Brien.

Walk through the house now, and Farber's presence lives on in the many portraits and photos on the walls.

But it's the academic work being done here through which his legacy really lives.

In the basement, graduate and upper-level students attend seminar classes. It's also home to the Government Research Bureau, which Farber started in order to do public policy research and analysis. The house has offices for faculty and graduate students.

The former living room is used by visiting academics. This semester, it's been utilized by Yankton Police Lt. Michael Burgeson, an adjunct, who set up a homicide crime scene for students in his essentials of policing class to learn investigation techniques.

Burgeson has been able to keep the crime scene set up all semester so students can revisit it and correct mistakes they've made. If there were no Farber House, Burgeson would have had to set up the scene in a room on campus for one day, then take it down, limiting the time students could spend with it.

"It's worked fantastic for us," Burgeson said.

It's been a fantastic addition to the political science department. An endowment fund pays taxes and upkeep on the house, so there's no expense to the university.

When he visits Vermillion, Brown makes sure to stop at Farber House. Stepping through the door brings back many college experiences.

"It's a warm uplifting feeling of great memories," Brown said.

Possibly the best legacy anyone can leave to a university.


Court reporter

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