It may be an understatement to say that Pamela Farmer, St. Andrew’s assistant director of development for Alumni Relations, loves Spain. The obsession began her junior year of high school, thanks to an inspiring teacher and a trip to Madrid. “I fell in love with the country, everything about it — the people, the language, the history, and the food,” she said. “I feel very at home there.”
That very trip started Farmer on a path that has informed her entire career. It was the moment, having envisioned becoming a nun, that she chose the Spanish language. “My teacher, who had been a missionary Sister of Mercy and had gone to live in Honduras, was wonderful. I idolized her and thought her life sounded very exciting,” Farmer said. “Learning Spanish after two years of French, I was amazed to be able to communicate with the people and it was a skill I could use in order to work in the missions. I loved it and right then decided to major in Spanish.”
Though Farmer changed her mind about becoming a nun, she received her BA in Education and Spanish from Mt. St. Joseph College in Wakefield, Rhode Island, in 1976, while teaching Spanish at Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Four years later, she began her first stint at St. Andrew’s as a Spanish teacher and as head of the foreign language department. During her 25-year tenure, Farmer held various additional roles, including student advisor, director of Student Life, dorm parent, and host to around 24 international students. She also spent five summers studying Spanish at the Universidad de Cumplutense in Madrid and a sabbatical year teaching English to adults at the ACHNA American Language School, as well as in client offices across Madrid.
Then, almost a decade after leaving St. Andrew’s to teach Spanish at St. Mary Academy — Bay View in Riverside, Rhode Island, Farmer returned; this time as assistant director of development for Alumni Relations. “I’m in charge of bringing the alumni back, welcoming them, and asking them to share their time, talents, or treasures,” she said. In addition to developing focus groups to determine the needs and wants of the former Saints, Farmer holds reunions and networking nights, and — to bolster the school’s funds — events including auctions, annual athletic tournaments, and galas.
But it’s certainly not all about the money. Farmer invites former students back to campus for events such as the school’s first alumni career day, during which 18 alumni recently returned to impart career advice and act as mentors to current students. And events like the basketball reunion/50th birthday party for Coaches Hart and O’Shea in August help to foster a sense of community and history. “I love my old students,” Farmer said. “I have kept in touch with so many of them over the years, so this is a natural position for me.”
This bond can also be felt on Facebook, where Farmer helped create and facilitates a private St. Andrew’s alumni page that has 939 members from graduating classes in the 1960s to now. When former Saints visit campus and ring the Chapin Chapel bell (a tradition that Farmer started), their photo is uploaded to the page and also included in the Alumni Relations’ monthly newsletter
When she isn’t working, Farmer is cooking and traveling. In addition to being the visiting chef at Providence’s Gracie’s restaurant each year for Spain Night, for which she prepares her signature paella, she offers Spanish dinners for 10 in all of the school’s auctions and is the cooking club moderator. “My other favorite class in high school was home economics,” Farmer said, “and my twin daughters have picked up my passion as well.”
As for traveling, Farmer has visited almost 80 countries and, back in 1982, started the St. Andrew’s travel program that takes students abroad each year. When she left for St. Mary Academy — Bay View, her sister Sue McGann
(a history teacher at St. Andrew’s) kept it going. Both are currently Global Education Ambassadors for Education First Tours, the organization through which they have been escorting students around the world. Their next trip will be to Cuba
in March 2018.
For Farmer, St. Andrew’s, like her beloved Spain, is a place of love steeped in history. “I fell in love with the community, the mission, and our students. At each stage, St. Andrew’s has enriched my life, and I like to feel that I enrich St. Andrew’s,” she said. “We have such a rich history and I am thrilled to be back at the school to welcome our alumni home. They are all such wonderful people and have done so well. I like to shout it from the rooftops!”