Alumni Profile: A Farrell family affair
August 15, 2017
Rob Farrell (’88 B.S. forestry, ’03 M.S. forestry) began college with one thing on his mind: trees. “I’m really just a tree guy. All I’ve ever wanted to do is work with trees. I never really thought about going anywhere except Virginia Tech or majoring in anything besides forestry,” he said.
Little did Rob know, his time in the college would also impact his life in more a personal way. He met his wife, Jill (’89 B.S. human services), who began her undergraduate career as a wildlife science major, at a Forestry Club meeting.
“The first time I saw Rob, I was going to cut firewood early in the morning with the Forestry Club,” Jill recalled. “As I walked in, Rob walked out, looking very scruffy and carrying a hatchet. A few weeks later, we sat beside each other at a Forestry Club outing to Pizza Hut and talked about how we both loved to snow ski. I mentioned to my roommate that I liked him, and she encouraged me to sit next to him at a club meeting. We’ve been together ever since.”
Rob has held several forestry-related positions after earning his bachelor’s, including working as an arborist in Fairfax, Virginia, and conducting urban forestry work with the college. During graduate school, he was a local forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry, where he worked for 12 years before stepping into his current role as Deputy State Forester. “Every job I’ve ever had has been because of the experience I had at Virginia Tech,” he said. “I’ve gotten referrals and references from professors and classmates.”
Now, the couple’s two children will continue the family’s Virginia Tech legacy. Jack, a sophomore majoring in water policy, resources, and management, chose Virginia Tech because of a deep love and appreciation for the outdoors. “I love that the college provides the ability to create the path that you see most fit for yourself,” he said. “I have the opportunity to study almost anything related to fresh water. When you think about the people, places, and things that could not function without water, you realize how many possibilities there are.”
Will, an incoming freshman, is undecided about a major, but knows that environmental conservation and time spent outdoors are priorities. “I’m most looking forward to meeting new people who share my interests and experiencing new things. My parents were in the Forestry Club, and that was a really big part of their college experience. I plan on joining skiing and mountain biking clubs, because those are my favorite things to do.”
For their part, Rob and Jill are excited to have an excuse to visit Blacksburg regularly. “Cheatham Hall always felt like home to us, so we’re glad to have the boys there,” Rob said.
Jill added, “We have shared a love of the natural world with our boys and we are excited to have them pursue their passions in CNRE. Natural resource experts will be needed to develop solutions, and the college is diversifying to prepare students to meet society’s needs with natural-resource-based solutions from a wide range of perspectives.”