It is with sadness we report the passing of Professor Emeritus Phil Farber, a kind and caring teacher, mentor and clinical psychologist – with a great sense of humor, to boot – who spent nearly 40 years in the School of Psychology at Florida Tech, touching innumerable lives and careers.
Dr. Farber died peacefully in Satellite Beach on April 29. He was 73 years old.
After receiving his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Farber came to Florida Tech in 1981. He joined the university’s growing clinical psychology program, which at the time had just eight full-time faculty, and would remain there until his retirement in 2020.
“In my first semester in the School of Psychology at Florida Tech, I shared a small office with Phil until the university gave me a desk in the corner of the building’s photocopier room,” wrote Professor Emeritus Bill Gabrenya, Ph.D., one of nearly two dozen friends, family members, and past and current colleagues and students who remembered Dr. Farber in notes accompanying his obituary.
“Among the department’s earliest faculty members, Phil and I shared the craziness of those early years and always planned to write a history of its difficult foundational events,” he continued. “One should write such memoirs now, as there may be no time later.”
Dr. Farber initially taught courses in group processes and group psychotherapy, Gabrenya recalled. With the curriculum changes that took place alongside Florida Tech’s transition from a quarter to a semester schedule in the early 1990s, he picked up courses in psychodiagnostics and management and administration of mental health services. He later added existential/ humanistic models of psychotherapy and death and dying.
He was among the school’s most popular faculty members, voted by the clinical student body as Outstanding Faculty Professor, Advisor and Mentor on four occasions. Dr. Farber was also among the inaugural winners of the Presidential Award for University Excellence in 2003, a recognition program started under then-President Anthony Catanese that honored faculty and staff contributions to the life of the university beyond regular duties of employment.
In addition to teaching, Dr. Farber served as the associate director, then director, of clinical training for the Psy.D. Program from 1986 to 2002 and again from 2005 to 2008. He led the program through three accreditations efforts and subsequently served for four years as a consultant to the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Accreditation, assisting 21 other Psy.D. programs in their accreditation efforts.
He was also active on the faculty senate, including serving a two-year term as president.
With his grace, kind nature and good humor, Dr. Farber was appreciated by colleagues and students alike.
“Phil had such a huge heart. He was tirelessly supportive of students and colleagues,” wrote Vanessa Edkins, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus and the former associate dean at the College of Psychology and Liberal Arts and head of the School of Psychology. “If you ran into Phil in the hall or at the copy machine, it would always turn into a conversation. Fifteen minutes later you´d be leaving a heart-to-heart that would put a smile on your face for the rest of your day or you´d have a sore stomach from laughing so hard. Either way, it was always a better day for having seen him.”
“My strongest memories of Phil were his great sense of humor and hearty laugh, often a sharp maudlin humor that lifted us in the most difficult times,” Gabrenya wrote.
Professor Emeritus Thom Harrell, Ph.D., a two-time winner of the Clinical Psychology Faculty Member of the Year award, said, “Phil was simply a kind and caring person. He cared about his family, his colleagues, his friends, and his students – who always recognized him as the supportive and nurturing man that he was.”
“He was very kind and welcoming to me when I began working in the School of Psychology at Florida Tech in the early 2000s,” wrote David Wilder, Ph.D., professor and head of the School of Behavior Analysis at Florida Tech. “I very much enjoyed interacting with him.”
Dr. Farber was Nicole Knox’s dissertation chair through her psychology education. “He was always so gentle, kind, and had a great sense of humor,” she wrote. “I know he will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.”
“Such a kind, brilliant man who influenced so many future psychologists,” wrote Rebekah Travis., a member of the PsyD. Class of 2013. “I loved just hearing him tell stories and share insights and he was always so genuinely interested in everyone.”
A sports lover all his life, Dr. Farber was voted the MVP of his college track team for three years. He enjoyed playing and coaching baseball and softball. Later in life, he took up cycling. At age 51, and he proudly trained and completed a 100-mile road bike ride in Mount Dora. In his free time, Phil also loved to go to the gym and attend sporting events.
Dr. Farber is survived by his wife of almost 49 years Nohra, daughter Kristin (Chad) Russell, son Scott (Kim) Farber and his grandchildren Ethan and Paige Russell and Ryleigh, Emery and Adley Farber.
At Dr. Farber’s request, there will be an intimate celebration of life for family only. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be sent to the American Heart Association or the Alzheimer’s Association.