EDITORIAL: Donnie Farrell Deserves to be Remembered and Rowan has the Power to do so

Donnie Farrell. - Photo / The Donnie Project

The Rowan University community has suffered several losses in the past 15 years. From students and professors passing from COVID complications to several students lost to suicide, the student body is no stranger to loss. For each of these instances, the student body was able to come together and mourn, to grieve and heal through these events. Together, the community experienced closure.

However, in the case of sophomore Donnie Farrell, the Rowan community and Farrell’s family could only grieve. And, for the past 15 years, they have done so without closure. 

Donald Farrell III was a 19-year-old student from Boontown who, when walking with friends by the now-defunct Triad Apartments, was brutally assaulted and robbed of his wallet and phone. Farrell passed the next day, Oct. 28, 2007, due to complications from his injuries. 

It was homecoming weekend — a Saturday night at 9 p.m. — when the attack took place in a well lit-area mere steps away from what four stories worth of students called “home.” There were witnesses to the attack. The main suspect was caught on a convenience store’s surveillance footage where he gave his nickname, hometown and phone number to a woman. 

In the 15 years since Farrell’s passing and the release of this evidence, not one person has been charged with Farrell’s death. Instead, every year, Farrell’s family, friends and members of the Rowan community continue to wait for the assailants to be found. As a result, the community desperately lacks closure and can only offer a $100,000 reward for the conviction of suspects in response.

No permanent memorial has been made for Farrell and with the demolition of Triad Apartments looming, the one permanent structure on Rowan’s campus with any relation to the lost student will vanish. 

At this time, it feels like only a handful of students know about Farrell and his significance to the school — the majority of these students being members of the Rowan Men’s Lacrosse club team as they host the annual “Lax for Donnie” tournament to honor Farrell as their co-founder. 

The Whit believes that Rowan University is in the perfect position to establish a permanent structure to honor Farrell’s life and keep his memory alive with future Rowan students.

The demolition of Triad Apartments was scheduled for demolition pre-pandemic before it became housing for COVID-19-infected students in 2021. According to Brian Ewan of Rowan’s Facilities, Planning & Operations Department, the project has not been given an updated timeline since then. However, in its place, Rowan hopes to construct a new, unnamed sophomore dormitory. 

The Whit believes that as Rowan University lacks any memorial to Farrell, dubbing this future residence Farrell Hall would be the perfect place to start. 

Not only would this establish a permanent memorial location in Farrell’s honor, but it would also be a physical representation of Farrell’s life and an effective way to keep his memory alive with future Rowan students. 

Obviously, this is quite a large task for Rowan University to accomplish. But the lack of a plaque, structure, fountain or even a park bench dedicated to Farrell is something that the Rowan University campus is clearly lacking and needs to amend. 

This type of dedication to Farrell may not even be something that his family wants or thinks necessary, and if so, The Whit understands. But as the 15-year anniversary of Farrell’s passing concludes, The Whit feels that, as Rowan students, it is critical to remember and value the life of alumni from years past. 

Fifteen years ago, this current slate of Whit staffers was in early elementary school or kindergarten. We do not know what type of person Donnie Farrell was, nor will we ever experience the impact he had within the community. He was a young man, a Rowan student and — above all else — a person. This alone makes him deserving of our remembrance. 

Closure remains a far-off hope for Farrell’s family, but perhaps action from Rowan University can at least reassure them that Farrell has left a lasting impact on his alma mater and that Farrell Hall could continue to do so for years to come. 

For comments/questions about this story, email the.whit.rowan@gmail.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline