Perspectives Online

Alumnus is dean at prominent business college

Berkwood Farmer

“I’m one of the few graduates of the same institution of higher learning with a different institutional name on each of my three degrees,” says Dr. Berkwood Farmer. A College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumnus, Farmer is dean of the Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

Indeed, Farmer earned his 1960 bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from what was then N.C. State College; his 1963 master’s in ag econ from what was very briefly known as N.C. State of the University of North Carolina at Raleigh; and his 1969 economics Ph.D. from N.C. State University at Raleigh. All are, of course, the same institution.

But that’s definitely not Farmer’s sole claim to fame.

Since earning his N.C. State doctorate, Farmer has been dean of business at two other institutions of higher education in two states; helped found a Virginia-based bank (later absorbed by BB&T); and worked as Virginia’s chief economist, among other pursuits.

Dean since 2001 at the 1,800-student Raj Soin College of Business, Farmer has established several new master’s degree programs, advisory boards and cooperative partnerships with the business community, as well as an Institute for Business Integrity. He has helped define his college’s vision, mission and operating values.

Farmer, who grew up near Danville, Va., also has launched an international program through which more than 250 Chinese have received MBAs from Raj Soin in the past four years, both in Ohio and in China.

But, he insists, “I’m just an old country boy who made good.”

However, as was the case for a lot of country boys in the 1960s, Farmer’s N.C. State ROTC training led to a six-year active duty U.S. Army hitch, including a Vietnam tour from which he emerged as a company commander with a major’s rank and a 1967 Bronze Star for valor.

In fact, after his combat tour, Farmer, an “all but dissertation” Ph.D. when he was called to active duty, finished his degree work and was invited to teach economics in the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy — West Point. He resigned his regular Army commission in 1971 and left West Point.

From 1971 to 1974, he was associate dean and assistant economics professor at University College at the University of Richmond, Va., managing the master of science in commerce degree program and teaching business courses.

From 1974 to 1991, Farmer, as chief economist and planning and development director for Virginia’s Agriculture and Consumer Services Department — as well as executive director of its Rural Virginia Development Foundation — landed $10 million in venture capital funds to establish a rural areas development fund and a $140,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study rural Virginia’s capacity-building needs.

In 1985, Farmer and 11 Richmond-area business executives were founding directors of a new bank, Fidelity Federal Bank of Richmond, raising $6 million in equity capital. He served on the board’s executive committee and chaired other essential bank committees. The bank and its seven branches held nearly $350 million in assets when it was absorbed by BB&T in 1997. Farmer subsequently served on BB&T’s Virginia board from 1997 to 2006.

In 1991, he became dean and economics professor in the School of Business and Economics at Longwood College, now Longwood University, in Farmville, Va.

At Longwood in 1998, Farmer’s work helped the school receive initial accreditation from AACSB, the International Association for Management Education, with five commendations. He also established the influential Center for Economic Education.

—Art Latham