St. Olaf mourns death of history professor
James Farrell, a St. Olaf College professor of history, American studies, and environmental studies, died July 25 due to complications from leukemia.
A memorial service will be held in Boe Memorial Chapel at 7 p.m. on September 25.
As an interdisciplinary scholar and teacher, Farrell’s teaching — by his own description — was “weird, if not innovative.” He taught courses on a wide range of topics that included environmental history, the Mall of America, nuclear weapons and American culture, Walt Disney’s America, consuming college culture, and campus ecology.
Farrell, who joined the St. Olaf faculty in 1977, was chosen as the college’s first Boldt Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Humanities. An active member of the St. Olaf Sustainability Task Force, he wrote the first environmental review of the college as well as St. Olaf’s Sustainability Principles. He also worked with colleagues from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest to develop a variety of workshops on sustainability across the curriculum and was an engaged member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
He most recently worked as St. Olaf’s “environmental catalyst” to assist in the creation of the campuswide SustainAbilities program.
After earning a B.A. in political science from Loyola University in Chicago, Farrell earned both an M.A. in history and a Ph.D. in American culture from the University of Illinois. He wrote a number of books, including Inventing the American Way of Death 1830-1920; The Nuclear Devil’s Dictionary; The Spirit of the Sixties: Making Postwar Radicalism; One Nation Under Goods: Malls and the Seductions of American Shopping; and The Nature of College: How a New Understanding of Campus Culture Can Change the World.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held at the Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Community in Minneapolis on August 3. Read Farrell’s full obituary in the Star Tribune.