David Farrell, 2018 William E. Winter Award Recipient

David and Laurie Farrell
David and Laurie Farrell

UIS helps Springfield thrive

Shortly after moving to Springfield in 1975, David began a career in state government, capped by 20 years as Director of Public Affairs for the Illinois Commerce Commission and retirement in 2002.

Because he values his local Springfield community so much and wants to see it thrive, David is a strong, loyal and generous advocate for the University of Illinois Springfield.

“My hopes for UIS are huge,” he says. “It sends people out into the community who understand a larger world but who stay here to start businesses, enter medical careers and become professional government employees. It’s the engine that drives the locomotive of Central Illinois along.”

NPR Illinois at UIS

NPR Illinois is one way UIS creates that larger view of the world, so it’s not surprising that David has been such a strong advocate for public radio—especially through his on-air appeals during pledge drives. “I usually make a free-form pitch,” he says, “so people don’t know what to expect. Self-deprecating humor and mixing it up a little helps to keep the pitch interesting.”

People tell Randy Eccles, general manager/publisher for NPR Illinois, that they actually like to listen to the pledge drive when David is on air.

“I’m happy to participate in the pledge drive because there’s nothing else like NPR. It appeals on so many levels of the mind and emotion. It’s just unique.”

As a member of the Citizen Advisory Panel at NPR Illinois, David was instrumental in helping to start the station’s Health and Harvest Desk. Springfield can also thank him for Fresh Air, which years ago he helped to bring to the radio station “It’s such a vital program,” he says. “People just needed to see what it was like, so I helped to pull together an initial event and line up some potential donors so we could get the show started here.”

Illinois Innocence Project at UIS

In 2008, David became interested in another cause at UIS. He noticed in the paper that the Illinois Innocence Project, which seeks the release of wrongfully convicted inmates, would be holding its first Defenders of the Innocent Reception.

“I’ve always had an interest in fairness,” David says. “You want people to understand that if they are arrested, they’re going to be part of a fair system, and that’s what the Innocence Project at heart is—a way to make the justice system stronger.”

David and his wife Laurie attended the reception and since then he has contributed his ideas for fundraising to the Project—in addition to becoming a faithful donor. He sits in on meetings to discuss marketing and communication, he stands up at the Defenders Reception and asks people to donate and he and Laurie initiated and underwrote a donor appreciation event at Maldaner’s.

When the Project purchased a copy of the PBS documentary The Central Park Five, David suggested showing it downtown and holding a reception afterwards. “We got a very different audience to that event,” he says, “and because of the reception, people had a chance to stay and talk.”

David sees the Project as more than just an attempt to free the wrongfully convicted:

“The Innocence Project raises awareness that this is not a simple anomaly. It’s a problem in the mechanics, and we have to work at that. This work strengthens the entire society.”

David and Laurie also appreciate the profound impact the Project has on students, who are often the first to review claims of innocence. “That’s exciting!”

David’s advocacy at UIS extends to the UIS Central Illinois Nonprofit Resource Center at UIS, the Theatre program and the UIS Cares Food Pantry.

“He’s that wonderful of a supporter.”

Often it’s David himself who makes a difference. John Hanlon, executive director of the Illinois Innocence Project, says, “David is one person I can count on to lift us up because of his energy and deep belief in what we are doing. I will always walk away happier after speaking with him. He’s that wonderful of a supporter.”

It is our privilege today to present this wonderful supporter with the 2018 William E. Winter Award for Outstanding Advocate Leadership.