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Farley and Eph Football and Track Teams Tackle Hurricane Katrina Relief Over Winter Study
February 19, 2007

Dick Farley peers out of a van at hurricane Katrina damage -- all photos by Mack Brickley
Only Dick Farley would talk about going to New Orleans and working on hurricane Katrina relief over Winter Study when addressing the 2006 Williams football team the day before they were set to tangle with a Trinity team that had won 31 straight games.

Asked by head football coach Mike Whalen to speak to the football Ephs on the tradition and rivalry with Trinity, Farley as always equated the game of football with the game of life.

"I just sort of threw it out there that I was going to put together a Winter Study trip to help those in need in New Orleans who were fighting a bigger battle than they would face the next day against Trinity," said Farley. "I did talk about the traditional battles with Trinity after that, but I wanted them to know that as important as that game was to them there are things in life that are more important than winning football games."

Retired football coach and current assistant track and field coach and director of club sports, Dick Farley took 34 Williams students to New Orleans for two weeks to assist with hurricane Katrina relief efforts as part of a Winter Study class. Farley was assisted on the trip by assistant football/baseball coach Marshall Creighton '02.

Seventeen football Ephs, 10 track & field men's team members, 6 women's track & field team members, and one non-athlete committed to the project.

Farley was inspired to make the trip with Eph athletes and students when watching news reports on TV over the summer. "I've been blessed with a wonderful family, career, and wonderful success and this was an opportunity to step out and do something for someone else," said Farley.

To accomplish the task of getting a Winter Study course in place for January of 2007 Farley needed the assistance of Paula Consolini, Coordinator of Experiential Education and Chief Instructor for PSCI 021 Fieldwork in Public and Private Non-Profits, Dean Dave Johnson, Mike Whalen, Eph head track & field coach Ralph White and professor Julie Cassiday and the Gaudino Fund.

"I've always believed that sports are a great teacher about life because they are demanding in a physical sense and mentally," Farley said. "There are plenty of times in practice and in competition when you question who you are. I thought this would give these young men and women a chance to see the value of what hard work and teamwork off the field was all about."

Whalen and White needed to agree to support the trip. Whalen's assistant Marshall Creighton would be required to be off-campus for two weeks during prime recruiting season and White needed to okay one of his assistant coaches and some of his top performers not being available for the first indoor meet of the season and training less than they would if they remained on campus.

Whalen and White enthusiastically supported the trip and White even arranged through Tulane University's women's track & field coach, Heather Norman, for the Eph track team members to workout three days a week at Tulane's track facilities under the guidance of Farley.

With the support of Eph faculty and coaches, PSCI 021 Fieldwork in Public and Private Non-Profits – New Orleans was set to go. Williams students would now have the opportunity to explore political, economic, and organizational issues through work with host organizations, in particular Habit for Humanity's Camp Hope in Violet, La.

Alex Willingham, Williams professor of political science and a native of Louisiana, served as a co-instructor. He shared his expertise regarding the politics of Louisiana and New Orleans during the pre-term orientation session in early December.

Williams alum James Samenfeld-Specht '74, a child psychiatrist in Portland, Maine, with family ties to New Orleans, arranged meetings with local experts and politicians there. While a student at Williams, Samenfeld-Specht had stepped out of the traditional classroom for a year under the guidance of professor Robert Gaudino and ever since has appreciated the quality of the education he received from an "uncomfortable learning opportunity." He had established similar contacts and arrangements for last year's group of Eph students that worked at Common Ground.

"This kind of partnership of talents -- faculty, coaches, alums, and students is exactly what helps make experiential learning at Williams work so well," noted Consolini.

The Eph contingent arrived in New Orleans January 3rd on various flights from across the country and departed the same way on the 17th. Coach Farley, always the first to arrive and the last to leave was on airport pickup and drop off duty. "Coach Farley arrived and immediately made the sign of the cross when he saw our motley crew, strewn lazily across bags and benches," said senior QB Sean Gleeson.

Tyler Gray hard at work
Monday through Friday the Ephs worked from 7:30 until 3:30 and from 7:30 to 12:30 on Saturdays. Being on site at 7:30 forced the Ephs to get up at 6:00. Each day Habitat for Humanity provided breakfast, a bag lunch, and dinner.

Working on the St. Bernard Project the Ephs were sent into homes that had been gutted and prepared to be re-built by previous Habitat workers and their role was to install insulation, hang sheet rock, spackle, and get the inside of the house ready to be painted.

"There is no way to prepare yourself for the devastation you find when you get to the 9th Ward… overwhelming does not even begin to describe it," said Farley. "All there is for miles is rubble and rubbish. There are no businesses open and no one from the businesses is even there cleaning up… many people just up and left."

Senior Tyler Gray said: "I knew that New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast still looked as if the hurricane and flood occurred a week ago, but words and videos can only say so much. I braced myself to see the worst in New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish, and had mixed emotions upon actually seeing the area. Downtown New Orleans was beautiful, and it looked like nothing had been damaged. However, two minutes from downtown, and for miles after that, the city was still largely in ruins."

You've got to have hope
Senior Katie Howard who hails from Fayetteville, Ark., had spent time in New Orleans before Katrina had struck with her family; so she was even more shocked what she saw when her parents drove her out of New Orleans and into the 9th Ward on the way to Camp Hope. "When my parents and I crossed the bridge over to the 9th Ward, we were slammed head on with a stark contrast to the charming French Quarter," recalled Howard. "I had heard how awful everything looked in the poorer areas of New Orleans but this is something you can not prepare yourself for. It looked like Iraq. Even our readings did not do justice to the images that were passing my unblinking eyes as my parents and I drove in utter silence and disbelief. EVERY home was caved in, tipped on its side, lifted off its foundation, or all three. Some homes had simply disappeared, leaving only a thick concrete square etched into the earth. Debris littered the street—you could have had a bonfire in front of every home. Over 60% of the people in this area are homeowners, but the 9th Ward looked like a ghost town: hardly any trees, cars, or even people."

"I got off the plane and met up with our group," said senior track captain Laura Ellison. "After some trouble we managed to squeeze, bags and all into a van and were on our way. Everyone was pretty talkative as we left the airport. Downtown New Orleans is in relatively good shape, but we soon were driving through what we later found out was the Lower Ninth Ward and the van got very quiet."

Home for the Ephs for the two weeks was Camp Hope, located in Violet, in what used to be W. Smith, Jr. Elementary School. "Habitat for Humanity gutted the school and volunteers turned it into a working makeshift camp site complete with electricity, Internet access, cots for volunteers to sleep on," said Howard. "The 36 of us watched the two short orientation videos entitled “Help and Hope” and “Dreams,” both having been produced in June 2006. It was a harsh introduction. Habitat had given itself the assignment of rebuilding an entire parish that had been underwater. “Underwater”— that’s hard to picture."

Cory Catelli installs drywall, while Jim O'Leary looks on and Julie McNamara preps another piece for installation
The Ephs split into four groups of nine with Farley monitoring the "trackies" as he called them and Marshall Creighton working with the football players. There was experienced support provided by Habit for Humanity volunteers like Doug Beatty from Michigan and James, a drywaller, from England.

"Our relative inexperience with drywall, insulation, and spackle was remedied by a young Englishman, James," noted Gleeson. "His area of expertise is sheet rock, and Chris Kenney and I did our best to soak up knowledge from the box-cutter wielding, Elmer Fudd-hat-wearing, man from the UK."

"I did more work around the houses in Louisiana in two weeks than I've done in 30 years in Williamstown, because I did not have a tape in my office to break down or a prospective student-athlete to assess," noted Farley. "Down here you just do what you have to do."

Doug Beatty became such a fan of the Eph workers that he put on a bratwurst picnic for them in a state park one day, which prompted Farley to pass the hat to help defray Doug's costs. One day in front of Matt Desir and Sean Hyland, Doug told Dick Farley just how much he liked and respected the Eph workers and how impressed he was with all of them and their commitment to the task at hand. "Thank you," said Farley. "They are remarkable in most everything they do from reading to writing to math, they just don't run fast."

Three times a week the Eph trackies would head over to Tulane University to workout under Farley and while they were there they had access to dry towels, hot showers, smoothie machines, large screen TVs and all sorts of other amenities at Tulane's Reily Center. While the trip to Tulane was about 45 minutes and necessary for the track team members to maintain some semblance of conditioning, it again drove home the point that the City of New Orleans and Tulane were in different worlds than the 9th Ward, St. Bernard Parish and Violet. "The scope of the damage is what struck me the most," noted Sean Hyland. "We had access to facilities at Tulane - track, weight room, pool, showers, etc - which we would travel to three times per week. In the 45 minutes it took to drive there, we would be looking out the window at boarded up houses, abandoned communities, relics of stores and restaurants, debris, and all kinds of other things for at least 30-35 minutes of the commute. For miles and miles, as far as you can see, the effects of the hurricane and the flooding are palpable."

Eph trackies pose outside of the Reily Center

"Trying to workout after a long day of building (7:30-3:00) was tough," said Gray. "The beginning of each run was the worst, as my legs always felt heavy and weak. After warming up, and the warm weather surely helped, the workouts went very smoothly. Getting in only half of the practices that we would have had we stayed on campus, I think most of the runners trained very hard in New Orleans and are by no means putting our indoor seasons in jeopardy. We were able to get much stronger from our workouts, and now are ready for the long-awaited competitive season."

Austin Badon is a Louisiana State Representative; John Howard, Associate Director of the Murphy Institute of Tulane University and Richard Teichgraeber, Director of the Murphy Institute/Prof. of History at Tulane and Stephen Nelson, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Tulane all held informative group discussions with the Ephs in and around New Orleans thanks to James Samenfeld-Specht.

Rep. Badon, a native of the area, spoke about the political scene surrounding the New Orleans area's recovery process and the ins and outs of getting things done in the political arena so the folks in the communities would benefit.

Stephen Nelson from Tulane addresses the Ephs on the levee system around New Orleans
Nelson gave a four-hour tour of the levees, Teichgraeber spoke abut the political economics surrounding the disaster and Baden spoke about the politics of the hurricane and the recovery efforts. "Professor Nelson had lots of comments, and it was interesting to see that the kids picked up on them and used them to ask questions of people over the next couple of days; some comments were refuted, some were confirmed, but the kids didn't let things go unchallenged," said Samenfeld-Specht.

When Teichgraeber addressed the group he mentioned that he was an Amherst grad, but he was married to one of the first women graduates of Williams College. "Farley said that he started up around the same time, a little before, as the asst. football and head track coach, then later switched roles (head football, asst. track), now just track," recalled Hyland. "The guy's eyes lit up and he said, "Wait a minute, you're famous! You're the Hall of Fame man aren't you?" Farley deflected the praise pretty quickly though, saying something about how he had great players, then went on about something else from the presentation."

Farley, ever the coach, jumped at the chance to explain American football to a man from England who is more familiar with soccer than American football.

Sean Hyland explains: "One day Matt [Desir], Farley, and I returned to the house we were working on after paying a "social visit" to the other trackie house. On the front lawn were Gleeson, Chris Kenney, and James; our young and energetic project manager from England. James was asking Sean and Chris about American football -- simple stuff like how many men are on each side (he thought 8 each). Sean and Chris are trying to explain the basics. Farley disappears. He returns a few moments later with half a slab of sheet rock and takes out the omnipresent pen in his pocket. Farley then proceeds to draw out the X's and O's on this piece of sheet rock, describing the names and responsibilities of each player on the field, offense and defense. He actually did a great job, lucidly explaining things in manner that I as a long time football fan even learned a few things. The funny part was that he'd go into specific detail at times. For example, when talking about the Wide Receiver, instead of stopping with that name, he added that it could also be known as a Split End, but also a Flanker, as Farley prefers. Matt, Sean, Chris, and I all knew what he was talking about, but cracked up together when watching James try to decipher what he was saying.

He explained that every play started with Chris (a center) snapping the ball to the QB. This wasn't enough. Farley actually had Kenney get down and snap him an empty Dasani water bottle. The two repeated this later when Farley remembered he also wanted to explain how the shotgun works. After going through the defense, Farley decided to draw up some defensive schemes including the Cover 2 and Cover 3."

Football contingent eating lunch (from l. to r.): Andy Hobbs, Chris Kenney, Jeff Callahan, Sean Gleeson, Coach Marshall Creighton, Nick Fersen, Mike Brown and Ryan Scannell

Every once in a while some of the residents of the area would stop by and thank the Ephs for the work they were doing. "Just before lunch one day, a woman from Violet, strolled into our house and expressed her gratitude for our help," said Gleeson. "After explaining how we’re making a difference for these people, she finally leaves, but only after tussling with Coach Farley in a “Thank Y’all!”… “But No, Thank you!” exchange. Our workload picked up after her visit and the overall exhaustion at the end of the day was rewarded with a majority decision to explore Bourbon St."

Farley joined the Eph group that chose to spend time in the French Quarter rather than on Bourbon St. and he sat in a local eatery reading his two newspapers – the local paper and USA Today from cover to cover, until it was time to head back to Camp Hope. At the designated return time Farley promptly rounded up the Ephs in the French Quarter and headed over to Bourbon St. to gather the rest of the Ephs. "Standing on the corner of Bourbon St. I turned to the four students closest to me who were from Newton, Mass., Dartmouth, Mass., New Canaan, Conn., and Swarthmore, Penn., and said," I'll bet you don't see this behavior every day back home, The whole trip was an educational experience."

Other educational experiences arrived in the form of a trip to a Baptist Church on a Sunday morning, drinking water and Walgreens. The animated and energetic Baptist service lasted close to four hours and was unlike anything any the Ephs had seen. Farley summed up the experience by noting, "We saw everything but a wedding."

Laura Ellison explains the drinking water experience: "The drinking water at camp was like none I’ve ever had/seen before. It came in six packs, canned. The can was plain silver with black, block letters that read “FILTERED DRINKING WATER”. It is one of the more suspect things I’ve seen. They call it “Aquafema” and I knew something was up when they said, “don’t worry you get used to the taste after a while." I’d say the taste was a mix between chlorine water and water with the iodine tablets they use on the WOOLF trips. Some people found the only way they could drink it was to chug it and therefore there would be the daily water chugging contest during lunch break. I think Hyland, Kenney and Stu Buck all had a victory at some point."

"About a week into our trip a couple of us really wanted to go to Walgreens to get a sweatshirt because the temperature was predicted to drop in the next couple of days," recalled Laura Ellison. "All of a sudden word spread and we had two packed vans heading over to the local Walgreens. I don’t think there are many situations in life where you are going to get 30+ college kids mobilized in about five minutes because they are excited about a trip to Walgreens."

"Would I go again – ask me in a month," said Farley. "Every where you go seventeen people go with you."

"This experience of putting 36 Williams’ athletes from all over the United States into New Orleans to help with the recovery effort was unique," noted Katie Howard. "At the end of the day, we all just had to laugh instead of complain about the lack of organization, the difficulty of dry walling, and the unique bathrooms of Camp Hope. I felt many of us went in open minded but left disillusioned."

"I’m so glad I went down there," said Ellison. "I was so unaware of how much still needed to be done. We were able to meet with a professor from Tulane’s political economy department who said that they are expecting it to take 15-20 years to fully rebuild. It’s really a mess, but people are working through it and doing what they can. They need money, manpower and for everyone around the country to remember that they still need help. In our two weeks, the house my group worked on went from a house gutted down to the studs to half way painted and a day away from the flooring being put in, but that’s only one house on a street of houses that need major work. I hope Williams will continue to send groups down there, because there will still be work to be done for a long time."

"Overall, the trip to New Orleans was an eye-opening and worthwhile experience," said Hyland. "We participated in tasks that the city and its residents are in vital need of, and learned some valuable skills and lessons along the way."

"Sometimes around here we just take it for granted that every kid is bright, articulate, possesses a strong work ethic and is devoid of ego, but it really made an impact on the Habit for Humanity folks we worked with – they were very, very impressed with our kids and it made me feel proud to be from Williams," said Farley. "If only every college in America would make this commitment to hurricane Katrina relief we could really have a huge impact on this region and help get it back on its feet."

Football Ephs on the trip: Mike Brown, Jeff Callahan, Cory Catelli, Andrew DeSalvo, Jon Drenckhahn, Brian Egan, Nick Fersen, Brendan Fulmer, Sean Gleeson, Andy Hobbs, Chris Kenney, Devin McLaughlin, Sean Milano, Jim O'Leary, Ryan Powell, Trevor Powers and Ryan Scannell

Track & Field ("trackies"): Liz Bacon, Chris Beeler*, Mack Brickley, Stu Buck, Lisa Davenport, Matt Desir, David DeVaughan, Laura Ellison, Chris Furlong, Tyler Gray*, Katie Howard*, Sean Hyland, Corey Levin, Beth Links, Julie McNamara and David Rogawski

Student: Liz Lee

Coach: Marshall Creighton, Asst. Baseball/Football

* -- On Feb. 17 Katie Howard won the N.E. Div. III 600m (1:35.52), Tyler Gray won the N.E. Div. III 600m (1:21.15) and Chris Beeler won the N.E. Div. III 800m (1:55.37)and Williams won their fifth consecutive women's title and fourth consecutive men's title.

Click here to see more photos by Mack Brickley