MORGTANTOWN, W.Va.— West Virginia University alumnus George R. Farmer Jr. was a successful attorney who devoted his career to carrying on the giving tradition of one of West Virginia’s most celebrated benefactors. In doing so, he helped transform his alma mater and the Morgantown community through impactful philanthropic giving that will be remembered long beyond his passing Monday, at the age of 92.
Farmer was a longtime attorney, advisor and friend of Hazel Ruby McQuain, who donated millions of dollars to WVU and other charitable causes in the greater Morgantown area during her lifetime. Following her death in 2002, he continued to build upon her legacy as chairman of the board for the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust and J.W. Ruby Foundation. Largely via the Trust, Farmer provided many generous gifts to support education, healthcare, athletics and more at WVU.
A native of Morgantown, Farmer earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from WVU’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences in 1953 and his J.D. from the College of Law in 1956. He practiced law with the Morgantown firms Farmer & Farmer – founded by his late father – and Jackson Kelly, specializing in litigation, banking, business and corporate law, real estate and estate planning.
“George Farmer has been a dear friend of mine for more than 40 years,” WVU President E. Gordon Gee said. “I met him when I was the dean of the College of Law, and we became fast friends. He was always a strong advocate of the University, as well as the College of Law, and I respected and admired him immensely. He and his beloved family have continued to support the University with both time and treasure. His vision for our University and the State of West Virginia was always forward thinking and his love for both ran deep. He had a great wisdom about him, and I will deeply miss my friend.”
A gift made by McQuain, both in memory of her late husband and to honor Farmer, was dedicated to benefit the College of Law Library. In accordance with the agreement, it was officially named The George R. Farmer Jr. Law Library in 2004.
Under Farmer’s leadership, the trust later provided $7.5 million to the College of Law, the largest capital gift in the law school’s history, to help fund a $25 million renovation and building project.
“All of us at the College of Law are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of George Farmer Jr.,” College of Law Interim Dean and Jackson Kelly Professor John Taylor said. “George was a great lawyer and a great public citizen who dedicated himself to making Morgantown a wonderful place to live. Through his work with the Hazel Ruby McQuain Trust, he made possible the addition and renovations to our building that generations of law students will enjoy. We are honored that our law library bears his name. Few people have ever done so much for the College of Law, and he will be greatly missed.”
Thanks in part to Farmer’s stewardship and guidance, the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust is one of WVU’s largest benefactors. Donations have supported a wide variety of causes and programs across the University, as well as the establishment of the cross-disciplinary Ruby Scholars Graduate Research Fellowships and endowed chairs throughout the University.
In 2015, the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust provided $6.7 million to revitalize the equine educational facilities at the J.W. Ruby Research Farm in Preston County into a new, modern teaching, research and extension center.
A 2020 gift provided $1.3 million to provide personal protective equipment to West Virginia hospitals and first responders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous Trust gifts have bolstered healthcare via the School of Medicine, WVU Medicine and more.
“Our entire Health Sciences family mourns the loss of George Farmer,” Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for Health Sciences, said. “As a loyal Mountaineer and friend to the University, his accomplishments live on through the students, faculty and staff who are daily beneficiaries of the foundations he set in place in our health community. Their work and contributions to the field are part of his legacy to this institution and state. We mourn his passing, but celebrate his life and his life’s work.”
Gifts to Athletics include a recent $10 million contribution to support an Athletics Performance Center at the WVU Coliseum Sports Complex.
“WVU Athletics certainly lost a great friend with the passing of George Farmer,” Director of Athletics Shane Lyons said. “Mr. Farmer truly cared and wanted only the best for the Mountaineers, the University and the community. While his friendship and leadership will be missed, his many great accomplishments for WVU, Morgantown and the state of West Virginia will live on for generations.”
Farmer’s community leadership extended to membership in the Kiwanis Club and the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, and he was a longtime supporter of the Boy Scouts of America.
Throughout his career, Farmer was a member of and actively involved with the West Virginia Bar Association, American Bar Association and Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia. He was a past president and member of the Monongalia County Bar and West Virginia State Bar, as well as chairman and member of the Board of Governors of the West Virginia State Bar. In 2002, he was inducted as a Fellow of the West Virginia Bar Foundation.
In 2006, Farmer was inducted into the Order of Vandalia, WVU’s highest honor. He and his wife, Mary Ann, were named Most Loyal Alumni during Mountaineer Week of that same year. He also received the Justitia Officium Award, the College of Law’s top honor, in 2007, and belonged to the Woodburn Circle Society, the WVU Foundation’s most prestigious recognition group.
In addition to his wife, Farmer is survived by three sons – George R. Farmer III, Stephen B. Farmer and Jeffrey W. Farmer – and their families. Stephen Farmer followed in his father’s footsteps as a trustee for the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust, serving as its spokesman in recent years.