If Hiram Bradford Farmer could come back to ASU for a day, he no doubt would be delighted with the building that now bears his name.
The Farmer Education Building hosts no "frivolous" classes such as agriculture and vocational arts. All the students who enter therein are dedicated to teaching as a profession.
Farmer, who was the first principal—and one-man faculty—of the new Arizona Territorial Normal School from its opening day in February 1886 to Commencement of 1888, resigned in 1888 rather than introduce agriculture and vocational arts to his classic curriculum, said Dean Smith in his book entitled "Men to Match Our Buildings: A History of Arizona State University Told in the Biographies of Its Builders."
Farmer, who graduated from Union College in New York, taught the entire curriculum to the 33 students who enrolled the first year—20 women and 13 men. He also oversaw maintenance of the 20-acre pasture-turned-campus,
And, Farmer and his wife unofficially opened the first college dorm in the state when several out-of-town girls lived with them on Farmer Avenue.
An eccentric man with a bald head and bushy beard, Farmer devised Latin names for his students and often called them "thee" and "thou."
The building itself, designed by Phoenix architect Edward L. Varney, also is a little eccentric – in a good sort of way.
When the $1.3 million, four-story structure was dedicated on Feb. 8, 1962, it was the tallest building on campus. It was also distinctive because of the precast concrete sun louvers affixed to its outer walls.
It's also one of only two buildings on campus with an interior courtyard that opens to the sky. (The other is Social Sciences, designed by Ralph Haver & Associates.)
A shadescreen covers the open patio, creating a lush climate inside for tropical plants such as banana and palm trees.
Hiram Bradford Farmer would have loved the airy courtyard space. It's dotted with picnic tables that invite students to gather and discuss their classes and their ideas, and a fountain that provides a place for quiet reflection.
It's a place conducive to turning "frivolous frontier students into serious scholars" – which, according to Smith, was a charge not taken lightly by ASU's first leader.
ASU staffers who work in Farmer have but one complaint: "We need windows," said Barbara Brunson and Ziva Lackoff, who toil behind brick walls with no view of the tropical paradise just outside their door.