Dr. Thomas H. Farrell
b. July 25, 1946 – d. March 17, 2024


Dr. Thomas H. Farrell, a beloved teacher, coach, and longtime school administrator, died on Sunday, March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day) surrounded by his family. He was 77. He lived with his wife of 46 years, Debbie Porter Farrell, in both Kennebunk and Weld.

Farrell’s professional life was one devoted to youth. He spent over 50 years in education; first as a high school teacher and coach in Maine, and then as an administrator and Superintendent of schools in Maine, Colorado, and Taiwan. He wrote, “Teachers are very important people in the lives of children. That is why I love our profession and what I do. We can play a role in the well-being of every student and even help save some.”

Farrell was a national leader in drug prevention education and consulted for many years with the FBI, DEA, and Major League Baseball International, as well as the US Dept of Education, and the US Information Agency (which later became the US State Department). He served on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth (chaired by former First Lady, Nancy Reagan) from 1985-1989. In 2001 he was awarded the Enrique S. Camarena Award for outstanding contributions to community service toward America’s drug abuse reduction eort. He was also awarded the Carey E. McDonald National Citation by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association in 2000 (an award given annually to recognize persons of national renown who have made a unique contribution to a high school, amateur, or professional sports and/or the coaching profession). He received many other national accolades throughout his career. But according to Farrell, “My greatest reward was receiving hundreds of letters from graduates years later thanking me for being there for them and making a positive difference in their life.”

Thomas Hackett Farrell was born at Mercy Hospital in Portland, Maine on July 25, 1946, the third of five children of Thomas James Farrell and Elfreda Mae Hackett. He spent the greater part of his childhood playing various sports and causing mischief in the “Brick Park” section of Rumford, where his father was a high school teacher and coach. After graduating from Stephens High (now Mountain Valley High School), Farrell went on to play both Division 1 basketball and baseball at the University of Maine at Orono, where he graduated in 1968 with a BS in Political Science. Straight out of college, and for the next ten years, Farrell taught and coached sports at various high schools around Maine (Mexico, Lawrence, Oxford Hills, and Winslow High Schools), and then moved into administration–first as the Assistant Principal at Mt. Blue, then Principal at Dirigo, and finally Principal of Skowhegan, which under his leadership became one of Maine’s top three schools and achieved a “National School of Excellence” designation by the Department of Education in 1987.

In 1988, Farrell left Maine and headed out west on a whim to Aspen, Colorado, where he would spend the next fifteen years–his first two years as Principal of Aspen High School, and then the subsequent thirteen as the Superintendent of Aspen School District. In 2003, after his three boys had graduated from Aspen High, Farrell decided to return to Maine as the Superintendent of the Kennebunk School District (from 2003-2008), where he successfully implemented the first International Baccalaureate® (IB) diploma program in the State of Maine. In the final chapter of his career, from 2008-2017, he moved to Taiwan to become the Director of the Kaohsiung American School, where he again helped revitalize a struggling school by quadrupling its enrollment, hiring a staff of world-class teachers, and by overseeing the construction of a new state-of-the-art campus, including academic, arts, and athletic facilities. He was nominated by his School Board for International Schools Superintendent of the Year. The school’s new athletic complex was named after him on November 15, 2016. At the end of that school year, Farrell officially retired from a career in education. As he put it in his memoir, “I loved going to work every day, and that passion never ended in my 50 years in education in the US and Taiwan.”

For the last several years of his life, Farrell and his wife Debbie (referred to as “Pops” and “Nana” by their adoring grandchildren), split time between Kennebunk and Weld, and devoted their energy to family. Dr. Farrell wrote, “With seven grandchildren, we had plenty to do and loved every second spent with them. I was content to stay retired in beautiful Maine, go south during the cold winters, and enjoy family. Life remained very good!”

He is survived by his wife, Debbie; his three sons, Thomas, Nicholas, and Lucas; three daughters-in-law, Tierney, Courtney, and Louisa; and grandchildren, Maisie, Peyton, Bramigan, Beya, Jack, Minna, and Crew (as well as one more on the way). He is survived by a sister, Jennifer Coughlin of Brunswick; and two brothers, Dennis Farrell of Rumford, and Kevin Farrell of Skowhegan; and was predeceased by his parents, as well as one sister, Joy Ann Milligan of Cape Elizabeth and Weld.

A celebration of Tom Farrell’s life will be held on May 25th at the Portland Country Club. Donations can be made to a Maine high school student scholarship program (“The Future Leaders of Maine Fund”) that his sons have set up in their father’s memory. Details for both can be found at Farrell’s memorial website, www.drtomfarrell.com


Photo courtesy of https://drtomfarrell.com/