Wake Forest celebrates the official dedication of Farrell Hall

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Dr. Nathan Hatch, President of Wake Forest University, addresses a crowd from the second floor of the university's new school of business education, Farrell Hall, on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (David Rolfe/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — “When times are hard, great things can be accomplished with determination and a dream.”

That quote from Mike Farrell served as the backdrop for the official dedication of Farrell Hall, the new home of the Wake Forest University School of Business.

Farrell died last year, but his legacy lives on in the new 130,000-square-foot facility that bears his family name.

Mike and Mary Farrell, of Summit, N.J., parents of 2010 Wake Forest graduate Michael Farrell, donated $10 million to pave the way for the $55 million facility that unites the undergraduate and graduate business programs under one roof. It was the largest gift given by individuals to the School of Business to date, the university said.

The facility opened for use in the summer but was officially dedicated during a special ceremony Friday morning. More than 50 members of the Farrell family and employees of Farrell’s company, Annaly Capital Management, Inc., were on hand for the event.

Speakers delivered remarks from the second floor commons overlooking the Founders Living Room. The event was originally scheduled to take place outside the hall, but rain moved the event indoors.

The three-story, 8,500-square-foot Founders Living Room is the building’s hub, a place where students can study, socialize and interact with faculty. The venue was filled with people Friday.

It was a special day for Michael Farrell, who was seeing the facility for the first time since its completion. He said it was unbelievable to walk through the main entrance of a building that honors the memory of his father and grandfather.

“It’s just an exciting time for our family and community,” he said.

As a 2010 graduate of the university’s finance program, Farrell has high praise for Wake Forest. It’s not just about business there, he said.

“It’s more about community and fostering the whole person,” he said.

After graduation, Farrell went to work for his dad’s company. He kept thinking about his dad during the ceremony and what he would say if he were there. He believes his mom summed it up well with her remarks.

“I like to think that he is watching over us smiling, his arm over his dad’s shoulder,” Mary Farrell said of her husband.

She explained: “Farrell Hall is named in honor of two Mike Farrells — father and son. … Both were dreamers, and both took risk for the benefit of their families.”

Her husband was president and CEO of the largest mortgage real-estate investment trust listed on the New York Stock Exchange. His father was a blue-collar Irishman.

Mike Farrell, who started Annaly in the late 1990s, didn’t complete college.

But he and his father were self-educated and “shared an uncanny ability to look beyond the present,” she said.

Steve Reinemund, dean of business at Wake Forest, said the Farrells’ gift “changed everything” as school leaders dreamed of building a state-of-the-art facility that would unite the undergraduate and graduate business programs.

That dream is now a reality, and community members were free to tour the facility during an open house Friday. The university broke ground on Farrell Hall in the spring of 2011. The building opened in July and boasts a 400-seat auditorium, recruiting center, information commons, bagel shop, hi-tech classrooms and more.

“The opening of this building has exceeded our expectations,” Reinemund said after the dedication.

By Meghann Evans/Winston-Salem Journal