Washburn President Jerry Farley named grand marshal of Topeka’s Veterans Parade

Farley served in Army during Vietnam War era

Ron Brown, right, vice chair of the Topeka Veterans Parade committee, announced Tuesday that Washburn University President Jerry Farley, left, will be the grand marshal of this year’s Topeka Veterans Parade. (Thad Allton/The Capital-Journal)

Since 1997, Jerry Farley has become a fixture in Topeka as president of Washburn University, where over the past 20 years he has orchestrated a near-complete makeover of the campus.


But what isn’t as well known is that Farley was a drill sergeant instructor while serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era.

For the leadership he has demonstrated at Washburn University and, before that, in the military, Farley is being honored as the grand marshal of the fifth annual Salute Our Heroes Festival and Topeka Veterans Parade, which will take place on Nov. 11 in downtown Topeka.

The announcement came during a news conference Wednesday morning at Azura Credit Union, 1129 S. Kansas Ave., which is the presenting sponsor of the event.

“I was honored to be asked to be the grand marshal of this year’s Veterans Day Parade on the 11th of November, up and down the streets of Topeka,” Farley said, “where we honor those people who’ve been serving in the military for many years, many of them, and for the sacrifices they’ve made, and to tell them how much this community cares about them.”

Farley acknowledged many people who know him as the bow-tie wearing president of Washburn University may have a hard time believing he was a drill sergeant in the Army.

“They’re going to go, ‘No, not a drill sergeant,’ but yes, I was a drill sergeant,” Farley said. “And then I became a drill sergeant instructor and was teaching other men how to be a drill sergeant.”

Farley said he learned many life-long skills while serving in the Army, particularly with regard to leadership and teaching. He said he benefited from being around a group of people who were dedicated to serving the United States.

“Some of the most professional people that I’ve ever been around and ever worked with,” Farley said of his Army colleagues. “They had such a love and such a commitment to the military, particularly at that time.”

Farley noted his time in the military was during the Vietnam War, when “there were a lot of things happening in our country.”

He said he was in the Reserve Officer Training Corps while he was in college and originally wanted to be an Air Force pilot, but his eyes “went bad.”

“So I couldn’t do that,” he said. “I went ahead with school and as soon as I graduated, I got the invitation to join the Army. So I was drafted into the Army.”

Farley said he was going to see if he could find his drill sergeant’s hat and is considering wearing it during the parade, “just to honor the people that are there.”

He added, “There are so many others who served during a very, very difficult time in our country’s history in the Vietnam War and who served in Vietnam and did so much more than I ever did. Being able to be here with them now is really special to me.”

Ron Brown, vice chairman of the Topeka Veterans Parade Committee, said Farley is being honored as a “veteran of excellence” in his role as grand marshal.

“We wanted to honor someone in the community who has done tremendous work after the military,” Brown said, “and I don’t think there’s a better example of that than Dr. Farley.”

The Salute Our Heroes Festival and Topeka Veterans Parade will begin with a Patriotic Pancake Breakfast at 8 a.m. at HHB BBQ, 906 S. Kansas Ave., followed by the Super Heroes Run, Walk &Crawl at 9:30 a.m.

The Topeka Veterans Day Parade will follow at 11 a.m.

All activities will take place in downtown Topeka.

Azura Credit Union is the presenting sponsor for this year’s Salute Our Heroes Festival and Topeka Veterans Parade.

Jerry Farley veterans parade grand marshal.

The Topeka Capital-Journal will publish a tribute to veterans and service members titled “Honoring Our Heroes, Sponsored by Azura Credit Union,” also on Nov. 11.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to say thank you to the men and women who have given so much of themselves to keep our country safe,” said Tomari Quinn, editor and vice president of audience at The Topeka Capital-Journal. “We’re grateful to them for their service.”

For more information, visit www.MilitaryVeteranProject.org.

Contact Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/philreports.tcj/.


The Topeka Capital-Journal will honor veterans with a special feature on Nov. 11 titled “Honoring Our Heroes, Sponsored by Azura Credit Union.”

Readers are invited to submit photos of men and women in uniform. Individuals in the Topeka area are invited to submit high-quality photos free of charge through Oct. 27 by visiting www.cjonline.com/heroes.

The Capital-Journal also will publish the veteran’s name, years of service, hometown and branch of the military along with the photos.