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In Memoriam:  Greg Farrell

Gregory “Greg” Farrell, an innovative educator and public servant; a founder of NYC Outward Bound Schools and EL Education, as well as the Executive Director of the Fund for the City of New York.

Greg was the original executive director of the Fund for the City of New York, from 1970 to 1990, a philanthropy established by the Ford Foundation to encourage innovation in a municipal government. He was hired by the fund after having run antipoverty programs in New Jersey and covering urban affairs there for The Trenton Times.


Earlier in his life, as an admissions officer at Princeton University, Greg had been invited on an Outward Bound course in Colorado. The experience, he said, made him realize for the first time the potential of borrowing from the rigorous physical challenges that are integral to the program’s wilderness adventures and adapting them to an academic setting.


Greg applied the teamwork and confidence-building techniques of Outward Bound wilderness expeditions to the challenges of urban classroom education, becoming a founding board member of New York City Outward Bound Schools in 1987. He sought to apply the same self-confidence and teamwork endemic to Outward Bound to its namesake educational counterpart s, teaching literacy and other programs in the nation’s public schools in an innovative, adventurous, and iconoclastic way.


Greg was the founding president and chief executive of EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning Schools), a partnership begun in 1992 by Outward Bound USA and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Through EL Education, he partnered with hundreds of schools in 35 states to improve curriculums, coach teachers and provide other support to prepare mostly underprivileged students for college and careers. EL Education emerged from a winning proposal that his team had made for the New American Schools Corporation, an entity started by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. He was president until he retired in 2008. The program now serves an estimated 500,000 students annually.


Greg earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Princeton in 1957.  He served on several nonprofit boards, including ReServe, which taps the creative resources of people over 50, some of them retired; and the EDGE Foundation, which coaches young people with attention deficit disorder.

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