“The idea of establishing a scholarship in Brandon Farmer’s honor had been on our minds for years,” said Robbie Lee ’04, former director of The Learning Community (TLC), the program dedicated to supporting and celebrating Black excellence at LMU. “Then, suddenly, we realized that we didn’t need to wait until we had millions of dollars in the bank. All we had to do was to come together – we could do this, and we could do this now.”
The Brandon Farmer Memorial Scholarship is proof that a high-impact gift can take any shape or size. In this case, nine brothers of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity joined forces to mark the memory of their fraternity brother who passed shortly after graduating from LMU in 2011. The cohort of brothers have committed a total of $30,000 to the scholarship intended to support a student who will play an active role in TLC – a program that was central to Farmer’s years at LMU.
“TLC was established over 20 years ago, to embrace and elevate incoming Black students and ensure their success at LMU and beyond,” explained Jade Smith M.B.A. ’02, associate dean of students. “Through an emphasis on mentoring, leadership, and community consciousness, we’ve infused the program with a philosophy of Black student strength, talent, and fortitude – that commitment to celebrating and fostering Black excellence has fundamentally influenced the culture of LMU.”
For cohort member Jeffrey Dolliole ’11, M.A. ’14, Farmer’s life defined that commitment to excellence. “When we met in our first year, we connected in a big way over our shared love of sports and old school music,” said Dolliole. “Brandon brought a sense of joy to any space he was in – that’s what we loved about him; he was someone you wanted to make sure was always around. We ended up being roommates for three years, and it was Brandon who taught me the true definition of hard work. He’d grown up in South Central Los Angeles and was paying for his education by being a student worker on campus – never making excuses, always fully dedicated to anything he did, all while supporting his friends and the Black community at LMU.”
The scholarship, likewise, isn’t solely based on academic success. It’s about amplifying Farmer’s legacy of giving back, expressed through his mentorship of younger TLC students and the community service initiatives he pursued as a regional leader for Kappa Alpha Psi. “Brandon had just been accepted into Loyola Law School – that was going to be his next step after graduating, to follow his goal of affecting change in the justice system,” said Dolliole. “In the decade since he passed, he would have made a difference in the lives of so many people. If we can support a student who shares some of Brandon’s background and commitments, we can play a role in preserving his memory and expressing who he was – who he will continue to be, through the actions of others.”
For Lee, who brought the brothers together with a shared purpose, the new scholarship comes at a crucial turning point in the history of LMU and the nation at large. “I don’t think there’s ever been a time when the inequities of society have been so clearly apparent,” said Lee. “Young Black men are faced with tremendous barriers against achieving their greatest potential – that was true 10 years ago, and it’s true now.” As someone who has witnessed how students can be empowered by programs like TLC, Lee believes in focusing his attention on change, not challenges. “We’re determined not to lose sight of the countless opportunities to make an impact. The scholarship is just one of those small ways that we were able to do what we can, with what we have, together, now.”