John Farley arrived to Notre Dame in the fall of 1897. He came to study for the priesthood, but also had a penchant for athletics. He won nine varsity monogram letters in football, baseball, and track, and was heralded as one of the great Notre Dame athletes for years to come. For over thirty years after his graduation, Farley became a beloved fixture among Notre Dame students as he served as a rector for three dorms.
In August of 1899, Farley wrote to University President Rev. Andrew Morrissey, CSC, with a dilemma — return to Notre Dame and continue his studies toward becoming a priest or attend Seton Hall, which was closer to home so he could better care for his mother and family [UPEL 75/11]. Morrissey’s response does not exist in the University Archives, but Farley decided to return and ended up spending most of the rest of his life at Notre Dame.
Ordained into the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1907, Farley spent around thirty years as a rector of three dorms at Notre Dame: Corby Hall, Walsh Hall, and Sorin Hall, where he reigned as “king.” With his keen athleticism, Farley regularly coached interhall teams to championships. He was gruff, but genial, and in counseling the students, he quickly earned the paternal nickname “Pop.”
In 1937, Pop Farley suffered a stroke, which resulted in the amputation of one of his legs. He spent the rest of his life in the Holy Cross community infirmary and died in 1939. At Farley’s funeral, Rev. Eugene Burke, CSC, said “For over thirty years, wherever Notre Dame students gathered, Father Farley was in the midst of them, always as a cheerful leader or companion. For all those years this kindly prefect, whose work was with and for the students, loved that work as dearly as a scholar ever loved his books, and through it won the respect and admiration of thousands of students.” [PNDP-02-Zz-01; South Bend Tribune, 01/17/1939]
In 1946, Notre Dame honored Pop Farley by naming a new dormitory after him. Farley Hall became a women’s dorm in the second year of co-education (1973). In 1976, the University created the Rev. John “Pop” Farley, CSC, Award, which “is given annually to honor distinguished service [of a faculty member] to student life at the University of Notre Dame.”