News

UVF Alumnus a Light in the Business World

by Sarah Cushing - University Communications | Jun 15, 2016
Robert Ferrell '04
The story of alumnus Robert Farrell ’04 illustrates how, even through life’s surprising turns, God is always in control. As a student, Farrell was surrounded by support and love from the University of Valley Forge (UVF) community in a time of crisis. As an alumnus, he realized he had been well-equipped to not only succeed in his unexpected career, but also to be a light to the world.  

On Nov. 7, 2001, while Farrell was a sophomore in the Pastoral Ministries program, he was working one evening at a distribution warehouse near campus. He had packed his last box of books and placed it on an 80-yard-long conveyer belt, while thinking about playing his intramural softball game later that night. The only other worker had stepped out for dinner, leaving Farrell alone in the warehouse.

Farrell noticed that the box he had placed was crooked, so he walked along the moving conveyer belt to adjust it. In the attempt, his right ring finger was caught between the belt and the machine’s massive roller. The roller pinched his finger, dragged his hand down, and by the time the roller reached his knuckles, it had taken off the skin on his fingers. Frantic, Farrell hit the emergency stop button.

It would be 45 minutes until medical officials freed Farrell. The other worker had come back, and a janitor had heard Farrell screaming from the offices upstairs and ran to him. “I was physically ready to pass out from the pain,” Farrell said. “I still feel the pain in my hand.” Farrell was airlifted to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where he underwent emergency reconstructive surgery.

Farrell continues to be thankful for the immediate support he received from family and friends. News reached the university and the entire softball field prayed for Farrell. His family drove from upstate New York to Philadelphia to be with him. A week later, Farrell underwent skin graft surgery and began eight months of physical therapy. He returned to UVF in December of that year and received prayer, encouragement and help during his recovery. “The school was unbelievable about my recovery and about my finishing the semester,” he said. Although he could not write or type for the first few weeks after the accident, Farrell graduated on time in May 2004. He eventually recovered about 85 percent mobility and 80 percent feeling in his right hand. He continues to meet annually with his friends from UVF.   

Right before graduation, Farrell was mulling over his prospective church job offers without much direction. His father, a well-known and highly regarded realtor in upstate New York, who owned an EXIT Realty Corp. International franchise, asked him to help sell homes for the summer. Farrell agreed and became a licensed realtor after graduation. Today, Farrell is the real estate broker and co-owner of two EXIT franchises with his father in Vestal, New York. Farrell leads a team of 41 realtors. He trains, coaches, guides and supports his team inside and outside of the office.

In his role, Farrell uses his UVF degree every day. “My business is my ministry,” he said. That mindset also led him to minister to his clients in his own way. As a realtor, Farrell sees clients at some of their most vulnerable times, whether it be selling a childhood home, or helping a recent widow sell his or her home, or even counseling a couple in the middle of a divorce struggling to sell their home. “I get personal with them,” Farrell explained. “I help be a light in dark places and be a counselor. The University of Valley Forge made me a better person in those situations.”

Farrell is also a successful second-generation real estate professional in his own right. He works 70-hour weeks, sells about 75 houses a year and is one of the top 100 realtors for EXIT Realty Corp. International. Last year at the company's convention, Farrell shared his story of growing up in the realty business, his experience at UVF, choosing to join the business and working with his father. 

The education and training Farrell received at UVF has been instrumental in his career. "Valley Forge made me a better businessman, a better Christian and a better counselor," he said. "UVF is not just for pastors. The University of Valley Forge is for people who go into the world."