Marjorie Louise Nichols Farmer, educator, minister

Marjorie Louise Nichols Farmer

Marjorie Louise Nichols Farmer was an educator and minister.

She died June 2, 2012. She was 90.

She was born March 17, 1922, in Hartford, Conn., to the late Rev. Edward K. Nichols Sr. and Laura Ella Drake Nichols. The third child from their union, her parents set the tone for her life and legacy.

Her father was a highly esteemed pastor who, in 1914, became the first African American to be degreed by Yale Divinity School. Her mother served on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work for many years, and was a pioneer in that field. As a young child, her family moved to Philadelphia for her father to preside as minister of Mount Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was in Philadelphia where Farmer would remain to start her family and career. She attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls and graduated in 1939. After graduation, she wanted to embark on advanced studies in English and literature. Her parents however convinced her to enter into the field of teaching.

During the time of her undergraduate studies at Temple University, she met Clarence Farmer Sr. and they wed in April of 1943. Their initial meeting was fortuitous and led to many years of a loving marriage and partnership. From their union two sons were born, Clarence Farmer Jr. and Franklin Farmer. Together Clarence and “Marge,” as they were affectionately known by many, became a successful and well known couple throughout the city of Philadelphia due to their career and social endeavors.

After graduating from Temple in 1946 with her artium baccalaureatus, master’s of arts and master’s of education degrees, Farmer began a long career with the Philadelphia School District as an English teacher. She taught at various schools in the city including Furness Jr. High School, Simon Gratz High School and Germantown High School. Her avid love and passion for teaching English literature and grammar showed forth in her work with her students. She went on to become assistant professor of education at Glassboro State College in New Jersey and then returned to Philadelphia to become curriculum specialist in English and language arts, K–12 for the School District of Philadelphia. She remained in this role until the early 1980s. Her call for higher education continued during her work with the school district. She returned back to Temple University to obtain her doctorate in education in 1975.

In 1977, Farmer became the second African American to hold the office of president with the National Council of Teachers of English. She used this position to educate teachers and to voice her opinion on how language should be utilized to advance the profession of teaching and to advance the lives of students. Her level of dedication to English and to the teaching profession was unwavering and forever demonstrated in both her personal communications and in her professional writings. She authored and edited numerous professional articles, books regarding this subject, and authored a textbook on grammar and composition.

Throughout her life, Farmer was a devoted church attendee. She started her journey towards becoming a minister at Grace Episcopal Church in Mount Airy where she served as a deacon. After her retirement from the School District of Philadelphia, Marjorie followed the calling also given to her father, and to her oldest brother, E.K Nichols Jr. She entered the Lutheran Seminary in 1982. She was ordained an Episcopalian priest on May 31, 1988, and served as priest-in-charge at St. Matthias Episcopal Church in West Oak Lane. The parishioners from Saint Matthias followed her, after the closing of the parish, to her last church home, Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church of Elkins Park. There she served as assistant rector until she retired from the diocese in late 1999.

During her time in the ministry she also provided chaplain services to the Philadelphia Youth Study Center and was a member of the Philadelphia Black Clergy and the Union of Black Episcopalians.

Her time spent as a community member in the city of Philadelphia was displayed through her numerous volunteer activities and board memberships, including The Franklin Institute, The Center in the Park and The Free Library of Philadelphia.

Farmer was active within the African-American community in Philadelphia as a member of the Omega Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and an alumnae of the Penn Towne Chapter of the Links, Inc.

She was preceded in death by her son, Clarence “Skip” Farmer Jr.

In addition to her husband of 69 years, Clarence Farmer, she is survived her by son, Franklin; daughters-in-law, Sandra L. Farmer, Hélène Treloar and Susan M. Farmer; grandchildren, David Farmer, Helen Farmer, Nicole Farmer-Woodard and her husband Chris; and two great-grandchildren, Christopher Cormier and Christopher Palmer Woodard; brother-in-law, William Farmer; sisters-in-law, Eleanor Farmer and Ethel Nichols; nieces and nephews, Charlotte Nichols, Carolyn Nichols, Eloise Young and her husband Charles, Lori Nichols, Frederick Blackwell and his wife Renee, Barbara Nichols, Gwendolyn Farmer, Margaret Higginbotham and her husband Robert Sr., Grant Farmer and his wife Frannie, and Robert Farmer Sr. and his wife Linda; and other relatives and friends.

Services will be held June 11 at Cathedral Church of the Savior, 3723 Chestnut St. Viewing is at 9 a.m. Services will follow at 11 a.m.

Bruce R. Hawkins Funeral Home handled the arrangements.

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