Skip to main content
Bernard Boyd and Bill Farthing stand at an archaeological excavation site, with two other members of the dig and a red wheelbarrow visible in the background.

Bernard Boyd (left) and Bill Farthing on an archaeological dig in Israel in 1968. Farthing credits Boyd’s lectures and mentorship for cementing his interest in religious studies. (photo courtesy of Bill Farthing)

Coming to Carolina was an easy decision for Bill Farthing ’70 (J.D. ’74). Almost 60 years later, it was another easy decision to give back to the place where he spent his first four years at UNC: the department of religious studies.

Farthing, a Morehead-Cain Scholar from Charlotte, knew he wanted to study religion when he arrived in Chapel Hill. His upbringing in the Methodist church and involvement in the ministry Young Life at Myers Park High School piqued his interest in the subject.

“Both of those experiences ignited an interest in studying religion in its various forms and were the impetus for being involved in religious studies in Chapel Hill,” Farthing said.

Farthing learned from professors he refers to as his “triumvirate” of religious studies faculty at UNC: Bernard Boyd, Samuel Hill and William Peck.

They were already icons in their field, and their legacy lives on, Farthing said.

He credits Boyd’s brilliant lectures and invaluable mentorship for cementing his interest in religious studies. Hill and Peck were equally captivating as instructors, Farthing said, inspiring him to always dig deeper and learn more.

“They expanded my horizons in ways that I still appreciate,” Farthing said. “When you’re exposed to such genuine insights and such advanced academics, if it doesn’t change you, then you’re not paying attention.”

Farthing says the department taught him to look for a deeper meaning in everything he experiences, and he wanted to give more students the same opportunity. He and his wife, Linda, established the Bill and Linda Farthing Excellence Fund in Religious Studies in 2022.

“We are so deeply honored by the generosity of Bill and Linda Farthing and their support for the mission of our department,” said Randall Styers, professor and interim chair of religious studies. “We work daily to help our students recognize the richness of human history, the astounding diversity of global cultures and the many ways that human communities seek to make meaning.”

The Farthings wanted their fund to be unrestricted to provide the department with the most flexibility. The endowment will allow the chair to support a range of activities, including undergraduate education, graduate student and faculty support, and curricular development.

“I want the department of religious studies to thrive,” Farthing said. “I want it to continue to be recognized as a critical component of a liberal arts education — not in an evangelical way, but in a way that enhances the importance in growing one’s spirituality in the midst of a culture that offers such diverse lifestyles and religious choices. It is one of the most valuable experiences that a college student can have: to be exposed to the life issues you’re confronted with when you’re in a religious studies class. What can be more fruitful or more valuable in determining what kind of life you want to lead?”

The Farthings’ love of Carolina extends beyond the department of religious studies. He and his wife also established the Bill and Linda Farthing Diversity Scholarship in the School of Law, and he is a former member of UNC’s Board of Visitors. He’s also a 35-year member of the Ram’s Club and a huge fan of Carolina athletics. (He unsuccessfully tried out for the lacrosse team as a first-year student.)

Farthing is now a retired attorney after a 40-year career at the Parker Poe Law Firm, a father of two (including a double Carolina alumna) and a grandfather of five. He continues to value what he learned from the discipline.

“Being a lifelong student of religion and theology has helped me as a leader involved in numerous nonprofits and as managing partner of my law firm. It’s helped me as a parent and grandparent, and I hope it’s helped me as a husband in my effort to pursue a life of meaning and purpose.”

By Erin Wadsworth ’22

Published in the Fall 2023 issue | The Scoop

Read More

Headshot of Banu Gökarıksel

Borders and boundaries

Political geographer Banu Gökarıksel directs Carolina’s popular curriculum in global…

A headshot of Alexandrea Ravenelle

Precarious workers in unprecedented times

Alexandrea Ravenelle’s latest book explores how COVID-19 affected the most…

Overhead view of the sprawling Waimak river, trees and fields visible on either side and a hazy cloud layer at the top.

All the water in the world

In April 2023, three Carolina researchers traveled to New Zealand…

Comments are closed.