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ARCS Award Honors Helen Jones Farrar

Each spring, the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation presents the Helen Jones Farrar Award to an outstanding Institute for Astronomy graduate student. The award serves as a memorial to the late Helen Jones Farrar, a trailblazing woman who was fascinated by science and astronomy.

Helen Jones Farrar

Farrar was born in the early 1890s to the wealthy kamaaina family that founded the Bank of Hawaii, Hawaiian Trust Company, and Palama Settlement. She graduated from Oahu College (now Punahou School) and Smith College, where she majored in science. Well-educated and ahead of her time in many respects, Farrar held the first driver’s license issued to a woman in the Territory of Hawaii. She also raced powerboats and supplied the prize-winning asparagus she had grown to ships and restaurants in the islands. She and her husband, R. J. H. Farrar, lived on Oahu and at Waimea on the Big Island.

Farrar’s love affair with the stars began when she witnessed the construction of Mauna Kea’s original telescopes. Coupled with her background in science and without children of her own, she took a keen interest in the young people studying astronomy.

It was Farrar’s nephew, Russell Richards, and his wife, Timmie, a long-time member and former president of ARCS, who conceived of the Helen Jones Farrar Award as a meaningful and permanent memorial that captured Helen’s abiding interest in astronomy and its students. By 1990, the year of Mrs. Farrar’s death, the Helen Jones Farrar Trust had contributed $100,000 to the University of Hawaii Foundation to establish an endowed fund to support the award in perpetuity.

Catherine Hay Richards, grandniece of Mrs. Farrar and a daughter of Russell and Timmie Richards, stated, “My great-aunt Helen and my entire family have always subscribed to the notion of giving back to the community that gives you everything you hold dear. This is reflected in our community involvement, our faith, and our charitable work for good and worthy causes. ARCS is one such wonderful cause—and I know my aunt Helen is smiling down on all the good work done by ARCS in Hawaii, and by the IfA at UH and the UH Foundation. She is pleased to have helped.”

The recipient of the $5,000 Farrar Award must be an American citizen and a full-time student whose grade point average is at least 3.5. The recipient may use the award for any purpose related to his or her graduate studies in astronomy, such as paying for observing expenses, traveling to present papers, or purchasing a computer or other equipment. Scott Dahm has been named the 2004–05 awardee. (See related story in this issue.)

The Honolulu chapter of the ARCS Foundation, a women’s fund-raising organization, was established in 1974. It provides scholarship awards to outstanding University of Hawaii graduate students who are U.S. citizens working on degrees in the sciences, medicine, and engineering. The first ARCS chapter was organized in Los Angeles in 1958, partly as a response to the launch of the Russian satellite, Sputnik. Now 13 ARCS chapters across the country are committed to the advancement of science and technology worldwide, and to that end, provide support to scholars at colleges and universities in their communities. Thus far, ARCS has awarded $1.5 million to more than 500 UH students, and $45 million to some 10,000 scholars nationally.

Friends of Hawaii Astronomy Web page: http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/friends/