Sharing His Inspiration for Life: Mark Farrell '89

MarkFarrell129.jpg
Mark Farrell '89

By Theresa E. Ross '80

As a radio host on 101.9 WRXP radio in New York City for nearly two decades, Mark Farrell ’89 has interviewed dozens of celebrities ranging from Robin Williams to Dr. Oz, and Suze Orman to Hillary Rodham Clinton.“My passion is getting to know people, whether it’s behind a microphone or not,” he says.

Farrell knew early on that he wanted a career in radio. He loved music, he was an easy talker, and being born visually impaired gave him an enhanced auditory sense and ability to differentiate sounds. “My hearing is impeccable,” he says. They were all ideal strengths for his future career in radio, from working as a creative services director to on-air talent.

“Coming to William Paterson was a real dawning for me because high school was not an entirely positive experience,” he admits. As a student at William Paterson, Farrell developed his own radio show on WPSC, the campus station. “College certainly opened a door for me to be this new, gregarious, affable, larger-than-life person on the radio—Mark Farrell—who may be visually impaired but is reinventing himself,” he says.

Living on campus, Farrell dove head first into a bunch of activities, from volunteering as an orientation tour guide and playing Santa on campus to working as student manager of the bookstore.

He talks candidly about the challenges he has had to overcome because of his disability. He was born with retinoschisis, a congenital disorder similar to macular degeneration. He struggled through school, having severe acne and unable to read chalkboards. Later on, at work, he learned to navigate a complex radio production environment with its board of knobs, buttons, and levels.

At age twenty-five, he overcame one of his biggest hurdles: obtaining his driver’s license through the help of a device. He is able to navigate the roads using dentist-like glasses fitted with a special lens. To this day, he has never received a ticket. “I’ve been pulled over many times, but police look at my telescopes and say, ‘be careful!’”

The youngest of five children, Farrell overcame many limitations using his humor, personality, and strong drive to fit in. In high school, he was unable to participate in most sports. To compensate, he channeled his energy into bike riding and developed a love for woodworking class, building a coffee table, butcher-block counter, and other furniture for his mother. By senior year, Farrell was the only student in shop class who was permitted to use the table saw because he handled it so professionally. He now laughs at the irony of it, but in the scheme of his life, it was another major achievement.

During college, Farrell was offered an internship at WPIX radio in New York City. “I seized the opportunity. They loved me and Iworked my butt off. When I graduated, they offered me a job.”

Besides radio, Farrell has worked as an actor on the daytime soap opera Guiding Light, hosted a 2011documentary film, Leg Room, about the airline industry, and does on-camera hosting including red carpet interviews and more. He is currently working with a television production company to develop his own talk/interview show.

Since losing his brother Michael to suicide, Farrell has been a member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, serving as host for their national teleconference, a group facilitator, and the voice for radio advertisements nationwide.

Speaking to groups about suicide gave Farrell a deeper desire to help people overcome adversity and lift their spirits. His website, markfarrellmotivation.com, explains how sharing his own story has helped thousands of people. He regularly talks to teenagers, college audiences, and corporate groups about mental health, overcoming adversity, disabilities, anti-bullying, drugs and alcohol, and understanding and celebrating differences. This past year, Farrell reconnected with his alma mater and presented a webinar for William Paterson alumni on how to build confidence and be the best “you." experience of successfully completing a triathlon in 1988 as a metaphor for life.

In many of his talks, he uses his experience of successfully completing a triathlon in 1988 as a metaphor for life.He’s at the water’s edge, the gun goes off, and he’s swimming and swimming, only to lift his head and realize that he is way off course. Farrell kept going despite not being able to see the swim course. “I tell my audience that nobody has a crystal ball in life. You don’t know where you’re going, but sometimes you just have to keep forging ahead.” WP

12/03/12