Celebrating a Life of Immeasurable Value: Dick Farmer

Dick and Joyce Farmer

If you met Dick Farmer at a casual gathering or on a fly-fishing trip, you would never guess he was the founder of a more than $7 billion publicly-traded corporation and a family foundation that has granted life-changing gifts to more than 200 non-profits.

He was low-key, more interested in learning about you than talking about himself.  No airs, pretense or sense of entitlement. He seemed just like a “regular guy.”

To the thousands of students, hundreds of faculty, staff and administrators and the alumni of Miami University, and especially of the school that bears his name – the Farmer School of Business, he was so much more than the name on the building, scholarship or professorship. He was a mentor, advisor – part of the team. He gave more than money – he shared his business insights, his humor and his belief that our students, and the faculty that taught them, could change the world. In so doing, he changed ours.

A $40 million gift allowed us to build the first facility on Miami's campus to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification – the 229,423 square foot home of the Farmer School of Business. In typical Dick Farmer style, when the leadership of the School tried to thank and honor him for the gift, he put up his hand, shook his head and stopped the speaker, saying, “It is a privilege to enable you as educators to shape the minds of future leaders.”

When asked by the media what led to his gift, he replied, “I'll never forget when we decided to give this money.  ‘Alright, I said, look.  Miami's business school is going to graduate about 900 kids a year. Over the next 40 years there are going to be some outstanding, successful businessmen and women. There are going be some great politicians. Might even have a president or two. We're going to have people creating whole new industries and new companies. Isn't that exciting?’  And my children all said, ‘Boy, that really is. I never thought about it that way, dad.’ Being able to touch the lives of that many people, it's a big deal.  It’s where we went to school. We have such wonderful memories here, Joyce and I and then our kids.”

While it’s easy to quantify his financial support, the value of the time he spent on campus, serving on the University’s Board of Trustees, the Farmer School’s Board of Visitors, meeting with student groups, faculty and in classrooms is beyond measure. His business acumen made us better stewards of resources and helped guide our strategy. Students and faculty benefitted from his sage advice and candor.  

On one of his many Farmer School visits, he commented, “I walk into this building and everyone is in the hallways working, meeting. When I was a student, our curriculum consisted of textbooks, a lecture, and a test.  That was it. We never, ever saw a real businessman or businesswoman here on this campus, never.  These young people have a lot more meaning to the curriculum. It's more meaningful to them, and you can see it, and then when you speak to them, you get unbelievable questions. I can't believe how mature they are.

“I'm impressed every time I come around these people. We just have a wonderful, wonderful school here.  We have to make it better and better.   It's a great school. It's one of the greatest undergraduate business schools in the country and we’re proud to be a part of it.  I think it's the one thing we've done that the return is for the students and the faculty having this wonderful place to learn and work in. I hope we did something really special.”

You did, Dick. You certainly did.  


After graduating with a major in marketing (MU ’56), Dick served in the Marines and then married Joyce Barnes (MU ’57), his college sweetheart, the day after his discharge.

He then joined the family’s Cincinnati-based Acme Wiper and Industrial Laundry Company.  He had convinced his father to expand into the uniform business, but still thought he could do more. So in 1968, he left Acme to test new concepts and systems that changed the shape of the industry. Two years later, his new company was so successful that it bought Acme. Today, that company, Cintas, is the nation’s leading supplier of uniforms.

Dick’s business acumen and community-centric attitude resulted in recognition on the local, regional and national level. He was inducted into the Greater Cincinnati Business Hall of Fame, named E&Y’s Entrepreneur of the Year, was honored by the Cincinnati USA Regional chamber as one of the Great Living Cincinnatians and was twice named CEO of the Year by Financial World magazine. He is the recipient of a Doctor of Laws degree from Miami University.

Dick Farmer passed away on August 4.

Dick and Joyce Farmer in front of FSB