Brian Farragher, a New York native and 30-year veteran of managing residential treatment centers, was introduced Thursday as the new executive director of Hanna Boys Center.
Farragher, who will take over leadership at the revered 69-year-old Sonoma Valley institution in June, was on campus last week, with his wife, Anne, to meet the boys and attend Hanna’s annual Evening with the All Stars, the center’s signature fundraising event.
“Many of the kids here come from a background with a lot of adversity,” Farragher said during an on-campus interview. “That changes the way they relate to the world.”
Asked about his leadership strategy, Farragher explained, “You have to help them develop trusting, authentic relationships with adults. Of course, there have to be boundaries, but some residential programs focus too much on discipline and not enough on loving. Discipline without love is abuse.”
Farragher, who is 56, began his career after college as a caseworker for abused and neglected boys at St. John’s Home for Boys in his hometown of Rockaway Beach, the slender finger of land extending out into the Atlantic Ocean from the borough of Queens where Hurricane Sandy wreaked some of its worst havoc.
From St. John’s, Farragher went back to school for a master’s degree in social work, then became a caseworker with seriously disturbed children. In 1986, he became a program director at Andrus Children’s Center, a Yonkers, N.Y. treatment facility serving some 2,500 families annually. In a 28-year career there, he rose to become executive vice president and COO, earning an MBA degree along the way.
That business degree gave Farragher added skills in funding the Andrus center’s $31 million annual budget, and should serve well at Hanna, which is closing in on the $15 million goal of a years-long capital campaign. During the All Stars fundraiser Saturday night, the center brought in record auction proceeds topping $230,000.
Anne Farragher, who spent 36 years as a registered nurse and loves to garden, says she feels right at home at residential treatment facilities and is looking forward to the year-round growing season of the Sonoma Valley.
Brian Farragher arrives some 18 months after the resignation of Father John Crews, who headed Hanna for almost 29 years. Crews, an ordained Catholic priest and Navy reserve chaplain, left under a cloud when the relative of an alleged victim who had since died contacted the Diocese of Santa Rosa to report an act of sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred in the early 1970s.
The alleged victim and only witness was dead, and no corroboration was possible, but Crews immediately submitted his resignation to avoid any publicity damage to Hanna. Board members of the center made a point of stating that no complaints against Crews had ever been voiced during his decades at Hanna.
Farragher said he had an hour-long phone conversation with Crews Wednesday, and when he addressed an assembly of the center’s boys Thursday, he told them, “I know I’m not here to replace him (Crews). I’ve worked in places where you’re not supposed to talk about the person you replace. That’s BS. You should never, ever forget him. You should keep him in your heart. Father Crews is a wonderful man. We give him his due.”
Asked by a student how he will manage the institution, Farragher answered, “I’m not going to change anything right away. It’s already working very well. I think I’m smart enough not to screw it up.”
Farragher, whose father was a police officer killed in a traffic accident when he was 6-months-old, told the Hanna boys, “I was not a great student, I thought I was a bit of a dope. But I had people in my life who believed in me. I’m here not because I’m brilliant … but because people believed in me. And what we’re going to do, what has been done here for decades, is find that place in you.”