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TFAS Welcomes Inaugural John Farley Memorial Alumni Fund Fellow

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TFAS is pleased to welcome Charles McElwee as the inaugural recipient of the John Farley Memorial Alumni Fund Fellowship, which was renamed this year to honor TFAS friend and former colleague, the late John Farley.

More than 100 Novak Fellows looked to John as a leader, mentor and friend during his leadership of the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship program for more than 20 years. His legacy lives on through his family, the work of countless Fellows and this newly renamed Fellowship.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, Novak ’01, recalled John as an “incredibly kind man” who provided peace and guidance as she began her writing career.

“I remember starting my Fellowship project right after 9/11 and being so uncertain of how or whether to continue,” she said. “He was such a reassuring presence and is truly missed.”

Tom Sileo, Novak ’10, shared how John took him from an “unemployed blogger to a published author working on his fifth book.”

“Without John’s guidance and belief in my work at the earliest stage, I would not be where I am today,” he said. “At the same time, John’s friendship meant even more to me than his mentorship. I miss him dearly and still instinctively pick up my phone to text him during Washington Nationals games. John was brilliant, loyal and kind, and left a huge mark on those lucky enough to know and learn from him. My wife and I continue to pray for the entire Farley family.”

Without John’s guidance and belief in my work at the earliest stage, I would not be where I am today … John was brilliant, loyal and kind, and left a huge mark on those lucky enough to know and learn from him. – Tom Sileo, Novak ’10 

John Farley, a beloved former colleague and friend who led the Novak Fellowship program for more than 20 years, passed away on March 30.

Colleen Carroll Campbell, Novak ’00, said John’s passing was a loss “not only for the TFAS family, but for all who cared about serious journalism and the value of robust, civil discourse in our caustic, superficial age,” calling the Fellowship a fitting tribute to him.

“John was the heart and soul of the Novak Journalism Fellowship program for many years,” she said. “For those of us honored to work with him, he was even more: an unfailingly kind and invaluable mentor, a genuinely enthusiastic supporter who cheered our every success, and a refreshing mix of genial charm and genuine conviction.”

She remembers John as someone who “never pulled his punches about what he believed,” yet “his humility, good humor, and quiet, rock-solid faith spoke volumes.”

“He treated others as he would want to be treated, and lived a life of principled service to the end,” Campbell said. “I think that explains that perennial twinkle in John’s eye and his winning smile, the sense you got when chatting with him that no matter how crazy this world gets, it’s a gift to be alive and in the mix.”

John never pulled his punches about what he believed. Yet his humility, good humor, and quiet, rock-solid faith spoke volumes. He treated others as he would want to be treated, and lived a life of principled service to the end.” – Colleen Carroll Campbell, Novak ’00

TFAS and the entire Novak Fellowship community are proud to help continue John’s legacy through this Fellowship for many years to come. The Fellowship is funded through contributions from Novak Fellowship alumni who generously gave in honor of John Farley.

Inaugural Fellow Charles McElwee is the managing editor at the Commonwealth Foundation, and was previously assistant editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. A lifelong Pennsylvanian, McElwee has worked in the government affairs and communications sectors in Harrisburg, and the economic-development sector in Hazleton, where he spearheaded revitalization and historic preservation projects.

His project, “Pennsylvania: A Microcosm of America’s Political Realignment,” will focus on the shift from the state’s republican history to a now battleground state. McElwee called the Fellowship a program which “leads the way in helping writers and reporters pursue their professional aspirations.”

“Through the Fellowship, I hope to distinguish myself as a nationally recognized journalist who focuses on politics and culture,” McElwee said. “I envision a career writing, reporting, and discussing our nation’s politics in articles and books, as well as media appearances. The Fellowship serves as a professional foundation to improve my skills as a journalist and support my long-term goals.”

TFAS will formally award McElwee with the Fellowship on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at our 2020 Journalism Awards Dinner, held both in person at the National Press Club and online via a webcast. Reserve tickets here.

To learn more about John’s life and legacy, please visit TFAS.org/Farley. To learn more about the 2020 Robert Journalism Fellowship recipients, please visit TFAS.org/Novak20.

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