Susan Farmer ’04H was the first woman elected to statewide office in Rhode Island. She was General Manager of Rhode Island PBS for nearly 30 years. She was inducted to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2010. In short, Susan left a profound legacy in her home state and beyond, and, thanks to the generosity of her husband, Malcolm, that legacy of principled leadership continues to impact students at Bryant University.
Susan never earned a college degree, but that never held her back, says Malcolm. “She wanted to go to work,” he says, “and she did.” Throughout her career, she went to work on causes that were important to her, including women’s rights, public television, and civil rights and social justice. In recognition of her outstanding life’s work, Bryant awarded her an Honorary Degree in 2004. Susan and Malcolm became close with then-President Ronald K. Machtley ’21H, P’06MBA, and they continued to stay engaged with the Bryant community.
When Susan passed away in 2013, Malcolm created the Susan L. Farmer Endowed Scholarship at Bryant to celebrate her legacy. Each year, the scholarship is awarded to a student of color who is a varsity athlete, with a preference for a student from Providence. Malcolm says these criteria reflect some of his and Susan’s shared passions: improving access to higher education for historically marginalized groups, watching and playing sports together, and investing in the city where they lived for nearly all their lives. “What motivates me is the character of the students,” says Malcolm, who has engaged deeply with each of the scholarship recipients, of whom there have so far been four, as a mentor and advisor. “It’s been an honor to be in this position. Whatever generosity I have enacted has been rewarding beyond belief.”
In the 2022-2023 academic year, the Farmer Scholarship went to Eli Infante ’25, a politics and law major and defensive back on the Bulldogs football team. “He wants to be a lawyer so badly, it hurts,” says Malcolm, who is himself a well-respected attorney and partner at the law firm Hinckley Allen in their Providence office. Malcolm came from a privileged background, attending private schools throughout his childhood before attending Yale and Harvard Law School, where he completed his law degree in 1964. Moved to anger and stirred to action by the injustices he saw in the South during the civil rights movement, however, he quit his comfortable first job at Hinckley Allen to go to Mississippi and become a defense attorney for civil rights activists in 1965. “It completely changed me as a person,” Malcolm says. “I was immensely rewarded by the experience of helping other people in an extraordinarily important mission for justice against racism.” Invigorated by his time in Mississippi, Malcolm ultimately returned to Hinckley Allen and spent the rest of his career in Providence with the firm.
“What motivates me is the character of the students. It’s been an honor to be in this position. Whatever generosity I have enacted has been rewarding beyond belief.”
When he met Eli, Malcolm learned that he shared his passion for social justice and the law, and he built an internship program for Eli at Hinckley Allen for the summer of 2023, where he worked alongside law student summer clerks. “Meeting Malcolm Farmer was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” says Eli, who always looked up to his godfather, a lawyer. He dreamed of becoming an attorney, but he thought his commitment to football, as well as the cost of law school tuition, would get in the way of that dream. His internship with Hinckley Allen changed his perspective. “I was able to meet with people who are doing what I want to do,” says Eli. “Malcolm Farmer has put those things within reach for me.”
Eli made a tremendously positive impression on Malcolm and the entire firm during his internship, and Malcolm is confident he has a bright future ahead of him. “From the day he walked in,” Malcolm says, “I had people telling me how incredibly great this young intern was.” Eli is enrolled in the Bryant-Villanova “3+3” program, which enables him to complete his undergraduate requirements at Bryant in three years, and, once he meets all the requirements, to enroll at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law for three years to earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree.
Malcolm says he plans to continue mentoring future recipients of the Farmer Scholarship as long as he can. “Every one of them is a huge tribute to Bryant,” he says. “Susan would be overjoyed if she were able to meet the scholarship winners.”