You can tell a lot about a man from his socks. When you catch a glimpse of the socks of Mr. Benny McFarland, you'll almost always see either Chicago Cubs or Mickey Mouse. It says a lot about his personality.
Benny took his first walk along the Purpose Road in the fall of 1982. For many years, he and his wife Betty toured Appalachia to take in the beautiful autumn scenery. A young lady gave them a tour of the campus, and they were immediately taken with the mission of the school and type of students Alice Lloyd College attracts.
"We were just planning to see the trees changing, but we ended up falling in love with this little valley in Pippa Passes. The people were so welcoming and friendly; we knew we were in special place."
In 2017, Benny came back to ALC's campus and had lunch with that same young lady, 35 years later. He said it felt like he had never left. At 87 years old, Benny's memory is as sharp as ever. If you ask where he lives, Benny will proudly tell you that he still lives in " the same old farmhouse" he was born in, right outside of Indianapolis. In 1950, Benny married his high school sweetheart, Betty Lyster. The two enjoyed 62 years of marriage before Betty passed away in 2013. Together, they have 4 kids, 9 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren.
Before retirement, Benny worked for International Harvester, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery. However, his real passions have always been baseball and travel. As a huge Chicago Cubs fan, one of Benny's prized possessions is a World Series ring from 1908. He also has one from the last time the Cubs won in 2016. Even during rough seasons, his faith never wavers, and he looks forward to the day the Cubs will sweep the World Series again.
In addition to taking in baseball, Benny still plays trivia every Monday and gets together with the guys to play cards every Tuesday. He also stays involved with Veterans' organizations, seeking to give back a little to those who gave so much. Most notably, he is also big ALC Eagles fan, and plans to bring some family and friends with him to support the ALC Eagles and Lady Eagles basketball teams in 2019.
Benny's traveling buddy is now Mike, a friend of his son's who sometimes visits ALC with him as well. He says that Mike isn't quite the companion that Betty was, but he's a pretty good driver, so he keeps him around. The two of them often take trips to historical sites and big cities to take in sports and entertainment. Whether it's Hawaii, Chicago, or the sunny beaches of Florida, Benny stays on the move. In fact, he has been to Disney World 36 times with various friends and family and plans to go again next year.
"Why would I want to sit around at home? Life is meant to be lived, not wasted. Even at 87, there are so many things to see and do. I'm proud to give to ALC because the kids here are destined to do great things. It makes you feel good, you know, to help someone; especially someone who's working hard, like the kids here."
Benny reminds us that the mission of Alice Lloyd College is unique among other colleges in the Appalachian region and America. The full richness of life is waiting for those who make it their mission to find and experience it, and Benny sees in ALC students the same thirst for life that he has. Out of all the places he visits in his travels, Alice Lloyd College he says, will always be his favorite.
"God brought me to Pippa Passes during my travels for a reason, the same way he brought all these students here. We all have to do what we can with the time given to us, and I plan on using every last second of mine."