Embracing Every Chapter
At 98 years old, Jan Farrington ’46, née Gucker, spends her summers where she has since she was in utero: at Camp Whippoorwill in the northeastern Adirondacks.
The girls’ summer camp—part of the North Country Camps with its brother camp, Camp Lincoln—was founded by her father Colba “Chief” Gucker in 1931. The camps have been run by a nonprofit foundation since 2018, but, according to their website, have “continued to value and respect the traditions of the Gucker family.”
Farrington jokes that this coming year will be her “99th” summer at Camp Whippoorwill. Until last summer, she was a rowing teacher for the camp—Augur Lake, which borders the property, is one of her favorite places. Before specializing in rowing as a retiree, she taught riflery, then horseback riding for many years, followed by waterfront activities and trip leadership.
“I have never missed a summer,” Farrington said. “Baby, pre-camper, day camper, camper, aide, counselor, section leader, activity leader, and the director for 20 years.”
Nowadays, she’s a consultant and “all-around helper” at the camp. She’s a Cabin Visitor, leaving helpful notes on cleanliness and rewarding those with 10 “excellents” with candy bars. She’s also a mail manager, a general housekeeper, a storekeeper, and general support person. As the camp storyteller, she regales campers with tales of the property’s history around the weekly campfire.
Farrington's multidisciplinary studies at Vassar — which focused on a combination of psychology, sociology, and child study—were put to great use while working with children at the camp.
She’s one of four women in her family to have attended Vassar: Her mother, Gladys (Lyall) Gucker (class of 1914), and her aunts, Agnes Lyall (1905) and Margaret Lyall (1907), are also alums. Farrington lived in Main for a year then she and two roommates moved to Cushing’s tower, where they played “a lot of Canasta, never Bridge.”
“It was a happy time despite the war, and we focused on studying, making friends, barely dating, swimming, playing squash, bicycling around the campus and area,” she said. “I worked in the library at Blodgett, and we all had mandatory chores in the dorms cleaning bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, etc.”
Due to the war, Vassar gave students the option to graduate in three years instead of four. Farrington chose to graduate in three, graduating the year after World War II officially ended.
After Vassar, Farrington married the late Dave Farrington, whom she met at the camp when they were eight-year-old campers. They moved to Syracuse, where she worked at the Psychological Services Center while he pursued degrees in accounting and education. They moved to New Jersey so he could teach. When not at the camp, she kept busy working clerical jobs at Columbia University and then recruited campers and staff for the camp. The couple embarked on what she calls “the adventure of a lifetime,” a six-month tour of England and Europe.
“We bought bikes in Cambridge, pedaled to Scotland and down to Oxford staying in youth hostels, sold the bikes, and sailed to Norway,” Farrington said. “We met new friends in Denmark and traveled with them down through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. From there, we skied in the Alps and in Austria, then on to the Riviera, a tour through Spain, back to Paris, and a trip home on the Queen Mary.”
Upon their return, the Farringtons purchased the home where Jan still resides. They also bought a sailboat, which was leased back to a Caribbean charter service, and took four weeks out of the year to free sail during school vacations.
These days, when not at the camp, Farrington spends her free time volunteering at her church, reading, solving crossword puzzles, and watching Hallmark movies—her guilty pleasure. Before COVID, she volunteered at her local food bank for 25 years.
“Throughout my life, I have been very conscious of the privilege of being a Vassar grad,” she said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to have shared my knowledge and experience and to be able to make a small contribution to the world around me confidently.”
Know of an alum from an earlier class—pre-1960—still thriving and living an extraordinary life? Let us know!