In this season of graduations we celebrate not just the accomplishments of our Templeton seniors, but also our alumni. This month, Nathan Farris (’13) will graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Law School and begin as a real estate attorney at Ballard Spahr, a Philadelphia-based law firm. Nathan is “fascinated by how space affects human interaction.” I’ve always had an intuitive notion that certain patterns of real estate and buildings are good for us while others are not,” he reflected. Considering that both Nathan’s father and brother are involved in real estate in Kansas, Nathan’s interest is not a surprise, but it was as a Templeton student that he realized this vocation was a profoundly Christian calling: “I read Philip Bess’s essay, ‘Why Design Matters’ and began to understand that different physical environments change the way that the community functions together, raising questions of what forms of building and land use are best – and how these intersect with our stewardship responsibilities as Christians.”
This sense of stewardship is obvious when Nathan speaks of his education, career, and marriage. “Dostoyevsky has a quote where he talks about young men who are eager to serve humanity and are willing to sacrifice their lives but not willing to sacrifice a few years of youth to hard study in order to multiply their power to serve… Templeton lowered my expectations in a healthy, humbling way: It takes moderation, it takes years to build a career. You have to build a skill base; you have to build a network; you have to gain understanding, experience.”
At Templeton, Nathan was formed both intellectually and personally. His writing skills were developed and he learned to engage thoughtfully with difficult ideas in his study of Economics, Philosophy and Entrepreneurship. The deep and engaging questions prepared him to succeed in more technical analysis at Penn.
Law has been the perfect field for Nathan because it is academically rigorous but also practical: “My decision was a slow process,” he reflected, “I really liked legal theory. I loved the highly intellectual nature of philosophy, but I didn’t like that it was esoteric. Law is creative problem solving which is right up my alley: I like that law turns into something real. Law is how we govern ourselves. Someone’s life and livelihood are at stake. It’s always grounded in someone’s experience, but it’s still highly intellectual.” During his time at Penn, Nathan was one of only 50 other students selected as a member of law review, the forum through which law schools publish legal scholarship. University of Pennsylvania’s Law Review is the oldest in the country, so this is no small honor, but even more impressive, Nathan was one of 12 student students selected to publish a comment, his on using tax policy to minimize suburban sprawl.
Nathan’s academic and professional resume is impressive, but it’s his eagerness to understand the world and contribute to it that truly sets him apart. “Templeton prepared me to analyze things and be comfortable with questions, not reactionary. My peers at Penn are smart and come from the best undergraduate institutions in the country, but many just want to achieve, achieve, achieve in an aimless way.” For Nathan, his faith keeps him out of this cycle of meaningless achievement, because everything he achieves is to advance the kingdom of God; in this way his faith “frames everything.” “I’m against the idea that there’s a significant distinction between the sacred and secular worlds, your faith should be so integrated that you don’t have to apply it; it’s just part of your life.”
Nathan attributes much of his success to his wife, Betsy, saying he was constantly amazed by how being married helped him get through law school. “When I really had to study, Betsy did all the chores. When I was making a decision I talked to Betsy about it. She’s invested in it. Our lives are connected in a way that is so different than talking to a friend. Being balanced is helpful.”
Balance, moderation, and stewardship, these are the virtues that Nathan uses to describe his journey, and they are sure to bring him success in this next step of life as a husband, community member, and attorney. Congratulations, Nathan! Good luck at Ballard!
Article by Anneke Lujan (’13): Anneke Lujan is the Templeton Honors College’s Program Assistant, where she has been working since she graduated from Templeton in 2013. She was delighted to write this piece about her friend and fellow cohort member. Anneke is currently pursuing a Masters in Multicultural Education, and hopes to bring the joy of learning instilled at Templeton to students in her own classroom one day.