Michelle Coke Farmer
Executive Director of Advancement, Assumption High School
Family: Husband Josh; children Katelyn, Morgan, and Garrett; dogs Reece and Scooter
By Carrie Vittitoe | Photo by Kylene White
Michelle Coke Farmer never dreamed she would work in fundraising at her alma mater. She had a background in banking, moved to event planning for Indiana University Foundation, and then into healthcare philanthropy. Her work at Assumption involves meetings and phone calls with various stakeholders and coordinating special events to bring attention to and funding for the various programs and plans that the school has. She oversees a department that manages alumni relations, fundraising events, parent volunteers, and scholarship establishment.
What is an added bonus of your position?
Not only being around my team but the students, faculty, and staff. I genuinely enjoy the people I’m surrounded with. I feel really lucky to work in a school environment. I never know who I will have the opportunity to talk to, and I love connecting with people of all ages.
What is the challenge of working in advancement?
Trying to think of new ways to create engagement opportunities for alum, parents, and supporters of Assumption and keeping them informed about the advancements we’re making in education and with our students. Our education experience is constantly evolving.
What is something you’ve realized about yourself?
I’ve learned that I’m very resilient and I find my energy by helping others. I’ve learned more recently to prioritize what I allow to occupy mental energy and what I try to minimize to keep things in perspective.
How do you empower women?
By offering a listening ear, a smile, or a hug. I hear about their ups and downs, school decisions, and stressors. It’s important to be a positive role model both inside and out of the school building. Recently, through my own battle with breast cancer, it was important for me to keep a smile on my face, demonstrate strength, and show my belief in faith which helped me get up every day and see the positive.
What is a smell that you love?
I’ve always loved balsam because it reminds me of the holidays and is so refreshing. But during my cancer treatment, one of the nurses taking care of me used Diva Detergent and that became my favorite scent for washing blankets and towels. It’s a comforting scent.
What is the best mistake you’ve ever made?
Buying my dog Scooter from a yard sale without telling my husband until I pulled into the driveway on Mother’s Day weekend. I didn’t think too much about the fact that we were preparing to sell our home in a few months and we’d be training a new puppy. All I could think is that our dog Reece needed a companion and this sweet little guy needed a home.
What is the most adventurous experience you’ve ever had?
My husband and I took our kids to Yellowstone in 2013. One of the hiking trails had been closed due to a momma grizzly and her cubs. After a short conversation with the rangers, they invited us to walk with them; they were trying to see if it was clear yet. While we were walking back, the momma grizzly and her cubs appeared within 20 yards of us. Our oldest daughter was a couple feet in front of us; all of a sudden, the momma bear raised up on her back legs. The rangers heard us yelling and came running.
What is a movie you can watch over and over and over again?
Dirty Dancing. I loved everything about it: the innocence of Jennifer Grey, this young woman trying to find herself, the music and the dancing.
What is something that you’re kind of fanatical about?
[At home], I really like to have clean countertops and vacuuming. At work, I’m really big on highlighting things. Highlighting gives me a visual of what’s in progress, what’s our goal, what needs to happen. I’m big on color-coding.