Bonnita Farmer, a former professor and chair of the Department of Human Nutrition & Food Science, has died from complications from a fall.
Farmer began teaching at Cal Poly Pomona in September 1979. In addition to teaching and serving as the department chair, she was a founding member of the Beta Psi chapter of Phi Upsilon Omicron, a national honor society in family and consumer sciences. She served as department chair from 1983 to 1990.
“Back in 1997 when Dr. Marie Caudill and I were hired, Dr. Farmer kindly invited us to her home for dinner and made us feel welcome,” said Martin Sancho-Madriz, associate dean of the College of Environmental Design and a former chair of the Department of Human Nutrition & Food Science. “She was very enthusiastic about the Phi Upsilon Omicron (Phi U) Honor Society and was the advisor of Cal Poly Pomona’s Beta Psi Chapter. She made sure that both Dr. Caudill and I were inducted into the honor society as soon as we were eligible.”
Professor Bonny Burns-Whitmore recalled Farmer’s connection with her students.
“As a teacher, her students loved her. Her office was down the hall from mine, and she always had an office full of happy, chatty, motivated students,” Burns-Whitemore said. “Even after she retired, Bonnie would invite Phi U student members to her cabin in the mountains and teach them how to cook pizza or other dishes she learned from her and her husband Walter’s worldwide travels.”
Born in Bloomington, Ind., Farmer earned her bachelor’s degree in home economics from Indiana University. She met her husband of 55 years, Walter, in Bloomington. Walter Farmer is a professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences at UC Riverside. Bonnita Farmer later earned her master’s degrees in textile chemistry and consumer economics from the University of Illinois and her doctorate in sociology at UC Riverside.
Prior to joining Cal Poly Pomona, Farmer taught as a professor for 11 years at Loma Linda University and was also a cooperative extension specialist while at Purdue University.
She retired from Cal Poly Pomona in 2004.
In retirement, she served six years as president of the Green Valley Lake-based Mountain Community Alliance, a nonprofit charitable foundation dedicated to promoting education, community health and safety, restoration, environmental awareness and economic prosperity in the San Bernardino Mountains. She also worked with local schools, helping children begin their journey in higher education.
Farmer also was a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, national and Inland Empire chapters. She was active on local issues in the city of Riverside including serving as chair of the Board of Directors for the Riverside Metropolitan Museum.
In addition to her husband, Walter, Farmer is survived by two daughters, Margaret Kenrick and Melissa Farmer Coste; and grandchildren Samantha Kaufhold, Anthony Kenrick, Katelyn Coste, and Nathan Coste.
A celebration of life ceremony will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 5, at the First Congregational Church, 3755 Lemon St., Riverside. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be sent to the charities that Farmer supported, including the American Heart Association.