Pasadena Tournament of Roses Past President Laura Farber still believes in “The Power of Hope.”
Months after her reign as president, the theme she chose for the 131st 2020 Rose Parade seems more poignant than ever amid the global pandemic and resulting shutdowns that have paralyzed society and led to the cancellation of the iconic 132nd parade on New Year’s Day.
Parade officials last week cited Gov. Gavin Newsom’s phase 4 reopening schedule, health restrictions enacted to slow the spread of coronavirus and interruption of the lengthy preparation needed by participants as their reason for canceling the 2021 parade. But there is still hope that the 107th Rose Bowl Game, “the Granddaddy of Them All,” will deliver an exciting collegiate contest to fans starving for entertainment — and sports.
“As of today, the Rose Bowl Game remains as scheduled. As a College Football Playoff Semifinal game, we continue to work with our partners at the CFP and will work to accommodate any possible schedule changes to the college football season,” said Farber, who this year is chairman of the football committee and also is chairman of the Rose Bowl Management Committee, which oversees the game, for a five-year term.
This year, the game will feature two of the top four collegiate teams, with the other two playing in a semifinal in New Orleans’ Sugar Bowl. There might be some restrictions on whether a live audience is allowed to sit in the iconic Rose Bowl’s stands, but the game is expected to go on.
“We don’t know if there will be anyone in the stands — it will likely be very different than what we are used to. But as far as we can tell there have been extensive protocols in place for the safety and protection of the players,” she said. “The Rose Bowl game follows the UCLA football season, which plays at the Rose Bowl, so there will be a lot of lessons learned here and procedures already put into place that will make the game that much easier.”
Part of Farber’s job is to coordinate with the Big Ten and Pac-12 conference commissioners. Though the timing of the fall football season is yet to be announced, Farber is making sure the RBMC is ready for any scenario.
“I’m focused on keeping the dialogue going with the people that are responsible for making decisions on what their season will look like — what is our timeline going to be, how will we implement this. … We need the bigger picture of what does this mean, what are the financial implications, there is so much to this equation,” she said. “We need to keep checking and modifying as we go so we can make decisions a little more nimbly.”
The RBMC is preparing for all scenarios which might include a game played only on television, with no fans attending in person. Or, if there are fans, only 15,000 will likely be allowed to sit in the stands that typically can hold 94,000. If there are fans, there is also immense planning to socially distance them while they’re in their seats, in the parking lot, at the gates and in the concession lines, Farber noted.
“There are so many unknowns, that is what is so interesting and also challenging for us right now,” she added. “What we do know is that MLB is going to start and the NFL is going to start, so we will take our lead by others going first.”
Farber is the first Latina and only the second woman — after Libby Evans Wright — to serve on the Tournament’s RBMC. She was the third woman to serve as Tournament president in 2020 of the 935-member volunteer organization and has been a volunteer since 1993.
Her theme for that year, “The Power of Hope,” or “Poder de la Esperanza” as she quickly says in Spanish, was a tribute to all who have immigrated to the United States in search of hope and a better life, just as her own parents did when they left Argentina in the 1960s. It’s the first time in Tournament history that “hope” has been used in the theme.
Farber was a toddler when her parents left Argentina as social unrest was growing and being met with violent government response. They had a connection in Santa Barbara, and later relocated to Monterey Park, where Farber grew up. She graduated from Alhambra High School and went on to UCLA before earning a law degree from Georgetown University. There, she met husband Tomas Lopez, who had a similar early childhood — his parents fled the Dominican Republic when he was young to escape the violent Rafael Trujillo regime.
Farber speaks about hope as part of the immigrant experience, and also relates it to the widespread marches and protests that have taken place since George Floyd, a black man, died while in police custody in Minneapolis, an event that has called attention to other similar killings of black men and women and racial injustice.
“I think it’s long overdue, some might say, by 400 years. I believe change must happen and actions are imperative right now,” she said. “I think every institution and every individual needs to reflect and examine themselves … people need to embrace that change and say ‘Black Lives Matter.’ I will say it proudly.
“We are living in unprecedented times for , and this is a multilayered pandemic. But I am always hopeful. I am hopeful this momentum will make for permanent change.”
LEADING IN A PANDEMIC
Farber, an attorney with Pasadena’s oldest law firm Hahn & Hahn, has been working remotely since mid-March, sharing the house with her two children and husband.
“We’ve got our own rooms to work in and we’ve got our masks if we have to go anywhere. We’re good citizens. I’ve been pretty hermit-ized — I do a lot of walking and I’ve done a self-serve car wash,” she said, laughing.
She quickly pivoted to the Tournament, how despite the pandemic it’s been very active in the community, distributing lunches for Pasadena Unified School District children and more recently offering its headquarters as a COVID-19 test site. The Tournament’s foundation also has chosen scholars for its annual scholarship program.
Hahn & Hahn partner Scott Jenkins, himself a TOR past president and 39-year volunteer at the nonprofit, said that while this year has been a trying one for everyone at the organization, Farber has handled the uncertainty and pressure on the RBMC with flying colors.
“This year requires a person at the helm who has very good judgment, and Laura has excellent judgment. She’s smart, energetic, determined, hard-working and goal oriented, and she’s full of life,” he said. “All those things help her lead with wisdom — the tournament is lucky to have her in this role at this time.
“Nobody has the right answers right now. This isn’t one of those situations where you can go to the history books and look up what’s been done before. But she brings intelligence and experience and listens to all these opinions and then works to bring a good consensus decision.”
Past President Gerald Freeny also praised Farber’s steadfastness.
“Laura is doing just great, she represents us wonderfully,” he said. “It’s been nerve-wracking, waiting and watching to see what the conferences are going to do, she’s handled it all very well and with a lot of patience.”
As for the final call, Farber expects the conferences to begin making decisions in a matter of weeks, and in the meantime, she is, of course, hopeful.
“We’re ready and rolling and we are very excited because we know people are trying hard to find things to look forward to, and being able to look forward to a Rose Bowl Game is huge,” she said. “We plan to keep the Tournament legacy going of spreading hope and joy around the world.”