David Larsen - Friend and Colleague

As we remember him...

 

The impact that David Larsen has had on Arcadia University is incalculable, and his contributions to Arcadia have left an incredible legacy. David’s visionary leadership in the field of international education quite literally opened up the world to thousands of students, providing innovative study abroad opportunities for so many. He also served as a mentor to a countless number of international education faculty and staff, drawing upon his skills as a teacher to provide insight and expertise to those at Arcadia and around the world.”

- Dr. Nicolette DeVille Christensen, President, Arcadia University

 

David had the unique ability to make everyone around him better - better educators, better writers, better workers, and better human beings. I don't know that I fully understand how he achieved this, since he was neither very talkative nor expressive but he conveyed it nonetheless.

Perhaps it was because he quietly inspired those around him to do the right thing knowing that you had his faith and support. He made people better - and by extension he made the world better. And for that, the world owes him its gratitude."

- David Rudd, Director of Research and Assessment, The College of Global Studies, Arcadia University

 

David Larsen was my boss for nearly twenty years and my colleague and friend for more than twenty-five. He gave an honesty and integrity to leading Arcadia’s international programming, rooted deep in his character. That hallmark of integrity stabilised Arcadia’s work in international education; built and grew its programmes. His integrity underpinned the trust that led so many US universities and colleges to send their students on Arcadia’s programmes and so many overseas institutions to join with Arcadia in educating those students.

To our work together, he brought an unequalled work ethic and self-discipline I could not match but only learn from and strive for. These strengths I found had been earned in his own struggles with himself to succeed and achieve personally and professionally. He expected the same high standards from everyone who worked with him. He judged our work together clearly and in the best sense strictly. You always knew where you stood with David professionally. Personally, he always tempered that judgment of others with compassion and sympathy for individual circumstances and limits in students and in staff. He supported me through some difficult times and in spite of some bad decisions. You never failed with David, but you always tried to do more, better with his backing.

And he was fun with a boyish sense of mischief that might have once tied tin cans to a car bumper and with a sharp eye and ear for irony that punctured pomposity and deflated hyperbole. He would be laughing at that last flowery sentence; then argue about its length and punctuation. I relished arguing with David, batting back and forth a shuttlecock of ideas, fun and earnest, sometimes just to watch them fly. Every new place we went together there was something interesting he wanted to discuss, for work or just for the pleasure of getting to know it. He was an educator, whose purpose was to lead his colleagues and his students in learning.

He met the debilitating illness that has taken him from us with the honesty, strength, and irony that informed his life. When I last spoke with him a few months ago and asked how he was doing, in a failing voice he said flatly, “I’m still here” – matter of fact, unresigned, realistic, with a glitter of irony as if “What did you expect?” His strength is still here with me."

- Will Migniuolo, Director of British Operations (retired), Center for Education Abroad, Arcadia University

 

When I think of David, I remember his guidance and trust, his straightforwardness and transparency, the simplicity with which he went about his mission, the fact that he did not suffer fools.

David equated, simply yet brilliantly, the broadening-of-minds and crossing-of-borders through education with a wiser, better-equipped, finer society; he saw a direct correlation between the increase in numbers of Americans studying overseas and the increase of acceptance and solidarity among neighbors. David had (and appreciated in others) a keen intuition: the team he had put together was by far and away the most eccentric, intelligent, kind, honest and dedicated force I could ever imagine having the joy of joining. The insight with which he melded walks of life, varied academic and life experiences to form a highly functioning, resilient and trustworthy body of people is exemplary and, in a standardized world, rapidly becoming a lost art. David had a quick-wit and short fuse and a refreshingly direct manner of using both. In fact, I foresee many a David story will be told in the coming months over a glass of wine or ouzo or Scotch, recalling the quips and counter-quips over the years and I very much look forward to every opportunity to remember him."

- Tina M. Rocchio, Resident Director for Italy Programs, The College of Global Studies, Arcadia University

 

David Larsen began as my boss but was so much more than that. He was my mentor. He was a man with a true curiosity of the world and the people before him. Whichever country he was in, he wanted to scratch the surface and gain a true understanding of what made the place tick. In NZ he quickly discovered the NZ National Radio station and would listen for hours and then quiz me on local politics. He was a man who reminded us constantly that everything we did, we did for students, and every penny we spent was money from students for students. The student came first. I rang him once and said I wanted to move a group of students to different accommodation but it would cost more. His question: “What is best for the students?” – now, years later, in tricky situations I find myself asking that same simple question: What is best for the students?

Not only was he a great colleague, he was a witty correspondent. I reported once that despite me being in NZ my Arcadia credit card had somehow been used fraudulently in Spain. David signed his email that day ‘Adios amigo’ and that remained my sign off to him ever after. Another time, a student rang me at 11 pm to ask me how to get a chocolate stain out of her pale blue merino sweater. I gave an appropriate answer but the next morning I got up at 6 am and shot out a sharp email to the student explaining that she was most welcome to call me anytime if there was an emergency but frankly I doubted she would call her own parents at 11 pm about something as non-urgent as how to wash her pale blue sweater. I then had sender’s remorse and forwarded my email to David saying that I hoped there was not any negative fallout from such a grumpy email. David immediately emailed back “Well written missive – and by the way how do you get a chocolate stain out of a pale blue merino wool sweater?”

So dear David, my Gandalf and Professor Dumbledore rolled into one, I will miss your cheeky sense of humour. I still quote you (my favourite: Our jobs depend on the decision-making skills of twenty year old Americans – be afraid!) You made me laugh. You taught me so much and made me a better person. Your voice still guides me through the craziness of this job. My heart goes out to Wani and your family. I thank you.

Adios Amigo."

- Jane Gunn-Lewis, Director, New Zealand, The College of Global Studies, Arcadia University

 

I visited David and Wani about a month ago. David's ability to speak had been compromised, but not his desire to communicate. We spoke about Greece and the January elections which, at that time, were little more than a week old. He was anxious to learn my thoughts and hear my opinions and, when one of them struck him, that twitch appeared. You know the one: direct eye contact in an otherwise quite expressionless face and, whammo, the left corner of his mouth would twitch. It made me laugh and cry at the same time to see that twitch again. Such a tiny gesture that, if you blinked, you would miss it but how many times have I been on the receiving end of it?"

- Jan Sanders, Regional Director of Mediterranean Programs, The College of Global Studies, Arcadia University

 

David was such a lovely person and always took an interest in who you were and what you were up to....a rare person indeed..."

- Ned Quigley, Associate Director for Engagement, Brown University

 

David was a sweet man, genuine, honest and always positive and helpful. He was a very good friend to the University of Limerick and to Ireland generally. He left his mark on ethical and educational best practice in education abroad and the field is richer and more rewarding for all due to his deep thought, effective advocacy and implementation in Glenside."

- Liam Ó Dochartaigh, Former Director International Education, University of Limerick

 

It was with great sadness that I learned of David's passing. He was a great mentor and a true friend. I was one of the last members of the Arcadia family to be hired by David before he retired. It was, and still is, a great blessing and honor to be a small part of this wonderful mans legacy. The world is a better place because of his vision and his passion. He will be dearly missed, but will continue to set the standard for what we all can hope to be."

- Todd Karr

 

It was in the context of a couple of rounds on the Arcadia "NAB" that I had the privilege to learn from David Larsen – just by watching him work – the most important lessons I've learned on leadership and professionalism. What a thoroughly and singularly decent, kind, and wise presence!"

- Jeremy Geller

 

I first met David during my interview at Arcadia. I was taken by his knowledge, humor and pointed questions. He told me even though I did not have much experience in study abroad, they were going to take a chance on me. That was 11 years ago and my formative years in the field and at Arcadia were thankfully under David's leadership.

While not based in Glenside, I did not see him daily. However, each time I did, I felt like an integral a part of his team - we all mattered and he cared what we had to report from our corner of the globe. Listening to him speak when Larsen Hall was dedicated several years ago will forever remind me what he taught me and shared with the field - be ethical, have integrity, do what is right. I will be forever grateful that he took that chance on me."

- Wendy Lombardo, Associate Director, The College of Global Studies, Arcadia University

 

David was the one that took a chance on me and gave me my first 'real' job after college. In the 1990s, I worked ask his assistant for several months while pining for a job as a program coordinator at the Center for Education Abroad (which I later worked as for four years). He was patient with my poor secretarial skills as he gently guided my continuing education in proper letter construction (I still have a lot to learn). He was quiet, yet thoughtful, unassuming and deeply aware of all that was happening around him. He would read a room and inspire others to be as mindful, upstanding and thoughtful about their choices. His commitment to the programs taught me that a leader/boss can be full of integrity, hope and promise. He believed in his work.

I didn't know it at the time but, he was the boss that set the bar for integrity in a workplace, appropriate personal/workplace boundaries, teaching and leading while respecting and encouraging his employees.

I am grateful that I was able to know him and work for him. He was one of a kind and I am pleased to know of the scholarship fund in his honor. It befits a man like him. Thank you David for all you did. You were an outstanding man full of integrity."

- Audrianna J. Gurr Nee' Jones

 

It is very sad news, but it is also a celebration of a very full and generous life. David’s family should be very proud of his wonderful achievements and also the significant number of lives he has touched around the world in such a profound and positive way It is a rare and wonderful legacy."

- Josephine Page, University of Limerick