|By BETH TYLER
Who is David Larson? He’s 900-year-old Chinese coins, a December 1963 issue of the former Soviet Union newspaper Pravda and traditional family photos. He’s everything from North Dakota to Russia. He’s eclectic, captivating and irreplaceable. And he’s retiring after 31 years of teaching at Hendrix College.
I asked him about his favorite memory at Hendrix. He said I stumped him on the first question. “Memories keep coming to surface,” he said as he began to shuffle through his desk.
“For example, here’s a piece of the Berlin Wall.” It reminded him of a time when some Hendrix students studying in Oxford called him. They told him the wall was coming down and asked if they should go. “I thought students were supposed to be the height of irresponsibility. I learned here they’re not.” These students continued working through the weekend on their upcoming paper and missed the fall of the Berlin Wall.
I then watched his eyes scale the walls of his office. Postcards from students like the “Montana designated driver” to one of the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile in front of the Washington Monument covered one wall. Larson caricatures and an autograph of Otto Von Habsburg, heir to the Austrian Empire, were two pieces of the puzzle on another wall.
It looked as if he were flipping through a photo album of memories in his mind.
“I’ve got to dismantle it,” he said, speaking of his office. “It’s going to be hard.”
He paused, as if the memories were too many for him to catch. Another pause. A sigh. A warm smile. Sometime over 31 years life happened. And somehow, it was all captured here, in the same office that Dr. Larson entered on his first day in 1975.
So what’s next for Dr. Larson? Well, after he empties his office, he’s going to take pictures of the places on campus that have not changed over his time here. “However,” he said, “I like change. It’s now looking the way it’s supposed to look. I can’t imagine a parent not saying to their student ‘this is what a college should look like.’ ”
Once the photos and a to-do list with 15 items (and growing) around the house are complete, he and his wife, Marilyn, plan to travel to Alaska and North Dakota to visit family and then he’ll continue his research on his hometown of Park River, N. D.. Next, Larson said he will lapse into something he always said he wouldn’t do – write his boyhood memoirs.
“I’m really grateful…really, really grateful…that I got to spend my career here. God, they’ve been a good bunch,” he said.
No, Dr. Larson, we’re grateful. Thank you and farewell.