In Memoriam: Dr. David Larsen

By Purnell T. Cropper | March 9, 2015

David Larsen, Ph.D., a widely recognized leader in international education who helped grow Arcadia University’s Center for Education Abroad into one of the country’s largest and most respected campus-based study abroad programs, passed away on March 2. He was 74.

Dr. Larsen joined Arcadia in 1988 as vice president and director of the Center for Education Abroad. He played an integral role in transforming Arcadia University into a leader in international education, helping to establish educational field studies for first-year students and the first-year semester abroad program; overseeing a dramatic increase in enrollment in study abroad; developing innovative overseas programs; and ushering in an innovative General Education program to deliver an integrated global experience for students.

Throughout the course of his career at Arcadia, more than 30,000 students from colleges and universities around the country studied abroad through the Center. Under Dr. Larsen’s leadership, the Center for Education Abroad was recognized in 2001 by the American Council on Education as one of eight American institutions demonstrating promising practices of campus internationalization, resulting in the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. When Dr. Larsen began his position at Arcadia, the Center for Education Abroad’s programming was limited to Britain, Ireland, and a few small programs in Austria and Germany. By the end of his tenure, the Center had expanded to offer programs in Africa, Central America, Australia, Asia, and throughout Europe.

In 2008, Dr. Larsen retired from his position at the Center for Education Abroad, though he remained at Arcadia as a special assistant to the president from 2008 to 2010, focusing on the University’s interactions with the Alliance for Global Education and with partner institutions in this initiative.

“The impact that David Larsen has had on Arcadia University is incalculable, and his contributions to Arcadia have left an incredible legacy,” said Dr. Nicolette DeVille Christensen, president of Arcadia. “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.”

Among the awards that Dr. Larsen earned during his career are the Education Abroad Leadership Award and Life Membership status from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the Peter A. Wollitzer Advocacy Award from the Forum on Education Abroad (which held its inaugural meeting on the Beaver College campus), the Charles Klasek Award from the Association of International Education Administrators, and the W. LaMarr Kopp Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pennsylvania Council for International Education. A founding board member for the Forum on Education Abroad and a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors, Dr. Larsen also served on the Inter-Associational Task Force on Health and Safety in Study Abroad and chaired the Health and Safety Committee of the Section on U.S. Students Abroad (SECUSSA).

Dr. Larsen published on study abroad and international education, including the chapter Study Abroad and Campus Internationalization in A History of US Study Abroad: 1965 to Present (2010), a special issue of Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad.

“At every turn in his professional career, Dr. Larsen was first and foremost an educator, dedicated to the proposition that a global education has a profound potential to transform individual lives, communities, institutions, and our world,” said Lorna Stern, vice president of Arcadia University and executive director of The College of Global Studies. “What is most laudable and memorable to each and every one of us who has had the pleasure to work with him is the kind, modest, and generous spirit that was brought to each endeavor and the unwavering focus on the worth of each individual’s contribution to our common purpose.” (Click here for Stern’s heartfelt tribute to Dr. Larsen.)

Upon Dr. Larsen’s retirement, Arcadia dedicated Larsen Hall, the building that houses The College of Global Studies (The Center for Education Abroad was elevated to College status in 2009, creating The College of Global Studies, the first College of its kind dedicated to the development and delivery of education abroad). The University also established The David C. Larsen Endowed Scholarship for International Education, presented to accomplished students who display a strong interest in international education, and The David C. Larsen Award in International Studies, presented to a senior International Studies major who has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and intellectual engagement in global issues.

Prior to joining the Center for Education Abroad, Dr. Larsen was director of the Center for International Education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and served as a director of a division of the Institute of International Education in New York. In 1973, he received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English literature at the University of Thessaloniki for two years before becoming executive director of the Educational Foundation in Greece (a Fulbright Program based in Athens) from 1974 to 1980.

A native of Portland, Maine, Dr. Larsen earned a B.A. in Economics at Colby College in Maine, an M.A. in English at the University of Maine, and a Ph.D. in Education at Union Graduate School in Ohio.

Dr. Larsen is survived by his wife of 39 years, Wani (Zitrides); children David (Corina), Deanna, and Peter; two grandchildren; and a sister.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the David C. Larsen Endowed Scholarship for International Education at Arcadia University.