By Tony Ahern
Recently an effort has started to fund a scholarship for two college-bound Madras High School graduating students, a boy and a girl, who excelled and showed improvement in business courses.
The scholarship is to honor Larry T. Larson. and there may be no more deserving scholarship honor to eve come out of Madras High. For nearly 40 years, there wasn't a more dynamic educator within its bricks.
Larson started his career at Madras in 1963, at the old high school, now Westside Elementary. He took his talents to the new school in 1966, and from there helped mold two generations of students. From 1963 to 1991, from the Beatles through Nirvana, from short hair, to long and back to short again, Larry Larson was a constant beacon of excellence at MHS.
Larson's capacity as a teacher was legendary. Students started mentioning the "L Word" in junior high as anticipation set in, and stories made their rounds. The sharper kids couldn't wait to take his classes, to get their chance to engage his intensity.
The legend was quantified, became even thicker, when Larson earned the Oregon Business Teacher of the Year award in 1972.
Eventually nearly all average to above students at MHS would enter his classroom. Immediately, they'd be hit with his energy, his unique presentation, surprise. He challenged the brightest kids and pushed them to new limits. At the same time he could inspire those who struggled. If you hung on, tried hard, he'd carry you to the finish line. You'd learn. But you had to give effort. Larson's radar for bull was finely tuned, and he didn't have time or patience for it.
Larson was both teacher and entertainer. He well knew the simple yet golden nugget of educating teens: the only way to teach them anything was to get them to listen. No easy task. But he had it mastered, largely because kids respected him, but also because they wondered what the heck was coming next.
The smallish man would grab hold of his class immediately with that famous high energy. His strong, nasal voice would fill the room as he'd stroll the aisles, extolling a real-life story connecting the business law topic of the day. Then he'd suddenly start to whisper at a vital part of the story. Some kids couldn't help but quietly giggle. The whisper would continue as if glue for student ears. Then the voice would slowly build again, louder, soon echoing between the walls, seeping out the door cracks, down the senior hall, into a crescendo befitting an opera as the story concluded.
And the kids would smile, story comprehended, message received, lesson taught.
Larry Larson was a fire-starter in students. He let you know it was mind, effort and focus that mattered most in life and career, not your current high school popularity status.
The goal is to raise $100,000. It's a lofty goal, but reachable. Organizers of the scholarship, some of his earliest students, have talked about class competitions, to see which could raise the most. Larson's many friends and co-teachers will certainly help build this fund as well.
Larry underwent serious cancer surgery a few weeks back and is convalescing at East Cascade Assisted Care Unit. I hope this column finds him feeling OK today, and reminds him of his massive impact on the lives of those many Madras High students that had the good fortune of entering his classroom from 1963 through 1991, and every day -- every day -- emerging richer for it.