The Lasting Legacy of Karin L. Larson

If you're going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can't be erased.
—Maya Angelou (1928–2014) 

There is no shortage of quotes, idioms, and phrases dedicated to the immense, almost oceanic idea of legacy: why leave one, how to grow one, for what purpose, who benefits and why. Some are religious or political. Others are related to work and power and money. Still others are about parenting or artistic expression. Legacy: the word itself feels colossal; its descriptors ornate, grand.

Whether instructional or philosophical, it’s the simple phrases that bring legacy to its existential core—that feel, at least to this writer, most accurate, most sincere. Here’s the kernel; interpret as you will. “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” That’s from businessman Warren Buffett.

Succinct. Open-ended. The quotes imply: Participate. Do the work. Enjoy your work. Share with others. The impact, which is also the reward, will unfold, and unfold again, and again, and again.

Karin Larson’s incredible generosity in support of U of M students is a fitting legacy for an alumna who stayed so involved with CCAPS students and programs throughout her life.

Such is the legacy of Karin L. Larson ʼ61, who over the course of many years, has had a reciprocal and growing relationship with the College of Continuing and Professional Studies (CCAPS)—its mission, values, community, and most importantly, its students. Prior to her death in 2021, Larson bequeathed $32.5 million to the College. It is the largest gift CCAPS has ever received.

Now part of an endowment, Larson’s gift will provide funding every year into perpetuity, creating a lasting, positive impact on future generations of CCAPS students.

“Karin Larson’s incredible generosity in support of U of M students is a fitting legacy for an alumna who stayed so involved with CCAPS students and programs throughout her life,” says U of M President Joan Gabel. “Our systemwide strategic plan, MPact 2025, specifically commits to increasing financial aid and reducing student debt. This extraordinary contribution provides meaningful support to achieving those goals and, most importantly, will change the lives of so many students."

The Ripple Effect

Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water,
the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.

—Dalai Lama XIV

Larson, who graduated in 1961 with a degree in international relations and business, wanted the gift (called the Karin L. Larson Legacy Fund) to increase access to quality education and help students achieve their goals, something she experienced personally as a CCAPS student. A proud alumna, Larson's contributions to CCAPS were many. She was a major donor, an advocate for first-generation students and interdisciplinary programs, and the College’s 2005 commencement speaker.

This fall, the newly established Karin L. Larson Legacy Scholarship was awarded for the first time as CCAPS distributed over $250,000 to more than 80 students. 

Photo of Luna Yemane

For Inter-College Program senior Luna Yemane, the scholarship is helping to alleviate financial stress while she works to finish her academic career “strong.” The first in her family to attend college, Luna is “preparing to enter the tech industry as a product manager and eventually, an entrepreneur.”

Also a senior, Akira Granberry is pursuing a degree in Health Services Management with a minor in Long Term Care Management.

Portrait of Akira Granberry

She, too, is looking ahead to graduation and what comes next. “Finances have always been a concern when it comes to my education expenses. The Karin L. Larson Legacy Scholarship is allowing me to focus more on my academics and my internship experience, instead of having to go into more debt or work extra jobs.”

And in an unintentional nod to Larson—the student, the businesswoman, the altruist—KaoLee Vang (who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Arts and Cultural Leadership and is the newest student member of the Northrop Art Advisory Board) notes that she is grateful for “having a team of people who… are backing me in my pursuit to be a force of change and light in the world.”

KaoLee Vang

But this is just the beginning. Scholarships are only a portion of the annual funding Larson’s gift is anticipated to produce. CCAPS is also exploring ideas to create flexible educational pathways for more students and to provide financial, academic, and personalized support to help them succeed in and beyond college.




The Future Is Bright

How you use the opportunities you're given to affect the world around you
will determine the legacy you leave behind.

—Tony Dungy

Prior to her legacy gift, Larson supported students through scholarships, as well as career assessment and advising to those enrolled in the College’s interdisciplinary degree programs. It is estimated that since 2005, her support has directly affected more than 800 CCAPS students.

Photo of Lamin Manjang

Lamin Manjang, ʼ17, a graduate of CCAPS's Health and Wellbeing Sciences degree program acknowledges that the Karin L. Larson Interdisciplinary Education Scholarship allowed him to better handle the “curve balls that life eventually sends you.”

While in school, the former McNair scholar worked at a nursing home and was a student researcher. He also was involved with the Black Student Union, the Huntley House, and the Future Leaders Aspiring in Science and Healthcare student groups.

Today, the active and aspiring young man who first dreamed of a nursing career while on a precollege family trip to his mother’s native Liberia is studying nursing at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Photo of Riley Boedigheimer

It was one of those “curve balls” that forever changed the life trajectory of scholarship recipient Riley Boedigheimer, ʼ20. In a note of thanks to Larson, Boedigheimer shared that her “generous gift will significantly decrease the pressures my family and I have been facing with the recent passing of my late father.”

Boedigheimer went on to earn a BS in product design and global studies through the Inter-College Program, and eventually, cofound and manage Njor Analytics. But that was after graduating and being selected student commencement speaker in 2020, a year ravaged by COVID-19. The title of his address: "On Perseverance.” It concludes with this message to fellow graduates:

“I thank you for your time, your uniqueness, your resilience… I’m confident that the future is bright and I look forward to seeing how we all shape it.”

It’s a "use your education and experience to follow your dreams and participate in the world and give back" kind of message that Karin Larson certainly would have relished.

Photo of Karin L. Larson courtesy of Bethel University.