Naval Academy superintendent remembered for 'excellence without arrogance'

U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter hands Sally Larson the national ensign in honor of her husband, retired Adm. Charles Larson, during his funeral services at the academy cemetery July 30, 2014.


By ALEX JACKSON | The (Annapolis, Md.) Capital | Published: July 31, 2014

Holding back tears, Navy Cmdr. Wesley Huey finished the eulogy for his father-in-law.

"We adored you, sir," Huey said in front of more than 600 who gathered for the funeral of Adm. Charles R. Larson at the Naval Academy Chapel on Wednesday.

"It's midweek on one or two or three days notice, and they came," Huey said.

Larson, 77, former superintendent of the Naval Academy, died at his Annapolis home Saturday because of pneumonia stemming from complications of a two-year battle with leukemia.

He was remembered by friends and family Wednesday as an outstanding officer, leader, mentor, father and grandfather.

Choking up, Huey thanked Larson for being a good man and setting a good example for a generation of officers to come after him. Then Huey handed the microphone to his son, Kyle.

"This is for you, pop pop," Kyle said. "Give me an N! Give me an A! Give me a V! Give me a Y! What's that spell? Louder! One more time!"

Raucous applause.

Larson was a 1958 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and twice served as superintendent of the academy, first from 1983 to 1986 and again from 1994 to 1998.

He became the second-youngest admiral in history at 43, and in 1968 was the first naval officer to be selected as a White House fellow. He served as a naval aide under President Richard Nixon, and worked with three other presidents during his career.

Having switched from aviation to submarines, he served on two ballistic missile submarines and three attack submarines. His most senior command position was as commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet.

His second stint as superintendent of the Naval Academy in the 1990s came after a cheating scandal that involved more than 130 students.

Larson instituted a four-year character development program and gave upper class midshipmen more responsibility in the training of plebes.

Retired Navy Capt. Hank Sanford remembered Larson, who he described as a close friend, for "excellence without arrogance."

Sanford said he remembered Larson being concerned at one time that there was an arrogance among academy graduates and midshipmen.

"Graduating from the academy may make you a better officer," Sanford recalled Larson saying, "but it doesn't make you a better person."

He said Larson "loved the Naval Academy." He said midshipmen and academy faculty and staff were Larson's "people."

Sanford said it "pained" Larson when things went wrong at the academy and that he set out to make it right.

"I believe he was successful," Sanford said.

Frank Gren, a friend of Larson's, comforted those in attendance by telling them about Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of the Church of St. Paul's in London.

While there was no monument erected for Wren at the church, a Latin inscription there says "If you would behold his monument, look around you."

"Adm. Larson will always be part of the academy as the academy will always be a part of Adm. Larson. So I ask each one of you, as we solemnly march to his final resting place at our beloved academy," Gren said. "If you seek Adm. Charles R. Larson's monument, look around you."

Dignitaries attending Wednesday's service included Sen. John McCain, who graduated from the academy in the class of 1958 with Larson.

Also in attendance were high-ranking academy graduates, including Adm. Michelle Howard, the first female four-star in Naval history, Adm. John M. Richardson, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, and Adm. Sam Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

Larson is survived by his wife of 52 years, Sally; three daughters; and seven grandchildren.

In this file photo from June 4, 1998, Secretary of the Navy John Howard Dalton, left, presents the Distinguished Service Medal to outgoing Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy Adm. Charles R. Larson during a change-of-command ceremony at the academy.


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