Colleagues remember late professor Charles Larson

By Kierra Frazier

DeKALB – In the classroom, Charles Larson was known for his sense of humor and always cracking a corny joke with his students. 

Not only did Larson teach in a way that was often energetic and entertaining, but he made it a habit to remember every student’s name, said Ferald Bryan, associate professor of rhetoric and public communication.

“He always kept it interesting and always had a smile and always had a funny story,” Bryan said. 

Larson, a former communication studies professor, who taught at NIU for over 40 years, died Nov. 27. Born in Minneapolis, MN., Larson graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1962 with his bachelor’s degree, and in 1968 with his doctorate degree. 

After teaching high school English in Minnesota, he moved to Illinois in 1968 with his wife Mary Strom Larson, former communication studies professor. Larson taught persuasion, advertising and political communication, persuasive campaigns at the university.  

In addition to teaching, Larson served as president of the Faculty Senate and executive secretary of the University Council. He also served 19 years as parliamentarian of the University Council. He was awarded the Outstanding Teacher Award four times by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of Communication.

Bryan said he knew Larson as a professor and later on as a colleague as well. Larson would often give Bryan advice to further his teaching career. 

“He not only guided me in how to have friendly and engaging interactions with students but as a colleague,” Bryan said. “I continued to use his textbook in class because I believe that was the appropriate approach to teaching persuasion or teaching the subject.”

In 1973, Larson published a textbook titled “Persuasion: Reception and Responsibility” that’s in its 14th edition today.

While Larson wasn’t teaching, he enjoyed fishing, hunting and camping, said Communication studies professor Joe Scudder.

Scudder said some of his best memories with Larson were when they traveled to Minnesota, Indiana or Michigan to go on fishing trips. 

Scudder said he remembers a particular fishing trip with Larson in Michigan where the waves were so high they could barely stand up to fish, but at the same time caught more salmon than they ever had before. 

“I’ve never had better salmon fishing in my life and I’ve stayed out in such bad weather,” Scudder said. “That day stands out in my mind, maybe my best day with him.” 

Scudder said Larson’s sense of humor was the one characteristic that immediately stood out the most. 

Judy Santacaterina, bachelor of general studies director and director of forensics, said she knew Larson since 1975 when she came to NIU as an undergraduate; however, she didn’t have him as a professor and knew him from his textbook that was used in class.

Santacaterina said students would often think of Larson as a great storyteller who brought his lectures to life. 

“He was a teacher, he was a storyteller, he was a communicator and he embraced life with a great sense of humor,” Santacaterina said. “That’s how I will remember him, as a true teacher and someone that found humor and looked at the positive things.”