Founding chair of Special Education Department passes away

“He was a humble humanitarian, a man with great humor, a team builder, an exceptional leader, and a pioneer who significantly furthered special education training and services statewide, nationally, and internationally to help meet the needs of children, youth, and adults with disabilities,” says Professor Emeritus Steve Brannan.

Dean Randy Hitz announced the sad news today that Keith Larson, emeritus faculty and the first Special Education Department chair, died Saturday, April 16, after a long illness. He was 84. He is survived by his wife, Vivian, two children, Bob and Nancy, and his grandchildren.

He is remembered fondly by his colleagues in the Graduate School of Education. The Special Education Program at Portland State was created by Keith Larson in 1964. He and the original faculty wrote federal grants that provided 100 percent of the support for the program in the early years when special education programs in Oregon were in their infancy.

Keith Larson was a visionary who foresaw the development of a Special Education Program at Portland State as critically important in preparing teachers to meet the needs of students with disabilities in the burgeoning Portland metro area. Only one other program existed in the state at the time, but it was located at the University of Oregon in Eugene and was not easily accessible to Portland teachers.

In addition to founding the Special Education program at PSU, Keith helped establish the Founders Endowment in Special Education, a scholarship fund that supports current special education students. Friends are encouraged to make gifts in his memory to the PSU Foundation for the Founders Endowment in Special Education.

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