Regent Larson dies at 70

David Larson, a Board of Regents member for nearly a decade, died on Saturday.

Ethan Nelson

A University of Minnesota regent and former Cargill executive died on Saturday after a period of illness, the University said in a release Monday.

David Larson, 70, was elected to the Board of Regents in 2005. He received a political science degree from the University in 1966 and formerly worked as an executive vice president for Cargill.

“It’s a sad day,” Regent John Frobenius said. 

Larson, who worked with several organizations including the University of Minnesota Foundation and the Minnesota Historical Society, established a scholarship aimed at middle-class students in 2008.

Larson endowed the Dave Larson Scholarship with $5 million, and the University has since admitted 350 Larson scholars.

His endowment was never something he liked to talk about, Regent Thomas Devine said.

“[The endowment] is almost unparalleled by any single donor,” Devine said.

Larson began his 44-year career at Cargill shortly after graduating from the University. He retired from the company in 2010.

Some regents said Larson’s business success informed his work at the University while allowing him to support the school.

“He really wanted the ‘U’ to be managed well and for the name to be respected,” Frobenius said.

Devine, who first met Larson in 2011, said he acted as a mentor during Devine’s first months as a regent.

He and Larson had lunch together at least once a month, Devine said.

“He left a legacy with people he worked with,” he said.

Larson, the son of a furniture salesman, was born in Indiana and raised in Glenwood, Minn.

Devine said Larson’s personality matched his humble origins.

“He worked quietly behind the scenes,” Devine said. “He was quite soft-spoken.”

Others who knew Larson say he emphasized emotional intelligence and hard work.

Greg Page, executive chairman of Cargill’s board, knew Larson for decades, starting with when Larson interviewed him for a job at the company.

Page said Larson often worked on Saturdays during his time at the company.

Larson, a lifelong fan of Gophers sports, always saw himself as a coach — at Cargill and as a regent, Page said.

Though Larson was enormously competitive and demanding, he was always generous with his time, Page said.

“Part of his philosophy was that you shouldn’t kick someone on the bottom unless you have your arm around his shoulder,” Page said.

Regent Clyde Allen knew Larson for nearly 10 years.

“He cared deeply about students and the University,” he said. “It’s a great loss. His life was cut far too short.”

Larson is survived by several family members, including his wife, two children, granddaughter, sister and brother.

According to the Minnesota constitution, the governor may appoint a temporary replacement for Larson until the state Legislature elects a successor to serve the remainder of his term, which expires in 2017.