Former Naval Academy Superintendent Leaves Legacy of Ethical Leadership

Former Naval Academy Superintendent Leaves Legacy of Ethical Leadership

Two-time U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Adm. Charles R. Larson was laid to rest in the Academy cemetery July 30 after funeral services held in the Naval Academy Chapel.


Larson served as superintendent from 1983-1986 and 1994-1998. His vision led to the foundation of what is now the Admiral James B. Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership and refocused the Naval Academy curriculum on ethical leadership.

Larson wanted the Naval Academy to be “an ethical beacon for the nation,” said retired Marine Col. Arthur Athens, director of the Stockdale Center. “The center was an important component of that.”

Larson established the academy’s Character Development Division to provide character and honor instruction to the Brigade of Midshipmen and was instrumental in the development and construction of Alumni Hall.

He also established the master’s degree program for incoming company officers and the senior enlisted leader program that brings non-commissioned officers into Bancroft Hall to work hand-in-hand with company officers and midshipmen.

“He touched all of those different areas to make sure that this was a fantastic place focused on leadership,” said Athens.

Retired Capt. Hank Sanford served under Larson during both his Naval Academy tours, first as his flag secretary and later as his executive assistant, and ultimately became a close friend.

“He spent the better part of his career – active duty and retired – supporting this institution,” said Sanford. “He is a part of the fabric of the Naval Academy.”

Sanford was one of three who delivered eulogies during Larson’s funeral service. He listed among Larson’s accomplishments his impact on the brigade and countless graduates and his emphasis on leadership and ethics.

“His brand was excellence without arrogance,” said Sanford.

A native of Sioux Falls, S.D., Larson graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958, a class that included Senator John S. McCain. His 40-year career included service as an aviator and submarine officer and command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He was the first naval officer selected as a White House Fellow, serving as special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in 1968. He also served as naval aide to President Richard Nixon.

In 1979, at the age of 43, Larson became the second-youngest admiral in U.S. Navy history. He retired in 1998.

His major military decorations included the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, seven awards of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, three awards of the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal. In addition, he received decorations from the governments of Japan, Korea, Thailand and France.

Larson died of pneumonia July 26 after a two-year battle with leukemia. He was 77.

“Admiral Larson’s death is a great loss for the Navy family and the U.S. Naval Academy,” said Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter. He was a great man who served his nation with distinction, honor and dignity.”

Press Release, July 31, 2014; Image: US Navy

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