Remembering Longtime Donor and Friend Karin Larson

Over the course of 14 years, Larson supported the creation of many hallmark spaces on campus—all because of her belief in the far-reaching impact of Bethel's Christ-centered education.

By Jenny Hudalla ’15, lead communications specialist

May 10, 2021 | 11:45 a.m.

Longtime donor, partner, and friend Karin Larson helped create many hallmark spaces on Bethel University's campus, including the nursing department, the business and economics department, the Wellness Center, and the Nelson-Larson Science Center.

There are few places on Bethel’s campus that won’t be touched by the legacy of longtime donor, partner, and friend Karin Larson, who passed away on April 24 at the age of 82. Her relationship with Bethel—which began through connections with friends at church—spanned more than a decade, and its impact will last for many more.

“Karin’s love for Bethel was demonstrated through her generosity,” says Jim Bender, vice president of university advancement. “She once told me that there was something special about this place, because she felt the Lord’s presence whenever she was here. Karin wasn’t just a partner and investor—she was a dearly loved friend.”

Over the years, Larson supported the creation of hallmark campus spaces like the nursing department, the business department, and the wellness center—all because of her belief in the far-reaching impact of Bethel's Christ-centered education. Most recently, Larson contributed the largest cash gift in university history to fund the Nelson-Larson Science Center, a three-story, 18,000-square-foot facility that provides state-of-the-art laboratory and classroom space for students in Bethel’s growing science programs.

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The historic gift was not the first time Larson blazed her own trail. She was the first in her family to attend college, where she designed her own major in business and international relations, and she was among the first women to work in investment management when the field was dominated almost entirely by men. Over the years, she earned promotion after promotion and eventually became the global research director of Capital Group—a large financial services company—as well as president of the subsidiary and chairperson of the board.

She never forgot the support of her first boss, who she said would encourage “anyone who was young and trying to do something.” In retirement, Larson made it a point to extend that same kindness to Bethel students. Her gifts have provided them with new opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration, hands-on learning, and industry partnerships that will prepare them to make a difference in the lives of others—much like Larson herself.

"Karin was one of the most courageous, remarkable, strong, generous, visionary people we ever met," says President Emeritus Jay Barnes. "She exemplified the grit and character qualities we hope Bethel students will develop. Some people allow their lives to be defined by what they cannot do. Karin’s life was defined by what she could do and by the ways she enabled others to do more than they could have imagined."

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