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Adm. Charles Larson, a 40-year Navy veteran credited with righting the Naval Academy after the largest cheating scandal in its history, died July 26 after a two-year battle with leukemia. He was 77.
The 1958 Academy grad, who started as a pilot before switching to submarines, rose to command the Pacific Fleet. But it was in his unprecedented two tours at the academy that his influence is mostly keenly felt. In the wake of the electrical engineering cheating ring that implicated more than 100 mids, Larson founded the academy’s Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership and refocused the curriculum to include more ethical training.
“What everybody says about Chuck Larson was he was the most dignified gentleman that you’d ever want to meet,” Vice Adm. Michael Miller told Navy Times July 31. “He embodied the character and the integrity that we expect of our graduates, and he lived it every day.”
Miller, who stepped down as superintendent on July 23, said Larson was the finest superintendent in his lifetime.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a 1958 classmate of Larson’s at the academy, issued a statement.
“As the son and grandson of four-star admirals, I have long been accustomed to living in the large shadows cast by great men,” McCain said. “It has been a privilege and an honor, as a young man and an old one, to serve in Chuck’s shadow.”
When Larson pinned on his first star in 1979 at the age of 43, he was the second-youngest admiral in Navy history, according to a Navy release.
He served as the academy’s superintendent as a two-star from the 1983 to 1986 school years, following tours as commanding officer of Submarine Development Group 1 and the attack submarine Halibut.
Following his tour, he returned to the fleet, eventually earning a fourth star and taking command of Pacific Fleet.
When the cheating scandal rocked the academy to its core in 1992, the Navy brought Larson back to right the ship. Up until two years ago, Miller said, Larson was still talking with mids face-to-face about the importance of ethical leadership.
Larson retired in Annapolis in 1998 and made an unsuccessful run for Maryland lieutenant governor in 2002. But he maintained close ties to the academy.
“We all deeply miss him,” Miller said. “When we had [his] service ... in the chapel, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place, and I was no exception.”■