Admiral Charles LARSON
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Sun 28 May 1995 "Naval Academy
plans to teach midshipmen about alcohol abuse"
The Capital 17 Apr 1996 "Academy 'stand down' ordered"
Baltimore Sun 2 Mar 1997 "At the academy's helm"
Omaha World-Herald 4 May 1997 "Academy chief rides out some rough seas"
Baltimore Sun 5 Jun 1998 "Chuck Larson leaves behind 'a different' Naval Academy"
Washington Post 5 Jun 1998 "Academy Gives 4-Star Send-Off"
Baltimore Sun 27 Oct 2002 "'The Admiral' is ready, willing for tour of duty as subordinate"
Baltimore Sun, 28 May 1995. Naval Academy plans to teach midshipmen about alcohol abuse. Repeated incidents lead to crackdown on drinking problem. By Kris Antonelli, Sun Staff Writer. On April 15, Midshipman Mark Harper died with enough alcohol in his blood to be well over the legal limit. He smashed his car into a guardrail on Bay Ridge Avenue, illustrating what Naval Academy officials say is their biggest problem: alcohol abuse. Now, Adm. Charles R. LARSON, who took over as academy superintendent in August to repair the image of a school racked over the past six years by several sexual harassment cases and the largest cheating scandal in Navy history, is attacking the alcohol problem. He has told the brigade of midshipmen he will not tolerate behavior that leads to a negative public perception of the Navy and appointed a committee to develop an alcohol educational program. "This not prohibition," said Capt. Randy Bogle, commandant of midshipmen. "But don't drink and drive and don't disgrace the Navy. We are going to have zero tolerance for alcohol misuse and abuse." The military, Captain Bogle said, is taking a much tougher stance on excessive drinking, and midshipmen should realize that drunkenness can jeopardize their careers. According to a draft of the admiral's plan, he will start the program with the plebes, who arrive June 30 to begin their academy careers. He will make it clear that Naval officers never put themselves or others in danger by drinking, they never tolerate alcohol consumption that embarrasses the Navy, they understand their limits and they do not glamorize drinking or tolerate underage drinking. "Alcohol has always been an issue since I have been in the service," Captain Bogle said. "When I came to the Navy, you were kind of considered an odd ball out if you didn't go out and get drunk on a Saturday night. But it is not socially acceptable anymore." About 60 percent of the serious conduct offenses at the academy are alcohol-related, academy officials say, and many of the underage midshipmen drink. "We are going to train them to handle alcohol responsibility and to understand that the designated driver is not the one who has had the least amount to drink," he said. "It is the one who hasn't had anything to drink." Long before the death of Mr. Harper, whose blood alcohol level was .15 on a scale where .10 is the legal limit, excessive drinking has been a source of embarrassment and disciplinary problems at the academy. In January, an unidentified Navy lieutenant who worked with the cheerleading squad was dismissed after he was caught drinking with several underage midshipmen. Last year, six midshipmen were investigated for drinking, vandalism and theft of license plates and parking lot signs at the Renaissance Festival in Crownsville. Three of them were dismissed, two resigned and one was allow [sic] to stay, but is required to lecture his classmates about the dangers of drunkenness, officials said. Two years ago, six senior midshipmen were investigated for getting drunk at a dinner on the Yard. The outcome of that case was not clear yesterday. "So it's not just one thing that has happened," Captain Bogle said. "This happens often enough that it is a topic of discussion among the lowerclassmen. When the first classmen, the leadership, is coming back to the hall rowdy and sick, that's not good leadership. Midshipman Amy Morrison, next year's brigade commander, agreed. "As a plebe, I was pretty surprised by the amount of drinking the upperclassmen were doing," she said. "If you saw them drunk continuously it would really hurt their ability to lead." Mark Mhley, who will be a senior next year, agreed that drinking was a problem among his classmates, some of whom come back to Bancroft Hall, the dormitory, loud after a night on the town, he said. "Because of the alcohol, they lose control," he said. "It's a poor example of leadership." Mr. Mhley said while it seems to be socially acceptable for students at public universities to get drunk, it should not be at the academy, where leadership is emphasized and excessive drinking undermines respect. While alcohol offenses always have been grounds for dismissal, Captain Bogle said, the brigade can expect the admiral to show even less tolerance that in the past. "I can't say everyone who gets a DWI will be dismissed," the captain said. "But it is more likely that I will recommend that they be dismissed."
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The Capital, 17 Apr 1996. "Academy 'stand down' ordered." Superintendent directs mids to review conduct rules. By Bradley Peniston, Staff Writer. The arrests of two senior midshipmen on burglary charges led the Naval Academy superintendent yesterday to order an unprecedented weeklong "stand down" so midshipmen could review academy conduct rules. Weeknight liberty privileges for upperclassmen have been canceled through Tuesday, a move that academy spokesman Capt. Tom Jurkowsky said was "not punitive." In place of free time, upperclassmen will meet with officers in charge of each of the Brigade of Midshipmen's 36 companies to discuss academy regulations, their responsbiilities as leaders and ways to stop mids from getting into trouble. "Midshipmen need to realize that what they do or don't do reflects on themselves, their shipmates, the Naval Academy and the Navy," said Capt. Randy Bogle, commandant of midshipmen. As a succession of midshipman arrests turned April into the academy's cruelest month in memory, the superintendent, Adm. Charles R. LARSON, took no action, insisting that the arrests were unrelated and the academy was steering the right course. Since April 4, nine current and former mids have been charged with crimes ranging from running an interstate auto theft ring to fondling a 2-year-old child. Yesterday, Midshipmen 1st Class Steven W. Saunders, 23, of San Francisco, and Derek C. Gillespie, 22, of Newport, R.I., were charged with fourth-degree burglary for allegedly breaking into the Annapolis home of former state police superintendent Larry Tolliver. Midshipman Gillespie was also charged with the theft of a community service officer badge belonging to Mr. Tolliver's daughter Danielle, who works at the Annapolis Police Department and is training to be a police officer. Midshipmen Saunders and Gillespie had been drinking, academy spokesman Lt. j.g. Scott Allen said. Finally, the admiral could stand no more. The stand-down will not affect classes or any other academy activities, Capt. Jurkowsky said. Adm. LARSON said he expects the upperclassmen, especially seniors, to be responsible for ensuring the good conduct of the brigade. "It is time for the midshipmen to accept this responsibility, and tell me what they are going to do about it, and how they are going to accomplish these goals," he said. Adm. LARSON expects to hear proposals from company representatives on Tuesday, academy spokesman Karen Myers said. The stand-down order drew mixed reaction from midshipmen. Midshipman 1st Class Barton Phillips of Baton Rouge, La., said the immediate response from many midshipmen was: "Why punish all of us for what a few people did?" But he said the exercise will be good training for seniors, who will leave the academy in a little more than five weeks and will be dealing with similar problems as officers. In ordering the stand, down, Adm. LARSON took a cue from the Navy, which interrupted operations Dec. 8 to review regulations after a series of embarrassing incidents involving Navy personnel. Officers may stand down units under their command, Navy spokesman Lt. Conrad Chun said. "They use it as a tool whenever they feel they need to take some time to focus on an issue," he said. Lt. Chun couldn't say how often stand-downs are ordered, but he said the last Navywide stand down before last year's occurred in the late 1980's to review safety procedures. Midshipmen generally are granted the privilege of weeknight liberty until midnight only as seniors, although juniors on the dean's and superintendent's lists receive Tuesday night liberty as well. Although Friday night liberty was canceled, eligible mids will be granted Saturday night liberty, Ms. Myers said. Several Market Square bars said the mids' absence would mean a financial hardship. "It hurts, definitely," said Griffins Restaurant Manager Ralph Munoz. "Their business definitely helps us out a lot, especially on the slow weekdays. We'll miss 'em." The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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Baltimore Sun, 2 Mar 1997. At the academy's helm. Superintendent: Adm. Charles LARSON could have retired in 1994 after a distinguished naval career. Instead, he returned to Annapolis to resurrect his beloved Naval Academy. By Scott Shane, Sun Staff. He commanded a nuclear submarine on some of the most daring spy missions of the Cold War. He directed U.S. fleets from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Japan. He honed his political skills in the White House and in the Pentagon's inner circles. As a four-star admiral, he held the world's largest military command. Then, after nearly 40 years matching wits with Soviet, Chinese and North Korean armed forces, he took on an adversary still more treacherous: the conduct of 4,000 young Americans at the Naval Academy. Charles R. LARSON, the academy's 51st superintendent, returned to Annapolis in 1994 to become the 55th superintendent, the only such repeat performance in academy history. In the wake of a devastating cheating scandal, the Navy brass thought LARSON was just the man to restore the midshipmen's understanding of honor. Despite a confounding run of student misconduct over the past year, LARSON's many Navy admirers say he is doing just that. But they also say that all the jobs he has held in a varied and successful career, this one ha brought him more bad luck and bad press than any other. A few LARSON-watchers would add bad judgment to the list. In his handling of a professor's critical newspaper essay, the murder investigation of a first-year midshipman and the expulsion of a senior who was reinstated by Navy Secretary John H. Dalton, some say LARSON appeared uncharacteristically thin-skinned. "Chuck is almost 19th-century in his sense of honor and devotion to the academy says Charles E. Stuart, a Maryland developer and old friend who met LARSON when both worked in the Nixon White House. "He feels very, very poignantly when the public thinks badly of the U.S. Naval Academy. It may cloud his judgment." [Headline insert: A deep sense of devotion to academy]. Says retired Adm. Stanley R. Arthur, a longtime Navy colleague: "My take is he's found it harder to get his arms around the job than he thought. But he hasn't backed away. ...Any college president would tell you that trying to corral a bunch of 18-to-20-year-olds is quite a task." From his own academy days in the 1950s, LARSON has impressed those around him with his gift for leadership. He has devoted his life to the Navy, in 80-hour-a-week jobs that left little leisure for other pursuits. Asked about his hobbies, friends think for a moment, then mention that he likes to ride a stationary bike, often while perusing a stack of papers from work. In private, they say, he can be warm and humorous; on the job, his manner is strictly business. "His nickname is 'Sir,'" says retired Adm. Steve Chadwick. Now LARSON, 60, has brought this intensity of focus to a crusade for the academy. Midshipmen speak of him in worshipful tones. His pep talks and his very presence ratify their belief in the once and future greatness of Annapolis. They share his frustration with the relentless public attention to the institution's troubles. When LARSON commanded 354,000 troops as chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific, few took notice if a handful of sailors in Hawaii or Japan stole cars or sold drugs. Certainly no one blamed him. At the Naval Academy, a command numerically about 70 times smaller, a single teen-ager doing something stupid can become a news story for days. Before long, legions of alumni are asking: What the heck is going on at the Naval Academy, and why isn't LARSON doing something about it? In his 2 1/2 years back at the academy, he has done plenty, his fans say. He has restricted midshipmen's privileges to leave campus, drive cars and wear civilian clothes. He has expanded training on character and leadership, exposing Mids to the dialogues of Plato and the lessons of the Holocaust. he is a bracing presence on the Yard, midshipmen and officers say, dropping in on classes, eating lunch with midshipmen every Wednesday and having the senior class to a series of dinners each autumn. Everywhere he repeats the superintendent's 10 - no commandments, but "guiding principles" - from "Do your best" to "Speak well of others." "I think the Naval Academy's a better place than it was two years ago," says former Navy Secretary James H. Webb Jr., class of '68. Richard Armitage, a former assistance secretary of defense who chaired a review panel after the 1992 cheating scandal, praises LARSON for tightening discipline without alienating the students. "I'm very much in favor of what he's done," says Armitage, class of '67. Now a panel of outsiders, headed by former Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner and Goucher College President Judy Jolley Mohraz, is taking a look. Publicly, he says he welcomes any "course corrections" the group might offer, though colleagues say he fears the panel's proposals could interfere with his reforms. LARSON declined to be interviewed for this article, though he offered written answers to some questions. In 18 years in command positions, he wrote, "I've made a lot of tough decisions. The tough ones are easy to criticize because there will always be someone who will disagree with you." He added, without elaboration: "The job is much more difficult than it was during my previous tour." Early Leadership Role. Chuck LARSON's first difficult job at the Naval Academy came in his own senior year. A tall, commanding young man from South Dakota via Nebraska, he was elected as the top-ranking midshipman, which surprised no one. "People deferred to him," recalls Frank Gamboa, a friend and fellow member of the class of '58. As brigade commander, Gamboa says, "you have to have a distinctive ability to deal with the administration. But you can't be one of them. It's kind of a lonely spot." Gamboa recalls how the 6-foot-2-inch LARSON led a contingent of seniors taller than 6 feet to Atlantic City to serve as escorts for Miss America contestants; LARSON later got to date Miss America herself, selling his stereo to pay for a lavish evening. But what struck Gamboa was that LARSON stopped the homeward bus at a restaurant just outside the seven-mile limit, within which midshipmen were then not permitted to drink. "They could have gotten rowdy, and he would have been blamed," Gamboa said. "He was willing to stick his neck out for his classmates." After graduation, LARSON learned to fly in Florida, where he joined a trio of fliers who would warble comic songs at happy hour. He enjoyed flying the propeller driven Skyraider planes from aircraft carriers, friends say. But when the planes were to be phased out in 1963, he wrote to Adm. Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear Navy, asking to make the unusual switch to submarines. He so impressed his superiors that they nominated him for a tour in Washington to advance his political education. In 1968 he became the first naval officer to be named a White House fellow; the next year he was appointed naval aide to President Richard M. Nixon. Among his duties was carrying the president's "nuclear football," the briefcase from which the U.S. arsenal of missiles can be launched. By his White House years, LARSON had married Sally Craig, an admiral's daughter; the names their three daughters - Sigrid, Erica and Kirsten - reflect his Scandinavian roots. Before Watergate, the family moved to California, where LARSON plunged into extraordinary Cold War adventures. From 1973 to 1976, he commanded the USS Halibut, a submarine designed for deep-water intelligence-gathering in Soviet waters. Though its missions remain classified, several experts on intelligence say Halibut was used to retrieve sensitive equipment from sunken Soviet vessels and to tap a Soviet communications cable on the Pacific Ocean floor. Code-named Ivy Bells, the project was betrayed to the Soviets by former National Security Agency employee Ronald W. Pelton. Two of LARSON's six Distinguished Service Medals were for his work aboard the Halibut, commending him for "momentous accomplishments" and "the successful attainment of objectives of extraordinary value to the nation." In 1979, at age 43, LARSON became the second-youngest admiral in U.S. history. He climbed steadily up the Navy hierarchy, a "hot runner" promoted early and often. From 1983 to 1986, he served his first, relatively uneventful term as superintendent in Annapolis. Subordinates describe LARSON as an inspiring if sometimes daunting boss. "He was a terrific listener," says W. Spencer Johnson IV, a retired captain who was LARSON's executive assistant as deputy chief of naval operations. "He immediately gained the confidence of the people working for him." "He doesn't suffer fools lightly - people working under him or people working over him," says Chadwick, who served as academy commandant during LARSON's first term as superintendent. "He won't roll over for anybody." Chadwick says LARSON formed strong opinions and did not easily change his mind: "You have to be prepared to hang in there and endure some withering fire if you're going to tell him he's wrong." In 1990, LARSON was appointed commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and a year later to the job military jargon calls CINCPAC; commander in chief of all U.S. forces, from all military branches, based in the Pacific. Part ambassador, part trouble-shooter, LARSON negotiated with Pacific nations a response to North Korea's revival of its nuclear weapons program, led a fleet into the formerly closed Soviet port of Vladivostok, headed a high-level delegation to Vietnam as the White House weighed restoring diplomatic relations. An aide calculated that LARSON spent the equivalent of two months in the air in three years on the job. "He was viceroy of half the world," says one Pentagon officer. Pentagon sources say LARSON was among the top two or three candidates both for chief of naval operations and for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When he didn't land those jobs, he was expected to be appointed ambassador or take a corporate job upon retirement in 1994. Instead, Dalton, the Navy secretary, recalled him to duty in Annapolis, where Superintendent Thomas C. Lynch was widely seen to have mishandled the cheating scandal involving more than 130 students. "It was clear we needed a pretty special guy," says retired Adm. Carlisle A.H. Trost. "He had some pretty strong thoughts about returning honor and integrity to the forefront at the academy." "Things...looking up" In August, 1995, after a preternaturally quiet first year, LARSON declared in his state of the academy address that the troubles were behind, noting favorable local and national press and praise from President Clinton and Congress. "We're out in the bright sunshine, and things are really looking up," he said. Just a few weeks later, two students were arrested for buying LSD in a Glen Burnie motel. For the next year, some students seemed determined to demonstrate the variety of crime and mischief they could commit. All the misconduct involved not much more than 1 percent of midshipmen. But the publicity went swiftly sour, an article in Newsweek magazine declaring the academy a "School for Scandal." As proof, the magazine ran a picture of Gwen M. Dreyer, a female student who had been chained to a urinal - seven years earlier. Midshipmen on home leave found they were the butt of jokes about cheating, drugs and car theft. As perturbed as he was by student misconduct, LARSON appeared just as upset by a critical essay in the Washington Post in March by James F. Barry, an assistant professor in the academy's department of leadership. Barry, a Vietnam veteran, claimed a "culture of hypocrisy" still reigned at the academy along with morale problems and tolerance of sexual harassment and favoritism. LARSON reacted with unbridled fury. He ordered Barry out of the classroom - and was forced to back down. He berated Barry at length before midshipmen and faculty. Before the academy's Board of Visitors, he grew so overwrought that some members were embarrassed, one member says. In August, the academy bought out Barry's teaching contract. LARSON refuses to say how much public money was spent, and Barry says he is legally bound not to discuss the terms of his departure. Barry says LARSON's vehement reaction to his article inhibited dissent and reflects the "royalty mentality" of top officers unaccustomed to being questioned. "When I met with LARSON, he asked three times, 'Why did you do this to me?'" says Barry, who runs a real estate business. "For him, it was a personal attack. Finally I said, 'This is not about you; it's about the system.'" When two midshipmen reported in August that their roommate, freshman Diane M. Zamora, and told them she participate in a murder, LARSON chose not to inform the Navy's criminal investigators. Instead, he invited Texas police to campus and then had Zamora taken to the airport, to fly home to Texas. Angry officials at the the Naval Criminal Investigative Service accused LARSON of endangering the case in a ham-handed attempt to avoid more bad publicity. He and other academy officials replied that on the contrary, the academy's ethics training had solved the 9-month-old murder case by prompting the roommates to come forward. He didn't know about the regulation requiring that NCIS be informed, he said. The story might have ended there. But LARSON fired off a letter to The Sun criticizing the newspaper's account, sending it by electronic mail to all midshipmen and staff. Then, under pressure from his Navy superiors, who thought the letter included misleading statements, he asked to withdraw it from publication and sent a second e-mail message saying he regretted sending the first letter. The messy episode saw both superiors and subordinates scrambling to protect LARSON from his own statements. Colleagues from LARSON's previous commands, who recall him as unflappable, were astonished. "I never saw him lose his temper," say Johnson, LARSON's assistant in a high-pressure Pentagon job. "And believe me, if he was to lose his temper at anyone, it would probably have been me." More in keeping with LARSON's previous reputation was his determination to support the student honor board the academy's commandant on the honor case against Midshipman Jennifer N. Della Barba. But some Pentagon officials were surprised that LARSON met with Della Barba for only a few minutes before making his decision. Top Navy officials concluded last fall that the evidence that Della Barba had lied was weak and the case against her flawed by legal error and gender discrimination. But LARSON rejected suggestions that he might reconsider his ruling, Navy sources say. Ultimately, Dalton felt obliged to overrule LARSON, the man he had appointed to fix the academy's honor system, on an honor case. Dalton will not linger on that episode. Asked for a comment on LARSON's performance at the academy, Dalton passed over the awkward moments and focused on LARSON's record as "an outstanding person, an impressive leader and a great naval officer." LARSON "could be CEO of a large corporation right now, but his love for the Navy and the Naval Academy came first," Dalton said. "That's why I'm so grateful that he agreed to return to the Naval Academy and why I'm so grateful for the job he has done there." Sun staff writer Tom Bowman contributed to this article.
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Omaha World-Herald, 4 May 1997. "Academy Chief Rides Out Some Rough Seas." By Jason Gertzen, World-Herald Staff Writer. Annapolis, Md. - Accusations were flying like a barrage of cannonballs crashing into a warship's hull. The Navy needed a leader with the boldness of never-surrender John Paul Jones to rescue its flagship, the U.S. Naval Academy. So the Navy turned three years ago to its elite corps of four-star admirals. It tapped Omaha native Charles LARSON, hoping that he could lead the academy past the turmoil caused by the largest cheating scandal in the school's history. Never before had such a high-ranking officer led the academy. LARSON, who as a two-star admiral had served a term as Naval Academy superintendent in the 1980s, brought his four-star clout and a plan intended to restore the honor of a school that even LARSON admits had strayed off course. Fearing that the academy had become "too civilian," he strengthened discipline and restricted privileges. He designed a new ethics course, established monthly "integrity development" seminars and pushed for a focus on morals and character in almost every aspect of the four years his 4,000 students spend at the academy. Now LARSON and the academy are receiving high praise from Navy supporters, though the past two years have been anything but smooth sailing. Today LARSON, 60, crisply returns the salutes of uniformed students and smiles as he strolls along the brick walkways of this historic 338-acre campus on the banks of the Severn River. [Inserted headline: "This is a guy who stands up for what he thinks is right. He doesn't buckle under pressure." Charles Minter, Retired admiral speaking about Charles LARSON] Sitting in the classroom and chatting with 14 students, known as midshipmen, LARSON declares, "We're coming back." Coming back from so much criticism that those within the academy's walls felt at times last year as if they were under siege. Coming back from a year that marked some of the lowest points of LARSON's distinguished 39-year Navy career. After returning to Annapolis in 1994, LARSON had a rather uneventful first year. Then he began confronting a fresh string of scandals at the academy. "I think we got a false sense of optimism at the end of one year that we had solved all the problems," LARSON said. Two midshipmen were arrested for buying LSD. A couple of other midshipmen and a few others who had attended the academy were charged in a car-theft ring. A midshipman was accused of molesting a toddler at a house away from campus. Academy Chief Rides Out Rough Seas. A midshipman who had just arrived at the academy admitted to roommates that she had masterminded a murder with her Air Force Academy boyfriend before coming to Annapolis. LARSON's handling of this incident brought accusations that he was trying to keep the case quiet by going directly to law officers in Texas, where the crime was committed, rather than bringing in Navy investigators, as he later learned regulations required. If all the incidents, the one that seems to sting the most for LARSON and academy backers is a scathing essay written by a civilian teacher at the academy that appeared in the Washington Post in March 1996. James Barry, an assistant professor, accused LARSON of failing to address a serious morale problem that he said stemmed from an "ethically corrupting system" and a "culture of hypocrisy" that covered up sexual harassment and other problems. LARSON lashed out at what he considered a shocking act of betrayal. He criticized Barry harshly and at length during a gathering of students and faculty. Friends said LARSON's response was uncharacteristic of the always-in-control and experienced naval officer they had known over the years. The pressure and scrutiny mounted. Calls and letters poured in from Navy leaders, members of Congress and alumni. What was going on at the academy? Every television network and reporters from newspapers across the country converged on the campus at the height of the problems last spring. All of the efforts to revamp the teaching of leadership and ethics came to a "screeching halt," LARSON said. The academy had to go on the defensive. The worst times, LARSON said, came when the attacks turned personal. LARSON said he felt like a victim of character assassination. It was tough for his wife, Sally, who became particularly distraught after some of the most biting articles appeared. "Some questioned my integrity, my honesty," LARSON said. "That stuff really hurts." LARSON said he had not anticipated just how tough the task would be when he returned to the academy. It's not as if he had an easy, no-pressure job before. He had just spent three years in charge of the nation's massive military force in the Pacific. He commanded 345,000 troops. He was point man for relations with China. A normal day at the office left him worrying whether North Korea would start a war or turn the Korean peninsula into a nuclear battleground. Academy supporters said that someone of less than LARSON's stature and command experience would not have been able to survive the strain at the military school in the past two years. "I am not convinced that if they had not brought in Chuck LARSON, the institution would be in great trouble right now," said Leon "Bud" Edney of Annapolis, a retired admiral and LARSON confidant. As a four-star admiral, LARSON had the "political horsepower" to correct some shortfalls in funding needed to fix aging buildings and infrastructure at the 152-year-old school, Edney said. He had impeccable credentials. After graduating from Omaha's North High School in 1954, LARSON attended the academy, where he rose twice to commander of the brigade and headed the school's honor committee. LARSON had a lengthy and distinguished naval career as an aviator and nuclear submarine commander. Just before being asked to take charge of the academy three years ago he had been a contender for the Navy's top job, chief o naval operations. Charles Minter, a retired three-star admiral living in Annapolis, said LARSON's leadership has been critical because he came in at a time when the military was trimming its budget and some were questioning the future of military academies. LARSON had to withstand a pressure-cooker environment while putting needed changes in place at the academy, said Minter, an academy graduate and longtime LARSON friend. "This is a guy who stands up for what he thinks is right," Minter said. "He doesn't knuckle under to pressure." LARSON was able to hold off calls for an independent review of the academy's problems last summer. He wanted more time to implement his programs. He said the academy didn't need another distracting event that would only grab more attention. Navy officials listened to him and agreed to let things calm down a bit. Earlier this year, the outside review panel, led by former CIA Director Stansfield Turner and Judy Mohraz, president of Goucher College in Towson, Md., began its work. It is expected to present its findings and recommendations in June. LARSON said he was confident that his initiatives would be affirmed. Convinced that the academy never had a systemic problem, LARSON said the changes he implemented would address the problems that led to the academy's string of troubles over the past few years. This incident-free spring has brought a welcome respite to the academy. It was tough being a midshipman at times in the past few years. "People at home would always say, 'I read about you in the paper again,'" said Midshipman Ben Cipperley, a 1995 graduate of Omaha Burke High School. Cipperly and other midshipmen said past incidents often had been blown out of proportion. With 4,000 students, you are always going to find a few troublemakers, they said. "It's not like everybody is a drug addict or a cheater," said Matt Scanlan, a former Omaha Central High School football player who will graduate from the academy this year. Jeff Berg, a 1993 graduate of Central High School, said LARSON's arrival in 1994 brought a needed morale boost. "I think the academy was getting lax in its ways," Berg said. Upperclassmen were no longer allowed to spend as much time away from campus on weekends as they had when Berg was a first-year student. "The seniors were always gone," he said. "You never saw them." Academy seniors preparing to make the transition from student to Navy officer have taken pride in setting an example for the younger midshipmen, Berg said. Academy life, even while coping with so many distractions, has not all been bad, said Jason Berg, a 1993 Westside High School graduate. The rigorous academics and disciplines life in Annapolis have formed tight bonds among classmates, said Berg, who is not related to Jeff Berg. "I am closer with them than with any of my friends back home," he said. Midshipmen have an annual tradition of marking the final weeks before the seniors graduate with a prank each day. Members of one company recently painted their trademark shamrocks across the academy grounds. The first-year students spent much of the next day with buckets and scrub brushes removing their handiwork. Midshipmen talk often of how they like to soak in the atmosphere of the academy. Old cannons, huge anchors and fortresslike stone buildings give the campus a sense of history. The remains of Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones - famed for not surrendering his battered ship and declaring, "I have not yet begun to fight!" - rest in an ornate crypt in the basement of the academy's chapel. Midshipman Joe Rysavy, a 1995 graduate of Westside High School, said he likes to walk through memorial Hall and read the plaques filled with names of academy graduates who gave their lives in battle. "I think about their sacrifices," he said. Midshipmen said LARSON's emphasis on honor and integrity in the classroom has been helpful, but it has not provided them with easy answers for every situation. Talking about philosophy and considering hypothetical cases is one thing. But the real prospect of turning someone in for an honor offense leaves a midshipman struggling with the desire to preserve his or her honor, yet remain loyal to a classmate. "Honor cases are so hard to deal with," Cipperly said. "You are going to see these people the next day." LARSON said he would continue with his initiatives, though he knows he has not dealt with his last case of misconduct involving a midshipman. When it happens, he said, he hopes the press and others will keep it in perspective. "We are a very sound institution headed in the right direction," LARSON said. "Our success can be measured by the quality of our graduates, not by the quality of those who get thrown out. There are those who will go astray along the way. It's part of the process of weeding out those who are not fit."
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Baltimore Sun, 5 Jun 1998. "Chuck LARSON leaves behind 'a different' Naval Academy." By Neal Thompson, Sun Staff. "We haven't always agreed with him, but we've seen that he's right. It's a different school." Tim Feist, U.S. Naval Academy graduate. As superintendent, he guided school through tough times. When Chuck LARSON wakes up today, it'll be the first morning since Dwight D. Eisenhower was commander in chief that he's not U.S. Navy property. He'll probably still rise at dawn to hoist dumbbells and watch CNN. Such routines became the ballast of the admiral's 40-year career, which began and ended in Annapolis. Charles R. LARSON, 61, retired yesterday as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, handing over the leadership duties to Vice Adm. John R. Ryan at a ceremony of bubbly optimism that belied some of the rocky moments of LARSON's final few years in the Navy. Now, as he ponders options such as consulting or writing a book, he can look back on a career capped by a rebound for a school some considered expendable just 24 months ago. In recent days, from President Clinton to the brigade of midshipmen, they're calling him the man who saved the Naval Academy. "As discipline increased, so did morale. Because that's why a lot of us came here," says Tim Feist, who graduated last month. "We haven't always agreed with him, but we've seen that he's right. It's a different school." When LARSON arrived in 1994, midshipmen were carrying cell phones, wearing jeans, driving cars and getting drunk. Alumni groused that such "civilianization" led two years later to the handfuls of midshipmen in shackles, charged with selling drugs and stealing cars. LARSON put some military back into the 153-year-old academy, observers say. He took away freedoms and handed over more responsibility to midshipmen. More important, he was seen as a sailor worth emulating. Not a hotshot or a genius or jokester. Just someone who worked hard, rarely lost his cool, embraced consistency, loved the Navy. Critics call him cold and unapproachable, but others say an academy adrift needed his 6-foot-2 stature and gentlemanly Nebraska demeanor. "They didn't need a friend, they needed a role model," says Richard Armitage, a former U.S. ambassador whose committee reviewed academy problems after a 1992 cheating scandal. Indeed, if the Navy had a hall of fame, he's got the stats: top midshipman senior year (1958); first in class, and second-youngest ever, to reach admiral (age 42); only two-term and longest serving superintendent (seven years). But few confess to knowing just what churns behind the aviator glasses he sports. Partly it's because much of his career is classified; he won't discuss the years spent in submarines spying on the Soviets. [Inserted headline: "I think April and May of '96 was the lowest point in my 40-year career."] [Inserted headline: Adm. Charles R. LARSON, outgoing Naval Academy Superintendent] Even co-workers, old classmates and neighbors at the Annapolis condominium complex where he and his wife, Sally, kept a second home say LARSON charmed them, but from behind a buffer zone. "He's a friendly person, but I don't think he's one of those people who makes friends easily," says retired Adm. Steve Chadwick, who worked for LARSON in Pearl Harbor and Annapolis. "He might say, 'Call me Chuck.' But he was still the admiral." What people do know is that he's quietly competitive, sensitive to criticism, and a perfectionist not above tinkering with some visiting dignitary's itinerary. Some friends also reveal a restrained pizazz. Few people know of the powder blue Austin-Healy convertible LARSON bought his senior year, with savings from the paper route in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where he got bonuses for delivering during snowstorms. And few people recall that he and his long-time buddy John McCain, now an Arizona senator, nearly were caught drinking at an Annapolis bar their senior year. McCain says LARSON, despite his midwestern persona, "occasionally took a walk on the wild side." LARSON reluctantly admits he "went over the wall" with McCain, but is quick to add it was wrong. That, too, is consistent with the personality of a man who survived Vietnam, the Tailhook scandal and 40 years of war and peace unscathed. LARSON flew planes and commanded subs. He had a quiet first tour as superintendent in the pre-scandal mid-1980s. And he led all U.S. forces in the Pacific, giving President Clinton early warnings about nuclear sabers rattling between India and Pakistan. LARSON says his nearest brush with failure was in 1996, two years after beginning another tour as superintendent, under orders to use his admiral's stars to reshine a school smudged by a cheating scandal. He banned cars for underclassmen, told mids to ship home civilian clothes and cut their free time in town. He expelled bad apples. Then, he learned the apples weren't the problem, it was the tree. "I think April and May of '96 were the lowest point in my 40-year career," LARSON says. Midshipman were caught selling LSD and stealing cars, and observers asked whether LARSON was more concerned with concealing problems than solving them. Frank Gamboa, a classmate and friend, says pressure from Annapolis alumni, Washington politicians and the Pentagon was intense. "Quite frankly, I don't think he got used to such public criticism. It was a real testing period for him." Spring of '96 was topped by Professor James Barry's Washington Post op-ed article, which accused LARSON of fronting an "ethically corrupting system" and a "culture of hypocrisy." LARSON considered it a "vicious" personal attack, and friends say he was stung more by Barry's words than anything else during his tenure. "That's the only time I came home and I found my wife crying," LARSON recalls. His wife suggested he quit, even though she knew he wouldn't. "The reason I couldn't was because I felt if I quit then I'd be quitting in disgrace," LARSON says. "I said I've got to fight through this and come out on the other side." Now, as he reaches the other side, he'll stay in Annapolis, in a newly built house. Maybe grow the mustache he shaved when he first came aboard the academy. Definitely hit the mall to replace the Navy issue that's covered his back for two-thirds of his life. Yesterday, LARSON, not a man of emotion, gave a tearful farewell that included musings on his career. He recalled dying an orange flight suit green to prepare for a raid on Cuba during the missile crisis, praying when McCain was taken prisoner in Vietnam, and sailing as President Nixon's aide to pick up the astronauts on their return from the moon. LARSON also displayed his dedication to his wife and three daughters (one married to the president's naval aide, the same job LARSON held three decades ago). Friends say LARSON's wife of 37 years kept his ego in check, and being the only male in a family of five kept him attuned to gender integration at the academy. LARSON gave Sally 21 roses in honor of their 21 homes over the years, and said: "You've been a wonderful partner. I'm still not a flaming liberal, but you've broadened my horizons." Asked what might be on LARSON's horizon, McCain says "it wouldn't astound me to see him in some key national security position. I think Chuck is more interested in policy than politics. But I certainly think he'll serve his country a couple more times before he finally retires."
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Washington Post, 5 Jun 1998. "Academy Gives 4-Star Send-Off." By Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post Staff Writer. Few Navy officers get to retire as four-star admirals. Even fewer get to do so twice. In 1994, Adm. Charles R. LARSON formally retired after a dazzling career capped by his command of all the U.S. forces in the Pacific. But almost immediately, the Navy called him back into service to straighten out the scandal-scarred U.S. Naval Academy. After a sometimes controversial four-year term, LARSON retired again yesterday. He handed command of the Academy to Vice Adm. John R. Ryan amid an avalanche of praise from Navy officials who credit LARSON with restoring morale and prestige to the school. "He was the right man at the right time to remind the nation how valuable the Naval Academy is," said the chief of naval operations, Adm. Jay L. Johnson. Navy officials awarded LARSON a distinguished service award and presented the academy with its first-ever Meritorious Unit Commendation, reserved for the Navy's top-performing units. The ceremony reflected official praise for LARSON all the way down to the choice of music: "The Vision Fulfilled March," which was composed in his honor. LARSON, 61, an academy graduate who first served as superintendent from 1983 to 1986, returned four years ago after a massive cheating scandal that implicated more than 100 midshipmen, and not long after allegations of sexual harassment prompted congressional hearings. LARSON responded with new restrictions designed to create a more challenging military environment and a set of widely applauded new ethics and leadership courses designed to imbue midshipmen with a stronger moral code. But just as things were looking up in Annapolis, the school was again rocked in the spring of 1996 by a series of arrests of midshipmen on charges including sexual assault, breaking and entering, and selling stolen cars. LARSON often seemed irritated by the scrutiny such incidents drew. While a review panel later cleared the academy of fault, it criticized the administration for a "defensive," closed-mouth posture that allowed minor scandals to snowball. In an interview last week, LARSON said he responded appropriately when the academy's integrity was again being questioned. "We kept telling everybody, 'Be patient. This will work.' And it really did." Members of LARSON's 1958 graduating class attended the ceremony, including former roommate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who delivered a farewell speech. During their academy days, LARSON was the golden boy, marked early for success as a top student and class president; McCain was the bad boy, a charismatic troublemaker who barely graduated. On Friday nights, McCain gathered friends in his room to watch boxing matches on his illicit television. One night, they were joined by LARSON - the midshipman-on- watch that evening - when the officer-on-watch knocked at the door. "We quickly covered the TV with a blanket and stuffed Chuck...in the closet," McCain said, drawing knowing laughter from his reunion class. "I always like to remember Chuck that way." The new superintendent commended LARSON's work, using an aviation metaphor. "All the thrust vectors are positive on all the programs here at the Naval Academy," Ryan said.
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Baltimore Sun, 27 Oct 2002. "'The Admiral' is ready, willing for tour of duty as subordinate." By Howard Libit, Sun Staff. Larson gladly signs on as Townsend lieutenant. Had his Naval Academy buddy won the presidency two years ago, retired Adm. Charles R. LARSON would have been a regular in the White House these days, holding the title of national security adviser or perhaps secretary of defense. But Sen. John McCain lost that Republican primary battle and LARSON finds himself on a very different battlefield - seeking to be Maryland's next lieutenant governor as the running mate of Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. "I've had my day, I've had my time, I've been in command, and I've got my legacy that I'm very, very proud of," says the 65-year-old LARSON. "While she's leading the whole state, I'll be able to go deeply into these areas that she's assigned me and work hard to make a difference. At this stage, that's enough of a challenge for me." [Inserted headline: "The overriding consideration that you take very seriously is that the lieutenant governor be qualified to take over as governor. I think I certainly qualify there. I've run organizations larger than most states." Retired Adm. Charles R. LARSON, running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.] [Inserted headline: "'Admiral' ready to serve as Townsend lieutenant"] Townsend promises a broad portfolio for the man known along the campaign trail simply as "The Admiral." He's a natural to oversee issues of security and military veterans, and he would also likely focus on education, technology and business development. And though LARSON initially said he had no interest in ever running for Maryland's top job, he now says he has learned from three months on the campaign trail "never to rule anything out completely." At first blush, LARSON might appear to be a man unsuited to the worlds of Annapolis politics and door-to-door campaigning, juggling the concerns of Eastern Shore lawmakers with visits to the drug-ravaged neighborhoods of East Baltimore. But his four decades in the military - submarine skipper, White House aide, commander of U.S. military forces on half the planet, two-time superintendent of the Naval Academy - have forced him to learn a few things about politics. Perhaps not the partisan politics of Democrats and Republicans, but the politics of persuading congressional committees to back defense budgets and prime ministers of foreign countries to support U.S. military bases. "I've got 20 years of executive experience doing exactly the same things that governors and lieutenant governors do," LARSON says. "The overriding consideration that you take very seriously is that the lieutenant governor be qualified to take over as governor. I think I certainly qualify there. I've run organizations larger than most states." At ease campaigning. The 6-foot-2-inch LARSON has shed most vestiges of a stiff military persona and seems at ease on the campaign trail. He's quick to pull on a red T-shirt when chatting with the Maryland State Teaches Association, plunge into a crowd of unfamiliar faces and trade low-key barbs with his opponent at an African-American fraternity meeting in West Baltimore. "Even when he was in the Navy, he seemed naturally drawn to this kind of human interaction of campaigning," says his son-in-law, Navy Cmdr. Wes. S. Huey, who began dating one of LARSON's daughters while he was an academy midshipman and still has trouble calling LARSON anything other than "Sir." Born in South Dakota and raised in Iowa and Nebraska, LARSON came to Maryland as a Naval Academy plebe when he was 17. He had never seen an ocean or traveled west of Denver or east of Chicago. Yet his leadership skills quickly emerged, and he was picked as the top-ranking midshipman of his 1958 graduating class. He served first as a naval aviator, then made the unusual switch to submarines. He was the first naval officer to be selected to the White House fellow program in 1968, and then served as a military aide to President Richard M. Nixon - carrying the briefcase filled with the nuclear-weapon launch codes. LARSON returned to the water, commanding a nuclear submarine on some of the most daring - and still classified - spy missions of the Cold War. LARSON says he once calculated that he has spent three years and 10 months of his life underwater and he earned two of his seven Distinguished Service Medals for his duty aboard the USS Halibut. In 1979, at age 43, LARSON was promoted to admiral, the second-youngest in U.S. history. He served his first tour as superintendent of the Naval Academy from 1983 to 1986 and, after a stint as deputy chief of Naval Operations, became Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command. He oversaw the 350,000 U.S. military personnel scattered across the Pacific and managed a $12 billion budget. Along the way, LARSON married Sally Craig, an admiral's daughter, and they have three grown daughters - Sigrid, Erica and Kirsten. Officers who served with LARSON talk about him with near reverence, describing him with words such as integrity and loyalty. Retired Cmdr. Craig L. Etka credits LARSON with keeping him in the service after he won admission to the nation's top oceanography school but the Navy wanted him to attend its lower-ranked program. "He called me to dinner, asked me to take back my resignation," says Etka, who was chief engineering officer for LARSON aboard the Halibut and now works for Northrop Grumman in Maryland. "I went on to command, and whenever he passed through Hawaii, he would always stop by and have dinner at my house." Years later, when Etka's daughter was an academy plebe in 1988, LARSON stopped by her dorm room to visit and "shocked everyone in the dorm," recalls Etka. "That's the kind of man he is. He never forgets his friends." One more tour. After being considered for the No. 1 position in the Navy, LARSON was set to retire in 1994 when top pentagon officials prevailed upon him to serve one more tour of duty at the Naval Academy. At the time, the academy's reputation was in severe decline - largely because of a cheating scandal that involved more than 130 students and drew adverse national attention - and LARSON was the highest-ranking officer ever to serve as superintendent. LARSON tightened discipline and, despite a few rocky incidents involving the misdeeds of midshipmen, is credited with bringing significant improvements to the academy. Upon retirement from the Navy, LARSON and his wife bought a home in Annapolis just a few miles down the road from the academy. Though he has voted in every election since becoming eligible to vote, it wasn't until his retirement that he registered to vote in Maryland for the first time, according to Anne Arundel County election board records. His previous official residence had been in California. LARSON quickly set about building a lucrative post-Navy career, joining the boards of big corporations and start-up companies. He also began paying back his wife for the 77 Navy football games she attended while he was superintendent by accompanying her to ballet and modern dance performances. (His debt of 77 such performances is down to 60, he says.) But LARSON couldn't escape public service. As a two-time college president, he was tapped to lead a commission that recommended sweeping - and heralded - changes to Maryland's public university system. He then was appointed to the Board of Regents. Though offered the position of chairman, he turned it down, preferring to wait until he had been on the board and earned the trust of others. "He's been one of the shining lights on the Board of Regents," says former U.S. Sen. Joseph D. Tydings, a fellow Regent. As a regent, LARSON served on the search committee charged with finding a new chancellor. Though he declines to discuss the inner workings of the search, other regents say LARSON was one of the strongest opponents of the campaign by Gov. Parris N. Glendening to be named to the $375,000-a-year position. "Quite frankly, I thought the role I would play to support Kathleen would be as chairman of the board of regents," says LARSON, who is now the board's vice chairman. In early June - before considering a run for lieutenant governor - the lifelong Republican said he had decided to switch his political party registration. He had signed up with the GOP to support his father's unsuccessful run to become Nebraska's secretary of state, and he says he has found himself out of step with the party on social issues for more than 15 years. Unexpected pick. Among all the names considered by Townsend, LARSON's was a most unexpected selection. Even he acknowledges being surprised to receive a phone call from Townsend. The choice remained secret from even the most senior Maryland Democrats until the last moment and defied convention wisdom that her running mate would be African-American or come from populous Montgomery County. LARSON and Townsend concede the process should have been handled in a different way. They have also spent time wooing black leaders and making commitments to issues of interest to the African-American community - though some resentment lingers. "When she had an opportunity to pick an African-American lieutenant governor, she chose a white Republican," said Del. Tony E. Fulton, a Baltimore Democrat who has not endorsed either gubernatorial candidate. "I think there are quite a few of us who still have questions about her commitment to our community." While LARSON has worked to build his credibility among such traditional Democratic constituencies as black voters and union members, his strongest appeal continues to be among more conservative voters - including many who say they wish he had signed on to the GOP campaign of Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. "I really like you and want to vote for you," Jo Ament Jr. told LARSON during a lunchtime campaign stop in the Northrop Grumman cafeteria. There's just one problem, the 59-year-old configurations manager added: "I wish you were running with Ehrlich." LARSON seems to take such comments in stride, saying they speak to his broad appeal to Marylanders. He is quick to add that he is passionately devoted to Townsend's vision for Maryland. Being loyal was important to Townsend during her eight years as Glendening's No. 2, as she was careful not to publicly break from the governor until after the 2002 legislative session. She has made it clear she expects that same degree of loyalty from LARSON. "My whole career in the military is founded on having your policy disagreements discussed in private," LARSON says. "If the decisions don't got he way you want, you've got two choices - either get on board or resign on principle." Back to public life. LARSON acknowledges that it wasn't an easy decision to jump back into public life, saying he enjoyed the time with his wife in relative anonymity. When he agreed to join the ticket, he didn't hesitate to cancel a salmon fishing trip to Alaska. But he insisted the campaign give him the time off to take his grandson on an August Disney Cruise for his 10th birthday. "We missed a couple of trips, but the family stuff is always first," says LARSON's wife, Sally, who tries to spend as little time as possible on the campaign trail. "There's a stereotype about the military, that if you get to the rank he got, you're a straight-laced, authoritative, no-fun kind of person. He's never been like that." As Election Day approaches, campaign aides and leading Democrats credit LARSON with having quietly stepped in this summer to help right the then-wobbling campaign - convincing Townsend that more focus and discipline were necessary. "My military mind is always looking for more structure," LARSON says. "When we made some changes, I saw myself going to more and more important events." But LARSON recognizes that if elected, he won't be in command, nor does he expect to be. "Most of my work will be behind the scenes," he says. "I don't want to have cameras following me around all the time. I'm eager to dig in and do the hard work, to get into the Prince George's County schools and the city schools, to talk to teachers and parents and see what we can do."
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