By Dr. Watson Scott Swail, President & Senior Research Scientist, Educational Policy Institute
Larry Gladieux passed away last week in Eugene, Oregon due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 76.
Many of you may not know who Larry was, but he was, for over a quarter century, a giant in higher education. He wasn’t a president. Or dean. He was a policy wonk. He studied higher education and wrote extensively about it. His words resonated and were regarded by the best.
I worked for Larry at The College Board from 1996 to 2000. He was a mentor and a friend as well as someone to look up to, even at 5’-7”. I had just finished my doctoral degree at GWU when I joined the Board, best known for the SAT, AP, and many other great programs. Larry was the Director of Policy Analysis. Although I started with a program called EQUITY 2000, I had an opportunity to move to the policy shop and work directly with Larry. That move would have a dramatic impact on my career and development.
Larry worked at the College Board for 28 years and was well known in DC policy circles. Prior to joining the Board, he worked for Representative John Brademas from Indiana, and in 1976 published “Congress and the Colleges: the National Politics of Higher Education” with his colleague and friend Tom Wolanin. This book became a seminal piece in the higher education arena.
The first time I met Larry he asked about my dissertation, which was about retaining minority students in college. I gave him a copy and, about a week later, he caught me in the hallway of our Mass Avenue office and started asking me very detailed questions about the content, leading to a robust discussion that turned into a great relationship. In the two years ending 1999 we co-authored Financial Aid is Not Enough; The Virtual University and Educational Opportunity: Panacea or False Hope; Memory, Reason, and Imagination: A Quarter Century of Pell Grants; and Postsecondary Education: Student Success, Not Just Access. We also put together the Trends in Student Aid and Trends in College Pricing reports between 1997 and 2000. Larry and I kind of ended our run by hosting the ConnectED 2000 conference in San Diego that year, featuring Secretary of Education Riley and 500 other dignitaries and participants. (Words to the wise: don’t put on a wonderful, meaningful, impactful event after Y2K that shows up your new College Board president. It doesn’t end well).
Larry was the best writer I have ever known; a wordsmith who fought for every word. He believed, as I do now, that less is more. It was Larry who joked with me: “If I had more time, I would have made it shorter.” Writing long is relatively easy. Writing to get the most out of your words is very challenging. It was an important lesson. He also taught me to edit. Even on my Swail Letters, I often edit them 3-4 four times before “committing to the click.” So, if you don’t like the writing on the Swail Letters, you should see what they looked like in Draft #1!
Larry mentored several of us over the years, including Jaci King, Jamie Merisotis, and Laura Knapp, to mention only a few. We were all better because of the experience.
Thanks for everything, Larry. The pleasure was mine.
I’ll end with a wonderful piece written by his daughter, Michele, who helped Larry out during his final years in Oregon.
LAWRENCE EDWARD GLADIEUX was born November 1,1943 in Washington, D.C. He was the third of four sons born to Persis and Bernard Gladieux. He grew up in Scarsdale, NY, traveling with his family to live in the Philippines from 1955-1957 and returning to Scarsdale, NY graduating from Scarsdale High School in 1961, where he was class president and four time NY District 1 wrestling Champ.
Larry attended Oberlin College and graduated with a degree in Government in 1965. He continued to compete on the football and wrestling teams, where he was co-captain of the wrestling team his senior year, but also enjoyed soccer, rugby and singing in the Oberlin Student Union. While at Oberlin, Larry met and later married Paula Ross Gladieux with whom he shared two children, Kenneth (Kenny) Ross and Michele Stuart. Larry and Paula moved to Princeton, NJ, where Larry attended the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, earning a master’s degree in public and international affairs.
Larry spent his career as an expert in higher education policy in Washington, D.C. In his early years he was a legislative assistant to John Brademas in the U.S. House of Representatives, staffed a task force on international cultural exchange programs chaired by Senator Jacob Javits and worked in government relations for the Association of American Universities. He spent the majority of his career, 1972-2000, working for the College Board as Director of the Washington Office and Director of Policy Analysis, doing policy research on higher education access. After 2000, Larry continued to work independently for federal and state governments on education policy and finance.
Kenny and Michele were raised in Alexandria, Virginia. Larry was a dedicated father – very involved in Kenny and Michele’s schooling, including serving on PTA boards, attending sporting events, and nurturing their love and closeness with their extended family. Larry loved to travel and bestowed Kenny and Michele with a variety of rich travel experiences with him, as a family, and with many father-son and father-daughter trips. Larry took after his mother with an interest in gardening and flower arranging. He built a small but beautiful garden at an Old Town Alexandria house that he tended to methodically and was coined by the neighbors as the nocturnal gardener for his 10pm watering habits.
Larry was an excellent athlete, and in his forties found a new sport: white-water kayaking. This hobby turned into a passion and brought him some of the greatest joys and thrills of his life. He travelled the mid-Atlantic to run rivers and even made many trips west and to Costa Rica. He was involved in the kayaking community in Washington, D.C./Virginia, with membership in the Blue Ridge Voyageurs, the Canoe Cruisers Association and the Potomac River Gorge Preservation Council.
Larry found great joy spending time with his grandchildren Meg (born in 2000) and Max (born in 2002), children of Kenny (now deceased) and daughter-in-law, Barbara. He especially enjoyed visiting them in Lynchburg, Virginia over his birthday and Halloween, his reported favorite holiday.
Larry moved to Oregon in 2018 to be close to Michele as his evolving Alzheimer’s stole an expanding set of his abilities. He never complained and made every day as good as it could be. Larry’s caregivers had great affection for him, including his sweet tooth and sweet disposition. In fact, just two weeks ago one of Larry’s caregivers called Michele to let her know that he was being awarded resident of the month. Given a limited ability to communicate, Larry carried his gentleness with him to his last days.
Larry is survived by: brother Bernard L. Gladieux and wife Sally, brother Russell V. Gladieux and wife Zenie, brother Jay A. Gladieux, ex-wife Paula Ross Gladieux, daughter Michele S. Gladieux and son-in-law John M. Chalmers, daughter-in-law Barbara B. Gladieux, grandchildren Margaret K. and Maxwell R. Gladieux, and many loved cousins, nieces and nephews.
In the links below, we remember how Larry precisely articulated with passion and commitment the principle that all people deserve the opportunity to pursue higher education. The first clip is testimony before a House subcommittee on why it is so important to support financial aid for underrepresented students. (approximately 2:24:30 in the clip). You can see and hear Larry again in this Washington Journal conversation discussing higher ed policy beginning at 2:29:00.
Larry was a special person and one we will love forever and never forget.