A portrait of Roger C. Larson, WSU professor and founder of WSU’s former Camp Larson, was hung this month at Cleveland Hall.
Professor Larson, who taught physical therapy at Washington State, was a founder and, for 30 years, the director of a lakeside camp for handicapped children. It was operated by the WSU College of Education and was renamed in Larson’s honor shortly before he died in 1980. The camp closed in 2003.
After the camp was sold in 2004 to the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the portrait, which had been on display in the camp dining hall, was brought to the WSU campus.
Larson’s family attended the installation of the portrait in Cleveland Hall’s first floor foyer in early June. Among those present were Roger Larson’s widow, Lucille Larson, and daughters Margi Vogel and Chris Larson.
“My years at camp made me who I am today,” said Margi, a Pullman elementary school teacher who began her career in special education. “I started going there when I was three months old, and my last summer there was when I was 21.”
Non-handicapped children also attended the camp, but they were outnumbered four or five-to-one by kids with disabilities, Margi said. That allowed the handicapped children, for at least once in their lives, to know what it was like to be in the majority.
WSU students worked as camp counselors and got both academic credit and experience working with handicapped children. Several of them commissioned Carolyn McElvain (B.A. in Fine Arts, ’73) to paint the portrait of Larson that now hangs in Cleveland Hall. That was in 1979, after he was diagnosed with cancer.
When it opened in the 1950s, the camp on Lake Coeur d’Alene was known as Camp Easter Seal. According to Lucille Larson, it was then given the Native American name of Manitowish, before being renamed in her husband’s honor.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has yet to decide on a new name for the retreat. The site is used as a summer camp for tribal children.