Memorial showcases tribute to Larry Salinger
Friends, family and coworkers gathered Friday evening in the Spring River room of the Student Union to celebrate the life of Larry Salinger, chair of the department of criminology, sociology and geography.
“I really felt that he made a difference,” said Robin Pawson, administrative specialist in political science and Salinger’s life partner, to the crowd packed into the room. “This is another testimony to what Larry meant to so many people.”
A large memorial service may seem logical to most, yet Salinger was a humble man. His son Jeremiah recalled one instance where he told his father he would make a great politician since he cared so deeply about social justice.
“No thanks,” Salinger replied. “I don’t like the sound of my own voice that much.”
Salinger, described by Jeremiah as a career academic, was driven to serving A-State and loved his work as a professor. He held strong in his belief that higher education could change a person, which became clear when he helped a man shed his Crips background and eventually land a job as a juvenile probation and parole officer.
Jeremiah added his father also believed, however, that book learning could only take a person so far. He understood someone could still be remarkably successful with blue collar skills and jobs.
Being 6-foot-4, Salinger had a looming presence but was dedicated to creating better lives for his students and was extremely invested in his work. His advisee list consisted of more than 100 students and he was seen working on campus no matter what day it was.
“He absolutely loved being a professor and coming to campus every day,” said William McLean, chair of the department of political science.
He corresponded with the athletics department and attended recruiting lunches with prospective football players interested in majoring in criminology, said Gretchen Hill, associate professor of sociology. In addition, Salinger worked with the Beck Pride Center and ROTC to ensure his students in the military received proper advising, and was also a member of the Strong Turner Alumni Chapter.
“Larry had some remarkable talents,” Hill said. “He was a caring and giving person and he touched a lot of lives.”
Gina Hogue, associate vice chancellor for academic services, said Salinger knew most students were first generation college students and needed mentors.
“Larry carried a heavy load at A-State, and I’m certain it will take several people to carry that load in the future,” Hogue said during his memorial service.
Lea Ann Vanaman, a supervisor with the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children division, met Salinger in 1994 when she took his juvenile delinquency course.
“He was amazing and he was my friend,” Vanaman said. “I miss him terribly.”
Vanaman described Salinger as someone who gave great friendly and professional advice. She added anybody who had him has a teacher knew he always looked out for their interest.
The passion Salinger exhibited in his work at A-State also remained present during his involvement with outside organizations. He has left a lasting impression through his involvement with the Northeast Arkansas Children Advocacy Center, where he was a founding board member.
Vanaman recalled how her mentor did major research for the center and was instrumental in finding out what would be good for Jonesboro. Salinger was dedicated to the organization, which was apparent when he attended every meeting and spent his own money to travel to conferences.
“He will not be replaced easily,” Vanaman said.
“All of us at Arkansas State University were enriched by the presence of Dr. Salinger,” said Lauri Umansky, dean of the college of humanities and social sciences. “He brought intelligence, wit and generosity of spirit to his work on campus and in the community. His devotion to students was unparalleled. We miss him deeply.”
At his memorial, Umansky added Salinger approached each person, life and situation with a can-do attitude.
“Larry was a person who lived to serve,” she said.
Salinger was an associate professor of criminology and sociology, and received his B.A. from the University of California, Irvine; an M.A. from Indiana University and a Ph.D. from Washington State University.
Salinger died Nov. 23 at the age of 55 and is survived by his son Jeremiah and his life partner Robin Pawson.
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