Larry Spence, first director of Schreyer Institute, dies

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Larry Spence, who served as the first director of the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State, died on Thursday, May 17. He was 81.

Along with his post at the institute — which was originally named the Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning — he was an associate professor emeritus in political science at Penn State.

Lisa Lenze, who served as associate director under Spence at the institute, said his goal was to engage students in deep, meaningful learning, and that he left a profound mark on those around him.

“Larry himself was an innovator, reading widely across disciplines to find useful nuggets that he could incorporate into his own work in ‘coaching’ students,” Lenze said. “He left a profound mark on those who knew him well — students, faculty, co-workers and administrators. An inquisitive, intellectual, out-of-the-box thinker, Larry was passionate about challenging people’s ideas of learning and teaching.”

Spence and his wife met as undergraduates at the University of Louisville while in a Shakespeare class. He went on to be a news reporter for the Associated Press and the Monterey Peninsula Herald in California.

He then attended the University of California, Berkley and was admitted into the doctorate program within the political science department during the free speech movement and anti-war demonstrations during the Vietnam War.

He and his wife, Maya, began their careers at Penn State in 1970.

After serving as the first director of the Schreyer Institute, he worked at the College of Information of Sciences and Technology. After his retirement in in June 2001, the Spences continued to live in Milesburg as he worked as a consultant at Penn State for another 10 years. At the time of his death, he was in the process of writing a book about higher education in the U.S.

A celebration of life is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. June 6 at Above the Valley, located at 559 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in Centre Hall. Arrangements are under the care of Dean K. Wetzler Funeral Home in Milesburg.

Last Updated May 29, 2018