Editor’s note: Dr. John A. Sparks is the retired Dean of the Calderwood School of Arts & Letters at Grove City College. He is one of the co-founders of The Center for Vision & Values and worked regularly with Dick Larry as an applicant for Scaife Foundation grants. Dr. Richard G. Jewell is the President of Grove City College.
The world lost a quiet but forceful champion for freedom on Saturday, July 6, 2013 with the death of the former president of the Sarah Scaife Foundation and former Grove City College trustee Richard M. Larry.
Dick, as he preferred to be called, was a man of character, integrity, and wide-ranging intellect. For many years, those of us who applied to the foundation for funding had the pleasure of being treated well and respected. Dick encouraged us with great kindness and care and with a real sense that he had painstakingly looked at all of the details of our proposal. He was the quintessential gentleman, yet he would honestly inform applicants if and when their proposals failed to further enhance an understanding of the free society he so fervently valued.
Dick Larry was very effective at providing a special kind of intellectual brokerage. He gently made grant applicant “A” aware of other persons, “B” and “C,” who were laboring in the same area. Dick would then suggest that those grant applicants make contact with each other in order to build collaboration and to work with an awareness of what other applicants were pursuing. In this way, Dick Larry maximized the impact of grants, avoiding obvious duplication and, at the same time, encouraging applicants to share ideas that worked and avoid approaches that had not been productive. He also thereby furthered the cause of freedom.
It is important to note that he never made those of us who proposed smaller-scale projects feel that our efforts were insignificant for the advancement of liberty. One project that immediately comes to mind were the small summer programs in public policy and private enterprise that were provided through Grove City College. In fact, those fledging efforts later became a publication called Vision & Values. Soon after, with the leadership of Paul Kengor and Lee Wishing, the program became a larger force for the exploration of faith and freedom: The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
It was on a national level, however, that Dick’s presence was most impactful. Working alongside Dick Scaife’s other close confidant and trusted aide, Dan McMichael (who also just passed away), Dick Larry adroitly executed Scaife’s philosophical game plan to identify and empower think-tanks and other conservative causes. The plan was to introduce into the marketplace of ideas views separate, distinct, and provocative from the more progressive mainstream views then in evidence. It was Scaife’s money and philosophy, but without someone like Dick Larry to triage the many possible uses of funds and to discreetly build the coalitions necessary to make conservativism a robust movement, it would not have had the same impact. For 29 years Larry labored in this vineyard – often helping to plant the grapes and harvest the output.
The existence of those organizations which labor in the vanguard of liberty today, advocating the importance of the private sector, constitutional government, free economic institutions, and traditional values, in large measure owe their success to the insight, nurturing, and care of Dick Larry.