All too often, people spend their whole life doing a job that doesn’t fulfill them and very few people actually do something about it.
Larry Stephenson was one of those people who took the initiative and changed his life. Larry spent most of his career working in the computer field. But when his life ended, he was doing what he loved: teaching in a classroom.
Larry was born to Larry and Nona Stephenson. He married his wife, Brenda, and had one son, Bryan. He was a graduate of Silver Creek High School and studied business at Indiana University Southeast.
After years in the world of business, Larry made a decision to do something different with his life.
“He felt like his life was empty and he wanted to get more out of it,” said Greg McCurdy, a friend and co-worker at Salem High School.
Larry wanted to find a way to get involved in working with youth, so he started volunteering with the basketball team at Silver Creek and eventually became the assistant coach for the freshman team.
“Larry loved that so much that he decided that maybe, with the right contacts, he could switch careers,” said Greg.
Larry went to Indiana University Southeast and met with Dr. John Moody, who set him on a course to pick up teaching credentials in the area of science, eventually leading him to biology.
Greg’s daughter, Whitney, met Larry during her eighth grade year at Hazelwood Junior High School when he was doing his student teaching.
“She just absolutely loved the guy and thought he was a tremendous teacher,” said Greg.
One day, Whitney came home and told her dad that Larry had heard there was going to be an opening in biology at Salem High School and he wanted to meet with Greg and discuss it.
“So an arrangement was made for Larry and me to meet,” he said. “We met, we got to discussing our teaching philosophies, and things pretty well gelled so we ended up hiring Larry to teach biology at Salem High School in 1999.”
Greg said Larry’s tenure at teaching biology started out wonderfully. He said the students loved him, the parents loved him and his coworkers enjoyed working with him.
“He always came to work with a sunny disposition,” he said. “He rarely looked at things negatively and was always so positive with the kids.”
Even Larry’s love for athletics continued at SHS and he was hired as the assistant boys’ basketball coach. He was on a roll in his environment.
“His family supported him, they were showing up all the time to support him,” said Greg. “It wasn’t just a Larry thing, it was a family thing.”
Shortly after the start of his second year, things took a sharp turn, as Larry collapsed one day in front of his classroom. Greg said he was taken to the emergency room and after several tests were run, they discovered he had a malignant brain tumor. Surgery was scheduled and the tumor was removed, but not all of it. He received chemotherapy and radiation treatments and fought to finish the end of the school year back at the head of his classroom.
“He really wanted to come back and teach,” said Greg. “That’s what kept him going.”
Greg said he, and fellow science teacher Steve Riggle, worked together to keep Larry’s class going, helping the substitute teachers and grading papers. The following year, Larry started out in the classroom with the hope that he would continue his recovery, but things took a turn for the worse and he had to take a leave of absence and never returned.
“Larry had very much inspired the students and the staff,” he said. “His struggle with cancer ended abruptly, but before that, Larry and I had very, very many good visits.”
He said about a month before Larry passed away in 2003, they had a discussion on the legacy he wanted to leave. Greg said he told Larry that when it was his time to go, he didn’t want some florist getting rich off of his death and instead, he wanted a scholarship set up in his name so that students would benefit from it.
“Larry liked that idea, so I approached Judy about the possibilities of getting this set up,” said Greg.
After talking with Judy, Greg established a personal goal of $10,000.00. Greg was confident that the goal would be achieved. When Larry died, many, many people ended up making donations to the scholarship and students began holding fundraiser, after fundraiser, after fundraiser.
“Every time you turned around, there was another student out there that was coming up with more money to go into the Larry Stephenson Scholarship,” said Greg.
The fund was established in 2003 and by the end of 2004, it had accumulated $12,304. Greg said the goal was reached thanks to the students, friends and family of Larry Stephenson.
“They did a wonderful job of making that scholarship a reality,” he said. “We continue to give that out every year at honor day.”
He said he still gets choked up every time the description of the scholarship is read.
“I really loved this guy!” said Greg. “He was a tremendous educator. He was a wonderful educator. His legacy is going to live on because of the fact that people believed in him enough to make this scholarship a reality.”