Jim Rundstrom
director of the UNK Alumni Association, 308.865.8474

Retired teacher and administrator Dr. Vic Larson, Class of 1965, has been named the 2012 College of Education Distinguished Educator of the Year at the University of Nebraska Kearney.

Dr. Larson is being honored at several events during Homecoming Week Sept. 17-22 on the campus, including a reception at the UNK Alumni House on Tuesday, Sept. 18, from 4-6 p.m.

Dr. Larson, who has a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a doctor of education degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, spent 33 years as a teacher and administrator, including 31 with the Omaha Public Schools. For more than 28 years, he was supervisor of industrial technology and coordinator of vocational education.

A career in education was a natural fit for Dr. Larson. His father E. Albin was executive secretary to the State Normal Board (the governing body for the state’s teachers colleges) for 26 years. His mother Edna was a teacher in the Lincoln Public Schools.

In addition to education, Dr. Larson and his wife Ruth are also known for Vic’s Corn Popper, a business they started in 1980 to supplement their teaching income.

At the time, the Larsons had started a family and were looking to help with their expenses.

Dr. Larson approached the Korn Popper, a Lincoln business that he had fond memories of while growing up in the Capital City.

“We always stopped there,” he said. “They had the best popcorn anywhere.” The Korn Popper agreed to start Vic’s Corn Popper in a “small hole-in-the-wall” location at 50th and Leavenworth Streets in Omaha.

“We made 15 bucks the first day, $250 the first month,” Dr. Larson said. “But by the end of month three, the store was turning a profit.” During the next four years, the Larsons added two more stores and several satellite sites. Vic’s Corn Popper grew to the point that in 1984, Dr. Larson said they needed to make a decision whether to go full time or sell.

“We decided to accept an offer from several investors, remain as a part owner and allow them to grow the business. A year later, we got out of the business completely, and concentrated on our family and my full-time employment with the Omaha Public Schools.”

The Larsons eventually got back into the business and are involved with several stores in Omaha. But it was education that has had life-long impact on Larson.

“My college experience as a student at UNK when it was Kearney State was probably my most memorable and enjoyable life experience outside my family. It was a perfect setting for me – small enough to not be overwhelming but large enough to provide a full college experience.

“Several of my life-long friends were the result of living in the dorm and being in the Sigma Theta Upsilon Nu (Theta Xi) fraternity. You might say we grew up together since we were living away from home for the first time and had to depend on each other to get through all the stupid things we did.”

Larson said that almost without exception, his professors were people-oriented and truly cared about their students

“My freshman English professor was Mrs. Miriam Drake who taught my mother in the 1930s. She had remembered my mom and frequently asked about her which really made me feel like she cared.”

Dr. Floyd Krubeck was chair of the Department of Vocational Education and one of Larson’s most influential teachers.

“He always had time for me when I needed to talk to someone about school, my future as a teacher and life in general. Through the years, I’ve have thought about Dr. Krubeck many times.

“One conversation has stuck with me throughout my career in education and business. He told me that people ‘learn by doing’ and that is why so many students of all learning levels do well in vocational classes.

“I have tried to apply that when I was in the classroom and when working with employees in our stores,” Larson said, adding that many of the skills learned in education have been applied to running Vic’s Corn Popper business.

“Being well organized, treating all people with respect, motivating people to be the best they can be, having a positive outlook, and of course, working hard are just a few characteristics that transcend education and running a business,” he concluded.