Two Million Dollar Gift Brings Campaign Goal in Closer Reach
FORT MYERS – In 1915 Andrew Larsen, a young man in his early twenties, left his home in Norway to start a new life in America. Andrew signed on as a ship’s cabin boy to work his way across the Atlantic Ocean. He passed through Ellis Island, along with thousands of other immigrants seeking a new life. Little did he know that his life would have an enormous impact on future generations of Americans.
Last month, Ralph S. Larsen and his wife, Dorothy, made a contribution of two million dollars for The Pavilion’s Heart of it All campaign, in honor of Ralph’s parents, Andrew and Gurine Larsen.
The Larsen story is an inspiring reminder of the American Dream and the opportunities that exist in this country to achieve great things, no matter who you are or where you come from. When Andrew Larsen arrived in America, he settled in Brooklyn, New York, and went to school where he learned to be an electrician. A few years later he met a young Norwegian woman named Gurine, who was visiting her sister in New York. The couple married and raised five children in Brooklyn, where they lived most of their lives. Ralph Larsen was their youngest child. Ralph served in the Navy for two years after high school and then attended Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, where he received a degree in business administration.
Following graduation in 1962, he joined the manufacturing training program at Johnson and Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He started on the third shift as a manufacturing trainee and, during the course of the next 38 years, moved up the ranks to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
This is a true American success story; however, if you ask him about it today, he modestly downplays it. “My parents instilled in all of us a tremendous work ethic,” said Ralph. “They were very hardworking, committed Christians, and they set wonderful examples for their children. Most importantly, they encouraged us to live a life of faith and integrity.”
Ralph’s personal commitment to living a life of integrity blended well with Johnson and Johnson’s corporate credo, which outlined the values of the company. “Essentially it laid out the principles by which the company ran its business,” said Ralph. “J&J required that we serve our customers as well as we know how, that we treat our employees with dignity and respect, and that we be good citizens. If we did those three things well, then the shareholders would earn a fair return.”
Ralph Larsen retired from Johnson and Johnson in 2000, but he and his wife continue to stay active. Ralph works on a variety of major boards including General Electric, Xerox, AT&T Wireless, and as a Trustee with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dorothy serves on the board of trustees for Messiah College. Ralph and Dorothy have three children and five grandchildren. They currently reside part-time in Naples and have a residence at Shell Point. The Larsens came to know about Shell Point through Ralph’s sister, Mildred Braaten, who lives at Shell Point.
It was this personal connection to The Pavilion that made the Larsens aware of the opportunity to make a gift that would help so many people. “We were very impressed with the loving care of the staff at The Pavilion and wanted to support that effort,” said Ralph.
The Larsen gift will be an important addition to the Heart of it All campaign, which will contribute to the well-being of hundreds of people in years to come. “We have been wonderfully blessed over the years,” said Ralph. “Now it is important to give back some of what we have been blessed with, in ways that will help other people.”