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COLLECTION Identifier: Larsen

Roy E. Larsen Papers


Roy E. Larsen (1899 – 1979) worked in several capacities for Time Inc. for almost all of his adult life, including serving as president for over twenty years. Larsen also passionately advocated education reform through work in both non-profit organizations and government agencies. The collection consists of correspondence and other documents from Larsen’s involvement with Harvard University, Time Inc., agencies of the federal government, and civic organizations such as the National Citizens Commission for the Public Schools.


  • 1912 - 1980
  • Majority of material found within 1940 - 1979


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Gutman Library’s Special Collections Department.


21 linear feet (33 boxes )
The collection primarily documents Roy E. Larsen’s professional life. The bulk of the material relates to Larsen’s work as an advocate of education reform. Over the years, Larsen pursued this cause through the non-profit organization, the National Citizens Commission for the Public Schools, various federal government agencies, and the Ford Foundation. The collection also documents Larsen’s service to Harvard University, his alma mater. As an alumnus, Larsen served on several Harvard governing boards. Additionally, the collection documents Larsen’s work at Time Inc. Across the collection, the materials include correspondence, reports, scrapbooks, photographs, periodical clippings, certificates, awards, and personal memorabilia. The materials are dated from 1912-1980 with the bulk dated 1940-1979.

Biographical / Historical

Roy E. Larsen was born on April 20, 1899 in Boston, Massachusetts to Robert and Stella Belyea Larsen. Larsen graduated from Boston Latin School in 1917 and from Harvard College in 1921. At Harvard, Larsen became the treasurer of the student run literary magazine, the Advocate. After graduation, he considered a career in banking and spent a short, unsatisfying stint in the credit department of the New York Trust Company. Larsen left that position after being hired as circulation manager of the newly founded Time magazine. He began a lifelong career in journalism and publishing, spending his next fifty-six years working for Time Inc.

Larsen became Time’s chief business manager and vice-president in 1929. Larsen played an active role in creating the innovative news program March of Time. It began as a radio show in 1931 and was soon transformed into a newsreel shown in movie theaters, running from 1935-1951. Larsen oversaw the first publication of Life magazine in 1936. In 1939, he was appointed President of Time Inc. and remained in that position until 1960. Larsen guided the launch of Sports Illustrated in 1954. As accomplished as he was in publishing, Larsen’s true avocation was education reform.

In 1945, Larsen was invited to participate in a newly formed organization, the National Citizens Commission for the Public Schools (NCCPS). The organization sought to raise the nation’s awareness of the public school system’s importance and to encourage local efforts to improve public education. Larsen was appointed the chairman of the exploratory committee in 1946 and became the chairman of the board when the NCCPS became chartered as a non-profit organization in 1949. He held that post until the charter expired in 1956 and NCCPS was succeeded by the organization National Citizens Council for Better Schools. That was, however, just the beginning of Larsen’s engagement with public school reform.

In 1956, Larsen served on the President’s Committee on Education Beyond the High School. He also attended White House conferences on education in 1956 and 1965. Larsen was vice-chairman of the United States Advisory Commission on International Educational and Cultural Affairs from 1962-1965. This commission evaluated the State Department’s programs for inter-cultural education and exchange. From 1962-1969, Larsen was also a national review board member for the East-West Center, an education and research organization established by Congress to promote greater inter-cultural relations between Asia, the Pacific, and the United States. Additionally, Larsen served on the Ford Foundation’s Fund for the Advancement of Education. He became a trustee of the Fund in 1953 and served as chairman of the board from 1955-1967. Larsen was also a member of the Ford Foundation’s board of trustees from 1957-1969.

Despite his other engagements, Larsen always found time to give back to Harvard University. Larsen served on the Board of Overseers from 1940-1946 and 1953-1959. He served as president of the board from 1958-1959. Larsen also served on the Harvard Graduate School of Education Visiting Committee from 1950-1973. He was the Committee’s Vice Chairman from 1964-1966 and the Chairman from 1967/1968-1972/1973. He donated generously though almost always anonymously. Larsen was a true benefactor of the university, and for his service Harvard dedicated a building, Larsen Hall, to him in 1965. Larsen remained active in various university committees as late as 1978.

Larsen died on September 9, 1979.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bulk of Collection: Gift of Mrs. Roy E. Larsen, 1980

Correspondence [Series III]: Gift of Chris Larsen, 2001 November

Processing Information

Processed by Emily Chenot in 2003 and revised by Matthew Redovan in 2008-2009.Transcribed into HOLLIS for Archival Discovery by Lindsay Skay Whitacre, April 2020.
Link to catalog
Roy E. Larsen Papers, 1912-1980, bulk 1940-1979
Finding Aid
Monroe C. Gutman Library
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Monroe C. Gutman Library, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University Repository

Monroe C. Gutman Library
6 Appian Way
Cambridge MA 02138 United States