In memoriam: Calvert T. Larsen, associate professor emeritus in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
February 10, 2021
Calvert T. Larsen, associate professor emeritus of large animal clinical sciences in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, died on Jan. 24, 2021. He was 87.
A native of Utah, Larsen made significant contributions to avian health and disease research, receiving numerous grants and contracts, as well as authoring and co-authoring a range of scientific publications. As a poultry specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension, he provided education, advice, and counsel to poultry producers and the poultry industry and wrote various Extension and lay publications.
Larsen arrived at Virginia Tech in 1979 as one of the first faculty members to join the new Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine a year prior to the matriculation of the college's charter class. He taught a variety of courses in both the professional and graduate curriculum of the veterinary college and the undergraduate and graduate curriculum of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. During his career, Larsen advised and counseled undergraduate, veterinary, and graduate students and mentored master's and doctoral students.
"Cal was a key part of that incredibly brilliant and successful group of avian disease researchers who established Virginia Tech as an important and key part of that discipline internationally," said D. Phillip Sponenberg, professor of pathology and genetics in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, who joined the veterinary college in 1981. "In addition, he was one of the most positive and generous individuals anyone could ever meet. I smile every time I think of him. He left quite a legacy."
In addition to his legacy of research and service accomplishments, Larsen inspired next-generation researchers and leaders.
"Dr. Larsen was the first to teach me avian medicine. I had no idea that it would shape my career," said Margie Lee, professor and the first female head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. A Virginia Tech alumna and one of the first Black graduates of the college's Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, Lee went on to serve as the diagnostic laboratory director of the Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center at the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on epidemiology of meat and poultry-borne food-safety pathogens, ecology and mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance, and ecology of poultry intestinal microbiome.
Bill Pierson, professor emeritus of biosecurity and infection control and a clinical specialist in poultry health in the veterinary college's Department of Population Health Sciences, worked closely with Larsen. "Cal Larsen and I became fast friends when I returned to VA-MD Vet Med in 1987," Pierson said. "He was the best of mentors and colleagues, and working with him was one of the greatest pleasures of my career."
Following his retirement in 2002, Larsen was named an associate professor emeritus by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in recognition of his exemplary service to the university. Faculty who receive the prestigious title are specially recommended to the board by Virginia Tech's president.
Larsen earned both a bachelor's degree and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He worked in veterinary private practice for a short time before completing an M.S. in veterinary public health and a Ph.D. in veterinary microbiology-virology at the University of Minnesota, where his research focused on coronavirus of turkeys.
Larsen is survived by his four children, Chris (Marilee) Larsen, Scott (Kim) Larsen, Sarah (Justin) Devenberg, and Brian (Emili) Larsen; 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; sisters Georgia (Burke) Teichert and Lynette (Wes) Cox; and sister-in-law Katie Jean Larsen. He was preceded in death by his wife Colleen, his brother Kim, and his parents Calvert and Elga Larsen.
Larsen's full obituary is available here.