Larry Pugh ’56, hailed as “one of Colby’s great leaders” by President David A. Greene, died Dec. 3 in Naples, Fla., at 82. “For those of us charged with leading this great college and ensuring its success well into the future, Larry was a guiding light,” Greene said in a message to the Colby community Thursday. “We all looked for his discerning judgment and compelling insights when the challenges were greatest. He never failed to deliver in those moments.”
Lawrence R. Pugh ’56, LL.D. ’99, P’80, GP’07, ’10 was a life trustee at Colby, having joined the board in 1982. He was chair of the Board of Trustees from 1991 to 1999 and he contributed to Colby in extraordinary ways and measures. His gifts to his alma mater included the immeasurable time he invested, the leadership he provided, many generous financial gifts, and two subsequent generations of his family who graduated from Colby—a daughter and two grandsons.
Pugh led two capital campaigns, each by far the largest in Colby’s history at the time, but he is also remembered for the tone he set. President Emeritus William R. Cotter, LL.D. ’00, credited Pugh for the collegial relationship between Colby’s faculty and trustees—a relationship not shared at all such institutions. Pugh’s leadership and gift for consensus building was evident early in his service on the Board of Trustees. A member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity as a student, he chaired the special trustee commission that in 1983 unanimously recommended the abolishment of fraternities and sororities at Colby. He proceeded to build near-unanimous support for the transition from a fraternity-based system for social life to a residential commons system that promoted reconciliation after the decision.
During much of his time of service as a Colby trustee, Pugh was chairman and CEO of VF Corporation, at the time a $5-billion-a-year global apparel and footwear company that included such brands as Lee, Wrangler, and JanSport.
The most visible of Pugh’s many gifts to Colby include the endowed Pugh Family Professorship in Economics and the Pugh Center, a central location for programs, activities, and learning opportunities that promote intercultural communication and understanding. Beyond the 1999 honorary doctor of laws degree, Pugh received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1986, the Colby Brick Award in 1996, and both the C Club Person of the Year Award and the Marriner Distinguished Service Award in 1999.
He is survived by his wife, Jean Van Curan Pugh ’55, LL.D. ’99, daughter Deborah Pugh Kelton ’80 and her husband, William Kelton, daughter Diane Pugh Esecson and her husband, Matt Esecson, and grandsons Tucker Kelton ’07, Joshua Kelton ’10, Austin Esecson (Duke ’10), and Kyle Esecson (Wake Forest ’11).
Portland Press Herald column