Story by Dr. Joe Sabol, Cal Poly Emeritis
“Visionary” “Dedicated” “Professional” “Mover and Shaker” “Tireless” “A Fighter” “Problem Solver”
These are all words that describe Dr. Larry P. Rathbun, a teacher, administrator and leader in the Agriculture Education profession.
Larry was an undergraduate student at Cal Poly, a Poultry major, who went on to obtain his teaching credential, Masters Degree and a PhD. After teaching agriculture at two different high schools, he came to Cal Poly in 1970 to teach in the Agricultural Education Department. He worked on several international projects which prepared him for a major future assignment in Costa Rica.
He soon went away to Ohio State University to earn the PhD and came back to Cal Poly to continue his teaching of future agriculture teachers. Larry loved to teach! He taught and supervised hundreds of future teachers!!
He served as Department Head of the Ag Education Department, 1976 through 1982. Larry was also the “informal adviser” to California Agricultural Teachers’ Association and made many trips to Sacramento…working with the legislature and other leaders. He assisted in drafting four bills – three actually became law! The teachers recognized Larry’s tireless efforts on their behalf and soon raised their association dues. The teachers raised their dues to MORE THAN 10 TIMES what it had been… so they could hire an Executive Director to do the big job that Larry had been doing in Sacramento!! The Ag Education profession in California would never be the same.
In 1982, Larry was asked to serve the entire College of Agriculture as Associate Dean. One of his tasks as Associate Dean was to apply for a government contract, a contract sponsored by the United Stated Agency for Development. A big part of the contract was to “build a brand new college” for students in the humid tropics that would eventually be built in Costa Rica. Larry’s skills at writing won the contract! He began to make trips to Costa Rica, to find the perfect site and start construction. In 1988 he became the Chief of Party and Project Director for the Costa Rica project. He resided in Costa Rica for two years, provided on-site direction of the support university assistance program and served as the primary adviser to the Director of the College. The college is now called Escuela de Agricultura de la Region Tropical Humeda (E.A.R.T.H). He contracted more than 100 Cal Poly faculty, staff and administrators to make the trip to Costa Rica and meet with their counter-part on-site. There is no doubt, the Cal Poly Learn by Doing philosophy and teaching method is alive and well at E.A.R.T.H.
In summary, Larry Rathbun had a major impact on the lives of his students and on the Ag Education profession. He was a proven leader in California and was the visionary architect of an international college of agriculture in Costa Rica. Larry was a “doer” and a master teacher. He was my office partner, a fellow co-worker, a trusted and inspirational friend. One of Larry’s favorite sayings was:
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence will stop.”
Larry’s influence continues, through his former students, fellow faculty, his family, friends and through all those who will ever teach or learn at E.A.R.T.H.
Larry will be missed. Born July 15, 1941 Passed away December 29, 2012