Getting to know Larry Pearson Bsc ’72 and why giving back to the new Guelph Gryphon Athletics Centre means so much.
It would be hard to for most of us to imagine, the long and intricate relationship some people have with the University of Guelph. Such is the case with Larry Pearson: Guelphite, alumnus, athlete, Coach, Board of Governor, volunteer and donor. As Larry likes to say, “This is my school and it has always been a part of my life.” Growing up in Guelph he learned to figure skate in the pygmy gardens, the spot that would eventually become the West gym of the W.F. Mitchell Centre. Back then there were no skating schools and Larry’s parents insisted if he wanted to play hockey he had to learn how to skate, so that meant figure skating lessons.
Canada’s game wouldn’t become his passion but instead volleyball and baseball would shape this athlete’s young life, influencing the man he is today. Larry attended Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute and played intercollegiate volleyball. Standing at 6’ 4” it’s easy to see why he was drawn to the sport. Like many young men from his team, Larry decided to go to the University of Guelph. His varsity volleyball career would span his entire degree 1969-1972. A few short years later he would step back onto the gym floor as a coach for the men’s team from 1975-79. His leadership secured the only Men’s Volleyball OUA Championship title in the history of Guelph in ’78. “I am a big proponent of athletics. Playing on a team you get to learn real life skills: time management, responsibility, problem solving, and people skills. Most importantly you learn how to deal with failure. Life will always give you failures. Sports teach you to refocus and get up off the mat.” For the coach in Larry, FAIL will always stand for FIRST ATTEMPT IN LEARNING.
Larry’s degree in Mathematics would start him on a career path to become an Accountant. After taking his first job in Toronto as a junior for a year, he returned to Guelph to work at the Ministry of Government Services and Euclid Canada (now Hitachi) an off road truck manufacturer. All the while he worked hard over 7 years to earn his Registered Industrial Accountant’s designation in night school. In 1979 he joined Linamar, embarking on a 20 year career with the local manufacturer, retiring as the company’s President and COO in 1998.
Over the years Larry has generously given back to his alma mater, to support the Gryphons Basketball Club, the High Performance centre, Athletics scoreboard and scholarships for the men’s volleyball team. His philanthropy has continued to grow over the years and in 2007 Larry made a leadership gift of $1.1 million to revitalize the athletics facilities; the largest single gift the Department of Athletics had ever received. Larry believes “Athletics is the glue that keeps this campus together – it creates identity, and lets every person on campus be a big part of their school.” He recognized that UofG’s facilities were lagging behind most OUA Universities. “The W.F. Mitchell Centre was built in 1957 for a campus population under 5,000 and today it services over 20,000. Tom Kendall knew it, the students knew it. The facilities had to expand for the University to maintain its competitiveness; to support athletes and to support a healthy lifestyle for all students.”
In 2004, Larry returned as the Assistant Coach to the men’s volleyball team and stepped onto the West gym floor, the ice rink of his childhood. He had been serving on the Board of Governors for years but wanted to bring his leadership skills back to the volleyball court. Larry eagerly awaits the new building where his team will play in their new gym. With the opening so close and the structure in sight Larry has once again extended his generosity announcing another $500,000 for the facility. In the fall of 2016, everyone will enter the new facility through the Larry Pearson main entrance lobby, his players will gather in their own team room, students will enjoy the courtyard and fans will watch the new scoreboard with heightened anticipation, cheering for a home game Gryphon victory. Larry knows “Being able to give back to my school, the community, and to athletics means my life is good. I can help young people succeed and provide a place for our varsity culture to thrive.” After all for him, NO means Next Opportunity.