Thanks, Jack Larson

Since this blog is mine, and it is about admissions, I would like to say thanks to one of the best admissions guys I have ever had the pleasure to know – Jack Larson, Founder, Career Education Corporation. Jack is stepping down from his day-to-day role at CEC and assuming the position of Chairman.

I met Jack a million years ago in Newport Beach when I was VP of Admissions at National Education Corporation. We were creating divisions, and Jack took the position of VP of Admissions at the business school division managed by Jules Rosenblatt. I remember the time we spent together and how good I felt about his direction. He had the passion and the strategy, and he was such a good-looking kid – reminded me of Alex Trebeck. Anyway, off he went and he did a great job. He had my vote the moment he walked out of the office. That was 1979.

We sat down again in Û¥95 when he was looking to buy a school I had an interest in, and then again in 2003 when he acquired Whitman Education Group. I was president of a division, and upon completing the acquisition, I went to work for Jack at the Gibbs Division.

Yesterday I heard that Jack had stepped down from CEC, and with that decision, we will lose a real icon. Over the past 10 years, Jack has brought more admissions ideas and strategies to this industry than most others combined. He would never say so – his sense of humility is amazing – but trust me, he has. So many of the ideas used today in both ground schools and online were incubated and tested at CEC. So many people who left CEC brought many of those new ideas to our schools. So on many levels, we all shared that information and hopefully profited from it.

And yes, CEC has made headlines lately, but this isn’t about that. This is about an admissions guy who, with passion, skill, luck and the support of his family, put everything on the line and built a billion dollar company. A leader on many levels, this admissions guy, who always walked his talk, did so in a really, really big way.

I will miss Jack at the CEO level. I have sat in a number of meetings that Jack delivered and learned something at every one. Jack is our own six degrees of separation Kevin Bacon; very few in this industry can get beyond more than two levels without having been a part of something that has a Jack Larson footprint. That’s amazing!

So to Jack, I say thank you from all us admissions guys. Thanks for the new ideas, the new strategies, the guts to take a front row seat when everyone else was holding back, and thanks for teaching me that hope wasn’t a strategy.

So with that, a real career school guy is stepping aside, and I believe his influence will be missed. To the new guys at the top: You would do well to learn how Jack actually did build this billion dollar business. And remember: Success leaves clues.

On a more personal note: Jack, thanks for all the reasons you already know. On a professional note: Thanks, Jack – we have all benefited from your courage.

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Suzanne Karsten

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Jack’s many great contributions to the Industry. The comment ” So many people who left CEC brought many of those new ideas to our schools. So on many levels, we all shared that information and hopefully profited from it” truly captures the legacy he left behind. The other quality that stands out is his loyalty to those who believed and who were driven by his vision.
Suzanne Karsten