Poster Karin Larson
Karin Larson joined the board of Minnesota Public Radio in 2002.

Remembering Karin Larson, a generous friend of YourClassical MPR

Remembering Karin Larson: A Giving Life

Editor’s note: Brian Newhouse remembers Karin Larson, an extraordinary friend to Minnesota Public Radio who died April 24 at 82.

I wish you could’ve met her. If that meeting took place in, say, a noisy room, you would’ve needed to get down on a knee. Because she was the quietest voice in that room, and because she was seated in her wheelchair, you’d need to lean in close. Once there, you’d hear this soft mezzo-soprano speaking voice that after decades of living in California never lost the Minnesota accent, nor the sing-song trace of her Swedish ancestors.

I love her story:

She was a bright, young woman just out of the University of Minnesota who played the piano but wanted to go into business. In the early 1960s, that pretty much meant one thing: the secretarial pool. She left family in Minnesota and moved to California to start typing for the investment firm Capital Group. When she retired a few years ago, she was a key reason that company had become one of the world’s largest investment management organizations, with more than $2 trillion (yes, trillion) under management. Her portfolio? This little part of the globe called Asia.

I wish you could’ve met her.

Bill Kling, Minnesota Public Radio’s founder, invited her to join the MPR board in 2002. (After serving four terms, she was elected as a life trustee in 2014.) Her smarts always helped MPR as a nonprofit business run better, but her heart, ah, that was in classical music. That’s how I came to meet her. In that shy voice, she would ask what music I loved, and why, and how had I come to love it; and what might I do to help others know it exists and love it, too? And how could she help?

Her generosity fueled a huge expansion in YourClassical MPR’s audience, especially digital audiences, who could access our content anywhere, anytime. She helped diversify the audience, as well, with large numbers of native Spanish speakers finding MPR’s classical music for the first time. And her happiest achievement was helping our music-education initiatives, which have touched the lives of more than a quarter-million Minnesota elementary kids, many of whom heard live classical music in their classrooms and gyms for the first time.

And for all her brilliance and all her resources, you would never guess. She wanted no part of any credit. That quiet voice simply and insistently asked how together we might do the most good for the most people.

One morning a couple of years ago, I woke up from the strongest, clearest dream of her. She was asking me: “Is this transformational?” By that, were her gifts to MPR making a fundamental difference in the lives of more people?

Every day the staff at YourClassical MPR does its best to answer Karin’s quiet question.

I wish you could’ve met her.

Brian Newhouse was YourClassical MPR’s managing director from 2010 to 2020. He is now associate vice president of individual giving at the Minnesota Orchestra.

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