Larry D. Spence
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Larry David Spence June 6, 1936 May 17, 2018 Larry David Spence died at Hershey Medical Center on Thursday, May 17, 2018. He and his wife of 58 years, Maya, are long time residents of Milesburg. They have one son, Duncan Spence (Jen) and one grandson, Carson Spence. He was an Associate Professor Emeritus in Political Science at Penn State and the first Director of the Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning. He was instrumental in introducing Problem Based Learning to the then new Institute of Science and Technology. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. His undergraduate degree was in English and he continued to love literature and poetry his entire life. He was writing a book about higher education in America when he died. His passion was teaching and investigating ways in which teachers/professors might structure their courses so that students can ask questions instead of teachers. He met Maya Haldiman at the University of Louisville when she was 17 and he was 21. They met in an English class where they were studying Shakespeare. He was reading Blake at the time and their first conversation was about Blake. By their third date he had proposed and she had accepted. However, her father, who was Swiss, agreed to the marriage only under the circumstances that she would study for one year abroad in Switzerland. After that time if she still wanted to marry, he would agree. She accepted the challenge and studied at the University of Lausanne for a summer and a regular school year. She and Larry were married June 27, 1959, a month before her 19th birthday. Larry was 23. Their love for each other was immediate, intense and lasting. After receiving his BA in English at the University of Louisville, he got a job as a reporter for the Louisville Bureau of the Associated Press. Two years later, in 1961, they moved to Monterey, Calif., where he became a reporter for the Monterey Peninsula Herald. He had his own column called "Along the Waterfront" and had many interesting experiences with Sicilian fishermen who invited him along on some of their sardine fishing trips. He particularly loved the fact that they ate huge pasta meals for breakfast after a long night of fishing. And he eagerly accepted their gifts of Dungeness crabs. From Monterey, he decided to go back to school and both he and Maya attended UC Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement and anti-war demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. As a journalist interested in politics, he wrote about the political struggles on campus, impressing the Political Science Department Head who offered him admission to the Ph.D. Program. Maya received her BA in Political Science during this time. In 1970, they moved to Boalsburg with their young son, Duncan, who was born in 1967, to begin their careers at Penn State. Maya became an Academic Advisor after receiving two Masters Degrees from Penn State, one in Rehabilitation Counseling and one in Theatre Arts. She acted in many plays with Project for the Performing Arts and the Boal Barn. They settled in Milesburg because they both loved small towns where neighbors had strong family ties and there was a stable environment in which to raise their four year old son. Larry was from a long line of West Virginians and was proud of his heritage. On his father's side, the line dates back to the 1600's. In his youth he spent many days on his grandfather's farm helping him and learning the names of many tools, most of which are now antiques. He was a great cook and loved entertaining friends and neighbors. He gardened and chopped wood for the wood stove. He fished and hunted in the Pennsylvania waters and woods. Larry had an inquisitive and creative mind. He could speak with anyone about anything and enjoyed coming up with inventive alternative ways of seeing things. His standards for teaching were very high and his students worked hard or dropped his class. He especially enjoyed teaching undergrads and taught many Schreyer Honors Classes. He often received visits and phone calls from former students who told him how much he had meant to their careers and lives as they matured. After he retired from Penn State he enjoyed coaching soccer with Duncan for Bald Eagle School and together they developed practices to keep the kids involved and interested in the sport. His blue eyes sparkled with mischief and he loved to tease. He had a wicked sense of humor and a hearty zest for life. We will find the world a sadder place without him. A Celebration of Life will be held at Above the Valley, 559 N. Pennsylvania Avenue, Centre Hall, from 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Centre Volunteers in Medicine, 2520 Green Tech Drive, State College, PA 16803, or The State College Choral Society, P.O. Box 675, State College, PA 16804, or Bellefonte YMCA, 125 West High Street, Bellefonte, PA 16823. Celebration of Life arrangements are under the direction of The Dean K. Wetzler Funeral Home, 201 Spring St., Milesburg. Online condolences may be made at

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Published in Centre Daily Times on May 19, 2018.
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Memories & Condolences
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25 entries
May 28, 2018
Dear Maya,

I'm so sorry to learn of the loss of your husband. Larry sounds like he was a wonderful teacher and friend who will be missed by many. Sincere condolences to you and your family.
Mary Slaby
May 24, 2018
Maya: I am so sorry; Larry was a wonderful person and had a huge impact on my life. His friendship while I was at Berkeley had an enormous influence on everything I was involved in. He inspired and pushed me, and I am grateful for that My condolences to you and your family. Best, Jim
Jim Glass
May 22, 2018
So very sorry for your loss. Larry was a wonderful person and neighbor. Thinking about the family in this most difficult time. God Bless
Lori Greene
May 22, 2018
Our condolences to the family.
Butch and Joan Haus
May 22, 2018
"Spence" was a challenging teacher who pushed his students to 'think outside the box', and who encouraged us not to settle for the path of least resistance. And he was also a fun guy, with whom my roommates and I hilariously shared a drink on a memorable evening of silly lip-syncing. And he was kind, comforting me through his shared experience when my classmate died in a car accident during spring break. Simply put, he was a good man. I recall him fondly these 20+ years later and I'll continue to share "Spence stories" despite his absence. All my love to his family during this difficult time.
Andrew Kreider
May 22, 2018
I remember Dr. Spence fondly. Only took one class, "The Politics of Technology" with him, but the experience was fantastic. I was inspired to conduct a "farming technology" tour that still makes me think of my own dad (Ag Professor) explaining to my classmates that "organic" often means "growing in poop" to Dr. Spence's great amusement. Dr. Spence knew the infamous Hunter S. Thompson in his Louisville days and regaled us with stories of Thompson's proposed new punctuation scheme and his various weapons infractions while we spent the day in PSU vans. RIP a great American.
Ray Leach
May 21, 2018
Larry was a fantastic boss, an inspirational teacher, and most importantly, an incredible person. My deepest sympathies to Maya, Duncan, Jen, and Carson. Please know that Larry was a guiding force for so many and will be greatly missed.
Jo Wilson
May 21, 2018
Thinking of you n your family at this difficult time. Hugs
Diane D
May 20, 2018
A giant in my life has fallen. His impact on me was profound and career-shaping. He was a demanding teacher, but a gentle, generous man. I will forever be grateful for the times I had with hm and we have corresponded over the years.
Andy Felts
May 20, 2018
Sending loving thoughts to Larry's family. A passionate and loving man. Although it's been years since our paths have crossed, the fond memories of our collaborations come quickly to mind when I see his name. Thinking of you all at this difficult time.
Karen Feldbaum
May 20, 2018
I was so sorry to hear of Larry's passing. Please accept deepest condolences on behalf of the Flay family.

Sally Flay Derber
May 19, 2018
Almost thirty years after leaving Penn State, I find I don't remember very many of my professors, but Larry's influence has been significant and ongoing. Every semester I teach my students--computer scientists and computer engineers--an abbreviated version of Gene Meehan's decision making framework that I learned from Larry, and every semester the young technologists in my care are surprised when I require them to challenge their assumptions and justify their beliefs. I fondly remember afternoons at the Post House Tavern with Larry and students who aspired to live up to his standards of analysis and rationality--and admired his sense of fun.

Larry is an ongoing source of inspiration to me and--though they don't know it--my students as well.
Dave Eckhardt
May 19, 2018
Maya, Duncan, Jen & Carson,

I'm so sorry to hear of Larry's passing. He was a wonderful man to know, work with, and learn from. He clearly was passionate about teaching and his students' success.
Wendy Baker
May 19, 2018
Larry Spence, my brother-in-law, is burned into my thoughts and life in memorial. He was an informed intellectual, sometimes contrary, in superficial red-necked clothing that contributed to his contrariness! Underlying his thought processes was a deeply committed sense of love; first to Maya and Duncan and extended to his students, associates, the world in general, and even to me. That was his healing balm that radiated from him to all he came in contact with. That, tempered with a vibrant and colorful sense of humor, became his modus operandi. We do miss him. Fortunately we have Maya, my sister, available as a well of remembrances to keep his spirit alive.
Rene Haldimann
May 19, 2018
While it is easy to become sad at the passing of one so loved, Larry was all about laughter, wit, and having a good time. We will miss him for sure, but we are richer for having known him and for having him as our uncle. We will cherish those fond memories of him forever. May he Rest In Peace and may his family and friends find their own peace with his passing. With much love, Eric, Andrea, Annick and Margaux
Eric and Andrea Haldimann
May 19, 2018
Dear Maya,
We learned of Larry's demise with great sorrow. He was a great guy and an inspiration. With condolences, Michael Bernhard and Paula Golombek
Michael Bernhard
May 19, 2018
Although I never actually took one of his courses for credit (thus sparing myself from being measured against his exacting standards), for over 30 years Larry has been a greater influence on me, and provided me with more inspiration and wisdom, than the teachers whose courses I did take. Having lived abroad for a quarter century now, time spent with Larry and Maya was always a highlight of my visits to central Pennsylvania. As a university teacher, I have made him my role model, and if I can have anything like the impact on my students' lives that he had on his, I know my life will have been worth living.
Rick Woodward
May 19, 2018
Maya, I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and Duncan.
Sarah Russell
May 19, 2018
Larry Spence was an amazing teacher and a wonderful man. The courses I took with him were sui generis, mind expanding experiences that I still draw from decades later. He and Maya were also very generous with their time and advice to me, for which I am always grateful. My deepest condolences to Maya and Duncan.
Charlie Patterino
May 19, 2018
My condolences to Dr. Spence's family. I met him through my involvement with student politics at Penn State back in the 1980s. Though I never took a formal class with him, he was a mentor who influenced me deeply and helped nudge me toward my career as a political reporter. He was a wonderful teacher and a wonderful person, and I'm so grateful I got to know him.
Sue Sturgis
May 19, 2018
Dear Maya,

My deepest sympathy to you and your family at this time of your loss.

Rita Lumpkins
May 19, 2018
Thinking of your family Duncan. I know he was a wonderful man and will be greatly missed. Love you guys
Cristina and Eric Brandt and family
Cristina Brandt
May 19, 2018
I must add my name to the list of students whose lives he touched. He changed mine entirely. My memory of him is an active part of my life today though I knew him over 40 years ago. He was a truly great human being.
Judith Naginey
May 19, 2018
Earle Ryba
May 19, 2018
What a guy! What a colleague! He certainly made me a better teacher through word and action. Our condolences to Maya and Duncan.
R Thomas Berner
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