William Burton Larsen

June 11, 1948September 7, 2021

“It all comes down to this, whatever you do to help others is all that really matters.” - William B. Larsen while writing his own obituary.

William Burton Francis Larsen was born on June 11th, 1948. Grace and Burton Larsen were his mother and father. Valeska and James McManus and Emily and Bernard Larsen were his grandparents. His family instilled a strong work ethic.

Bill (known to many as LB, BL, Larsen, Doc or even Dr.) graduated in 1966 from Valley Stream Central High School, a place filled with friends and experiences he loved. He graduated in 1970 from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Government. The Golden Dome lit up his life. While at ND, it was suggested that he try education and student teaching. His student teaching experience at John Marshall Middle School in South Bend, Indiana was the spark that ignited his amazing 51-year teaching career – a career that ‘blew wide open’ windows of learning for thousands of students.

He taught high school in Uniondale, NY for 20 years and went to the University of Tennessee to earn his PhD in English and Film. He taught for 31 years at UT. It took him a lifetime to realize how much he loved to teach. “Do what you love and you’ll love what you do”…

As a senior at Notre Dame, for the first time in his life he was able to get closer to his brother, Paul – one of the funniest people he ever knew. He had cousins of Irish ancestry – Murphy, McLoughlin, McManus – two [Michael and John Murphy] with whom he shared some great times – just not enough! He is survived by his sister and best friend, Nancy – the kindest, most caring person he ever knew and two beautiful and accomplished nieces, Claire Andreas (Architect) and Jane Larsen (French and ESL Teacher).

To all of his colleagues throughout his 51-year teaching career: “Thanks for the memory.”

To all of the thousands of students who learned from him and shared their lives with him: “You must be the best judge of your own happiness.” - Emma

To all of the many people from all walks of life who have been a wonderful part of his life: ”Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than the government. It is almost the equal of family.”- Don Corleone

It was Bill’s request to not have traditional services or a celebration of life. For those who wish to honor Bill, remember him in Catholic Mass, light a virtual candle at St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC, wear the color blue on his birthday or consider a donation to Friends of the Smokies. Condolences and memories can be shared at or mailed to Berry Highland Memorial, 5315 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919 for delivery to the family.

The family especially asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Bill's name to either of the following:

Paulist Fathers Office of Mission Advancement, 415 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019. Phone: 212-586-2074. Website: Click on Make a Donation – in memory of Dr. William Larsen.

Cinema Studies Enrichment Fund (CINEM) S010020957. Please note on the check that the donation is a gift in memory of Dr. William Larsen. Make check payable to UT Foundation and mail check to: UT Foundation, 137 Alumni Memorial Building, 1408 Middle Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996.

Tears express our sadness in losing his physical presence in our lives. He would want to be remembered with joy and laughter and a little exasperation thrown in because he could be such a skutch. He would want you to go see a movie or read a book and escape into the world of that medium to realize the many life lessons they present. He would want you to take what you learned from him and pass it on to others, see opening phrase, repeat. End scene, with love.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


William Burton Larsen

have a memory or condolence to add?

Lexi Turner

September 15, 2021

I know I am in great company when I say that Dr. Larsen was the most impactful educator I ever had the pleasure of learning from. I took all three of the classes he taught at UTK while I was there from 2015-2019, and I enjoyed each more than the last. His passion for the subjects he taught came through so clearly, and he expertly toed the line between intimidating and unbelievably kind. He was incredibly thoughtful and cared for his students’ success both in and out of the classroom. During my Junior year, I struggled with a host of health issues that forced me to miss several days of classes to the point where I almost dropped out. I had one professor reach out to scold me about attendance policies and missed assignments, and the others did not reach out at all. The email I got from Dr. Larsen was completely different. He was worried about me and wanted to make sure I was OK. He let me know what I missed in class and what assignments were due without me even having to ask. He was so kind and understanding, and his grace and encouragement was a big reason why I was able to tough it out that semester and stay in school. I will never forget the joy of his classroom or the compassion in his heart. I was shattered to learn of his passing but have found a great deal of comfort in reading everyone’s stories and memories. I am completely unsurprised by the sheer number of lives he changed.

Dan Hix

September 14, 2021

All In

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.
Ecclesiastes 9:10

“I don’t ‘dine and dash,’” he said mischievously
Baiting, humorous, with great smile
Eyes flashing, but with conviction
I don’t ‘dine and dash’ know
Of course, clueless, Baptist that I am
Of course, I didn’t, he knew I didn’t
You know, explaining, delighted to enlighten
I don’t take communion and leave
Sneak out side door
I don’t ‘dine and dash,’ I stay till the end
Stay for the whole thing
I don’t ‘dine and dash.’

And I believe him, easily believe him
I’m a witness, really a convert
Never his student, at least officially
Never in classroom, at least formally
Never wrote a paper, thank goodness
But I’m a witness, yes, from the edge
But a witness
Beneficiary, moved by
Instructed by spirited phenomenon
Whether completing NYT crossword
Only in pen, that’s right, only pen
Whether meticulously grading papers
Multi-colored pens lined neatly on desk
Whether discussing VOLS, agonizing Mets
Bill worked the room
Telling stories
Joking with staff
Communing with regulars at B&N Cafe
He was all in
Passionate, opinionated
He’d tell you the truth
Tell you with open, enthusiastic heart
Bill was all in.

Bill did not ‘dine and dash’
Take a bit of Jesus and leave
Meet the minimum then shut the door
Nothing halfway about Bill
He was all in
Found vocation, found great love
Found very thing worthy of his best
Then did it
Did it effectively, did it memorably
Did it faithfully, loyally, day after day
Did it with joy
Did it with might, all his might
No, Bill did not ‘dine and dash’
Brought sacred with him
Stayed long as he could stay
Long as heart would allow
Incarnate, uncontainable
Sign of grace with New York accent.



Dominick DeRasmo

September 13, 2021

Some of my best memories are from planning festivities with Bill.
The night before some ones birthday, we would meet at Friendly's
to plan an elaborate scavenger hunt for them. It was great.
Then on Christmas eve of 1974, we loaded up His MG with gifts and
drove around to every ones home to visit with them.
Bill was a unique person who loved life and people. I feel very fortunate to have known Him.

Diane Goedeck

September 12, 2021

Mr. Larsen was my history teacher at Union dale High School and my chaperone when I travelled to Spain in 1972. He was a great teacher who always encouraged me to believe in myself. I was actually thinking about him a few days ago and was wondering where he was and what he was doing. To his family and friends I convey my deepest condolences, and may you be comforted by the fond memories you have of him. Everyone who knew him loved him. I will keep Mr. Larsen in my prayers!


Diane Goedeck

Beth Potts

September 12, 2021

Dr. Larsen, you got me ready to teach, and I have done so, thinking of you and your way with students—humor, care, compassion, connection, goofiness—for over 20 years now. Your belief in me, your encouragement, your guidance, and your darkly sweet humor all made such a profound impact upon me

Running into you at Barnes and Noble, remembering your purple comments all over my papers and feeling so happy (and secretly jealous) of those new kids who were now getting that same attention as you poured over their work and shared your kind wisdom—those moments were such highlights for me, especially as the years passed and I had moved out of state. I only wish I had stopped in more for chats.

You are missed. I am shocked, but I will work daily to pass along your gifts to my own kids and students. Thank you for everything. For believing in me. For the gift of your light.

Pam Britt

September 11, 2021

I didn’t get the honor of being a student of Bills but I’ve been his hair stylist for a very long time and I’m so heartbroken to hear of his passing. I’m going to miss all our wonderful conversations and the Christmas cards with puppies that had the sweetest messages he wrote on them every year. The only time he didn’t give me a card with puppies was the year I lost my dog. I remember thinking what a considerate and kind human being he was for remembering my loss. I will truly miss his smiling face and his sense of humor.
Rest In Peace

Tina Shepardson

September 11, 2021

oh, Bill - I can't believe it - I miss you so much already! Hallmates on the 5th floor of McClung Tower since 2003. 17 years of laughing, waving, smiling, visiting every day. So many years of wondering in amazement and a little trepidation at the precarious piles of paper and posters and VCR tapes stacked around you in your office from floor to ceiling. So many years of laughing at overhearing your gruff, caring exchanges with your students at your office. You brought so much laughter and care to our hall. Thank you so much for your friendship, your sarcasm, and all the wonderful quirkiness that drew people to you. I am so glad for our time together and for your friendship - I think of you often and miss you enormously.

Susan M Mullan, PT (formerly Rojecki)

September 11, 2021

In the early ‘70s, while in Uniondale HS, I had two influential, unique, & young teachers-one of which was Bill Larsen, social studies. I’ve remembered him ALL my life! It may have been his first teaching job. He & Irwin Russo (honors English) seemed great friends.
I see now, that Mr. Larsen continued on, on, & on, furthering his own education & touching his students lives. These are the “best stories “, a true educators legacy. All persons we meet teach us, & some teach us boundless, & that was you, Mr. Larsen. You may have had the “best go of it”, there is such greatness in you, exemplary path…I hope to see you in heaven someday. Thank you

Lesley Overton

September 10, 2021

Dr. Larsen,
To know you is to love you. I am so thankful for the light you have shined on my life no matter how brief it might seem in the grand scheme of things. Thank you for allowing the Holly’s Gourmet Market team to become part of your chosen family and bringing Nancy’s beautiful light into our world as well. It seemed fitting that several of us were wearing blue today when we heard the news. Sending a warm smile and a big hug to you in the great beyond. Our days will be a little darker without. 💜

Henry Wilson

September 10, 2021

Bill was already something of an institution when I entered the PhD Program at UT in 1989. I first encountered him in his creaky little office in a dillipidated (now demolished) building at the corner of Cumberland & Volunteer. I could tell right off that teaching was the center of Bill's life, as every time I caught a glimpse of him in his cramped little office he was either grading papers or conferencing with students. More recently, I ran into him several times on Sunday mornings at Barnes & Noble, where he alternated between working the NYT Sunday Crossword and--you guessed it--marking his way through a tall stack of student papers, notating them furiously with his trademark arsenal of rainbow colored pens. Bill was one of the few constants over my 3 decades associated with UT & it won't quite be the same without him