While Larry Christensen ’61 chose to major in pharmacy when he arrived at South Dakota State University from the family farm near Viborg, he did not know the path that decision would take him. However, he did know he wanted more from his college education than what he learned in the classroom.
“I’d spent the first half of a semester studying and knew I’d drop out of school if I just kept studying,” Christensen said. “I started walking the campus and went into the Pugsley Union. I saw the radio station and started talking to the manager, who gave me a disc jockey shift from 9 to midnight during the week.
“The education I got here was more than just the classes. It was a little bit of everything—the social life, broadcasting basketball games and playing music. You get a lot of education outside of the classroom."
>> Larry Christensen
To help pay back the education he received at State, Christensen started the Larry Christensen Distinguished Scholar Scholarship. Kaitlyn Kuske from Belle Plaine, Minnesota, and Jade Kutzke of Lake Lillian, Minnesota, are the first recipients.
“I want to help them get through so they can help others,” Christensen said. “The main thing is getting good, educated people out there. I’ve met some who have graduated from college, and I don’t even want to ask where they came from because they’re not prepared for the real world.”
Kutzke has plans to use her scholarship to gain experience in another country.
“This scholarship will allow me to work less hours so that I can really focus on the pharmacy program. Additionally, it will allow me to start saving up travel and housing money for my pharmacy rotations that start in May,” she said. “With these savings, I’d like to travel outside of Sioux Falls to experience working in different settings and with different cultures. I would like to complete one of my rotations in a rural setting and one internationally to learn how to better serve the diverse group of patients I will work with in the future.”
Kuske is also looking forward to using the scholarship to continue medical mission work and help pay for the SDSU international rotation in Honduras in February 2017.
“I was privileged to visit with Mr. Christensen at the scholarship banquet. We discovered our common love for experiencing life in different cultures as he has traveled to many countries throughout the world and I have discovered my passion for global medical mission work,” Kuske said. “This past summer, I chose to spend five weeks in Caiman, Haiti, on a medical mission trip that I coordinated for two pre-medical students and me. We brought medications, medical knowledge and willing hands to help. From answering OTC medication questions for a pregnant mother to helping the local doctor stitch a teenager with a lacerated thigh, I was hugely impressed by this opportunity to serve others with my medical talents.”
Christensen’s vast talents allowed him to have a career that had him work in a hospital, retail stores, a nursing home and time as a consultant. That variety kept him going throughout his 55-year career.
“One job just led to another. In 1961, Osco Drug came here and I think hired 17 out of our class to work in Illinois. I just went from place to place as I saw different opportunities,” he said. “I loved the overnight hospital pharmacy. I’d work from 4:30 in the afternoon to 6 in the morning for seven days straight and then have seven days off. There were no bosses and three technicians to help. You had to associate with all of the nurses because you’d get about 200 calls each night. You had to be there and give them help.”
At the end of his career, Christensen said he worked more than 80 hours in a two-week period as a part-time employee.
“At 76, that’s too much. I decided if they couldn’t go along with my schedule, that’s enough so I retired,” he said. “I’m not sorry. I’ve been having a great time."
“I believe South Dakota State gives a better opportunity and a better education. There are so many things to do, so many courses and other activities to keep up with. I fully believe it’s not just the book learning that gives you an education."
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