In Memoriam: Pamela Larson

Our beloved Pam Larson has passed away after a lengthy illness. Pamela Larson led the Academy for its first 28 years, first as Executive Vice President after the Academy began operations in 1987, then as our first Chief Executive Officer before her retirement in 2015. For the many Academy Members who knew Pam well – she embodied the spirit of the Academy. Pam had a heart of gold, opened it to everyone, and approached her work with dedication and passion. She worked tirelessly to fulfill the Academy’s mission and vision.

After visiting Pam in Minnesota last December to give her a photo collage of memorable Academy moments, Academy Member Laurel Beedon wrote:

“Pam was a dear friend who made a difference in my life and in the lives of so many others. I will always remember her smile, her singing, her pitching in, her willingness to reach out, and her, ‘We can do this’ attitude. Hers is a life to celebrate. So Pam, ‘Here’s to you!’”

A photo of Pam Larson smiling at a podium surrounded by many Academy Members and friends.

Among Pam’s many invaluable contributions was her deep commitment to our Members, Associate Members and Interns, Board, and her staff. For decades, Pam sought to know each Academy Member and involve us in meaningful ways in the Academy’s broad range of activities.

In collaboration with Pam’s family, the Academy will be launching a Pamela Larson Legacy Program to honor Pam’s foundational support for the Academy and the many ways she touched our personal and professional lives.

In the coming days and weeks, we will provide a comprehensive look at all that Pam meant to all of us, and we invite you to help pay tribute to her lasting legacy.

On a personal note, this is the most difficult obituary I’ve written over the last six years. Pam provided great support to me when I succeeded her as the Academy’s CEO. I remain inspired to continue the culture of inclusivity and supportive collaboration that she established.

The goodwill that Pam generated on the Academy’s behalf is the core of her legacy and an inspiration for us all.

Please share your reflections on Pam’s impact by commenting below or by email at

May she rest in peace.

– William Arnone, CEO

Posted on: August 16, 2022


  1. Jennie Chin Hansen August 16, 2022 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    I am both stunned and ever so saddened to learn of Pam’s passing. I had the privilege to spend many years with her during my active career and all that has been written about her is so true. She so loved her work and the Academy’s vital mission. And she was one of the kindest and most humble people I have met in the field. She took such delight in assuring the pipeline of our future talent of social insurance. I am glad she had some time to enjoy her family upon her retirement but we clearly have lost her way too soon. Our field owes much to this gentle giant. Our hearts go out to her family.

  2. Rich Hobbie August 16, 2022 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    As a member of the NASI Board of Directors for 8 years and Treasurer for about 6 years, I had the honor and pleasure of working with Pam Larson and the NASI staff in many meetings on spending, financing, strategic planning, promoting membership, supporting members, and planning and participating in NASI’s outstanding conferences. Pam loved NASI and it always showed in her dedication, work, and interaction with members. Pam’s contributions to NASI are truly immeasurable.
    Condolences to her family, friends, and former colleagues.

  3. Michael Gluck August 17, 2022 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Although more than a generation younger than the founders of NASI, Pam embodied the idealism, pragmatism and passion that gave us the social insurance system we enjoy today. The optimism, compassion, and “can-do” work ethic of her Minnesota DFW roots made Pam the perfect choice to lead NASI through its first three decades. During my time on the NASI staff in the 1990s and early 2000s, Pam became a close friend and neighbor in Takoma Park. Like NASI, Takoma Park is a community that so aptly reflects Pam’s ideals and personality. It’s through Pam that I discovered the Takoma Park Music Festival, which gave the opportunity to marry her talents at organizing with her passion for music. The news of her passing is a shock, and it deeply saddens me.

  4. Carson Beadle August 17, 2022 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Pam had a sweeping view of her job and of NASI that encompassed all views with equal value. That is no small accomplishment in this increasing divided country. Her steady
    hand and smiling face will be missed by every one of us.
    Carson Beadle

  5. Nancy Gorshe August 17, 2022 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    It is complete sadness to lose Pam! She was an amazing, creative coworker at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging! She was a lover of her son, her life, travel, music, soccer and so much more. She was a provocative professional and an active advocate for the us all. Peace Pam!

  6. Lisa Mensah August 17, 2022 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    Thank you Bill for the beautiful tribute. I have deep gratitude to Pam Larson for her leadership of NASI through the thick and the thin. No detail was beneath her, and no vision of the potential of social insurance was too grand to deserve our collective work and hope. I will remember Pam’s laughter, conviction and delight in the past work and her hope in the next generation. Pam always said she was surprised when Bob Ball asked her to lead. Bob saw that NASI would need someone who would wake up each day and make us all better. Pam was this person. Rest in Peace dear Pam. Rest in Peace. Our love and gratitude abound for your life and work.

  7. Alban P. August 17, 2022 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    I am truly saddened to learn about Pam’s passing away! Utterly sad and can’t lie such a big loss for her family, us who knew Pam and had her as a great friend, NASI and the rest of the DC area, US,, and the world. I had a few doubts when I applied for the Nathan J. Stark Internship for Non-Profit Development in 2007 while I was studying at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in DC. But, as NASI offices were super close to SAIS and the moment I met the AWESOME PAM – her smile, love, compassion, energy, interest, creativity, thurst to help out, desire to do good, and just plain awesomeness, as well as including some of the amazing NASI staff like Jill and Virginia– I was like, sold. I’m gonna do this internship! Those several weeks I spent working along PAM not only did I learn a great deal about the complexities of the US public policy making and processes, including numerous visits to the US Congress as well as exposure to so many other important things and activities (Robert M. Ball; Liaising and helping with the Ford Foundation, etc) BUT I GOT TO ADD A WONDERFUL LIFE FRIEND TO MY CIRCLE OF CLOSE FAMILY LIKE FRIENDS. I even went a few times at her lovely house. PAM, always kept in touch and I did so but lately with these Covid realities and being overseas, sadly I had lost touch, and receiving this sad news was extremely hard to swallow. My dearest PAM, I am 100% sure you’re roaming and floating freely in the cosmos as if there’s something beyond, whatever it is you MUST have a priority seat. I’m extra bummed we never managed to have you come visit me in Kosovo and Albania, and to explore this non-US American homeland of mine together. I was so eager to have you here!!! Alas, may you rest in peace Pam. Sincere condolences to all of Pam’s family, friends, and everyone she touched in NASI and elsewhere. You will never ever cease to exist and be close in my heart and other hearts you touched. Love, Alban.

  8. Ishita Sengupta August 18, 2022 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Pam will always hold a special place in my heart! I had the honor of working in NASI for 11 years under her leadership. It was my first job in this country after graduate school. I had learned a lot from her but most importantly as an immigrant, I would immensely value her inclusive attitude way before it was considered the norm. Pam was very open to ideas and also a very encouraging mentor. Rest in peace Pam! You will be sorely missed.

  9. Wayne H Sherwood August 18, 2022 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    I was Pam’s next-door neighbor in Takoma Park for over 30 years. I never heard an unkind word from her. She always looked at the positive side of things and at what CAN be done, not can’t. She was indomitable. And so much fun. She loved her dear young friend Cedric Davis. She loved all of us in the neighborhood and brought smiles to everyone’s faces. She loved the Takoma Park Folk Festival. She was a soccer coach and loved the TP soccer community and the city’s recreation programs. She loved singing in the DC Labor Chorus. She loved going for walks. She engaged in a painting class at the Takoma Park community center. I enjoyed hanging out in her kitchen sometimes while she experimented with making something new for dinner, as she talked and shared her love of life and of people. When I felt grouchy or pessimistic about something, she would cheer even me up, which, believe me, could be a real feat.

  10. Laura Larson September 2, 2022 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    It fills my heart to read this obituary and wonderful comments about my dear friend and cousin, Pam. I knew her as a cousin and travel partner, not as the director of your esteemed organization. I know she was devoted to it and I believe it was the perfect fit for her talents and expertise. We enjoyed many great times together, being only about three weeks apart in age. She was a great travel partner, always ready for the next adventure. She opened my mind to social justice issues, as someone else said, long before it was in the spotlight as it is today. I am so sad to have lost my friend and closest cousin. I thank everyone for their appreciation and love of the professional side of her life, which I didn’t really know.

  11. Patricia Wilson September 11, 2022 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    I met Pam in 1975 at Cornell when she was in the Masters Program in City and Regional Planning and I was a novice professor having just completed my doctorate there. Before long she had me participating in street theater in Ithaca ! We stayed warm friends, coinciding in Washington DC for a year where she became the first babysitter for my new born daughter. Pam subsequently befriended my daughter again when she studied at Georgetown two decades later. Pam made a point of coming to Austin TX to visit my partner and me from time to time. She stopped here on her way to Central America with the Peace Corps. Such a laughing good time we had together! We didn’t know it would be our last time to see her. Thank you, Pam, for spreading joy and touching our hearts.

  12. October 1, 2022 at 11:04 am - Reply

    On this date thirty-five years ago (October 1, 1987), the Academy hired Pam Larson as our first Executive Director. Her extraordinary dedication and self-less leadership helped build a vibrant, trustworthy, and impactful Academy. We will soon be announcing a legacy program in her honor. Stay tuned for more details. –Bill Arnone, Chief Executive Officer

  13. Raymond Mastalish October 9, 2022 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    I can only echo the comments already made – Pam came into my life when I hired her at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (N4A) in Washington, DC. As with other staff, we all bonded as evidenced in carrying fond memories of those years of working together. Pam was one of a kind as I remember her – down to earth approach to life; a great sense of humor; smart; ethical hard worker; always willing to step in to assist as needed; exemplary customer service in dealing with our 600+ members; and a true professional. When Pam decided to move on to NASI, while feeling a loss at N4A, she could not have made a better move professionally as a national leader in the field of aging policy. While we did not keep in close touch over the past years, one of our last times together is when she visited us in Palm Springs, CA. To me, the picture posted with her “Celebration of Life” announcement perfectly portrays who she was – a wholesome, straight forward person. Unfortunately, someone taken from us far too soon. I will always cherish having known Pam and wish I could be at the celebration. I wanted to share my thoughts and support to her family and friends.
    Ray Mastalish, Former Executive Director, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

  14. Larry DeWitt, Social Security Administration—retired October 19, 2022 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    For several years Pam invited me to be a guest lecturer for the summer student intern orientation program. It was always a professional and personal pleasure. Pam always made me feel appreciated and her personal warmth and friendliness made these occasions welcoming. She always said she needed to attend one of my talks to find out how I managed to make the interns laugh out loud about Social Security’s history. Although I hadn’t seen her in several years, I still feel a sense of loss from her passing.

  15. Susan Gail October 22, 2022 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    How appropriate to be writing of Pam’s impact on this world this week. This is her first birthday in heaven. She smiled and brought joy all through her life; imagine what joy she is experiencing now!
    My husband and I first met Pam in Panama. She showed up at our door unexpectedly because she had heard we were expats newly arrived from the USA. She was a total delight from the minute we met her. We spent that winter enjoying her company , exploring and doing every day things in Panama.
    That summer she visited us in Iowa. She and I galavanted all over the area visiting local sights. Then back in Panama she stayed with us a month and we took a trip together up to Santa Fe on the local buses. We also got to horseback ride and play in the rocky stream. So beautiful.

    We knew she was there as a Peace Corps volunteer and spoke a lot about her work there and in Washington DC. But we all were just enjoying retired life. We saw the beginning of her affliction there and spoke of its mystery. We were glad she was able to move back to Minnesota and be with family. She called us, even as it got more difficult for her.
    What a bright light she was. Interested in everything. Optimistic. Joyful. We are so grateful we got to enjoy life with her. We miss her. Her light will never dim for us.

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