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An Excellent European Battlefield Adventure


alumni on Gettysburg battlefield

tours for years, and took a Lycoming

alumni group to Normandy in June

of 2012. They christened the trip

“Bob and Mike’s Excellent European

Battlefield Adventure.” They were

gearing up to do D-Day all over

again in 2014.

There was only one catch.

Security for all the visiting heads

of state at the 70


anniversary of

D-Day was going to be a lot tighter

than it had been in 2012. The entire

region would be peppered with

checkpoints and crawling with

Gendarmes. The bus needed a

special visitor sticker and you had

to show copies of contracts with

local restaurants to get down to

the beaches. That’s when Bob and

Mike decided to invite a bilingual

barrister to accompany the group

to talk our way through the

checkpoints and help ensure mission

accomplishment. The mission

Europe to research German military

history. We visited WWII sites in

Normandy together for the first time

in 1989. Drawing on Bob’s knowledge

of military tactics and operations and

the French language skills I developed

in the Sorbonne’s Cours de Civilisation

Française, we explored every nook and

cranny of the beaches where American

forces began their assault on Hitler’s

Atlantic Wall. It was the start of

something big.

My wife and I returned to Lycoming

this spring to watch Bob serve as

Marshal of the College for the last time

at the Class of 2014 commencement, and

to congratulate him on his retirement

after 45 years of dedicated service to the

college. It was great to see him and other

professors who had such a profound

impact on us. Bob was excited about

his upcoming trip to Normandy for the



anniversary of D-Day. He and Mike

Ellicott, a retired U.S. Army Colonel,

had been leading Lycoming students and

by Stephen W. Smith ‘77

t seems like only yesterday

that I returned to Lycoming

to complete my senior

year after spending the

summer of 1976 studying

in England. That summer

changed my life. While everyone

was busy celebrating the American

Bicentennial, I discovered there

was much more to history than

“American Studies.” I spent the

next two semesters taking Dr.

Robert H. Larson’s spellbinding

Modern European History survey

and related history courses. There

is truth to the adage, “the rest is


Bob Larson was much more than

a gifted history professor. He was

a venerated mentor and friend to

generations of Lycoming students.

He and I remained in close contact

after I graduated, and we toured

many a battlefield over the ensuing

years during his summer visits to