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The Passing of a Beloved Legend
A reminiscence by Brother Neal Golden
I met Larry Liss 50 years ago this month.
He and Bob Allen came from Florida to conduct an Equations tournament in New Orleans during the Christmas holidays of the 1966-67 school year. They surprised those of us who had spent several months learning the math game by teaching us several sections from a brand new and totally different game called Propaganda and conducting the first tournament anywhere in that game. Obviously, that visit changed my life and set me on a path I still travel today.
Larry and I soon learned that we had a lot in common besides an enthusiasm for Academic Games. We figured out that he was ten days younger than me. As was fitting for two men born during Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941, we shared a love of sports. And that background led both of us to see Academic Games as a way to inspire and give recognition to students who might not be athletically inclined.
As I brought students yearly to the burgeoning national tournament, I marveled more and more at Larry’s organizational ability. One of my favorite sayings is, “You have to work hard to make it look easy.” He could run a tournament with a tight schedule for 1,000 people effortlessly – or so it seemed. In fact, it was a shock when something didn’t go right during the tournament. If anyone ever deserved the name “Old Reliable,” it was Larry.
But he meant so much more to Academic Games than just a skilled administrator.
First of all, the National Academic Games Project would not have lasted as long as it did without him. Bob Allen was a great salesman for academic games but needed Larry’s attention to detail to make the venture prosper. Larry was the glue that held leagues from various states together. He kept everyone focused on goals more important than winning. A model of fairness, he got competitive people with disparate views to respect each other and agree to disagree at times for the greater good. He also knew how to fit people to the roles they could best play.
Left: Larry as most people encountered him, emceeing the opening ceremony and the awards ceremony
Eventually, despite his best efforts, irreconcilable differences caused many of us to leave the National Academic Games Project. Frustrated and hurt that he couldn’t hold together an organization to which he had devoted over 25 years of his life, Larry resolved to abandon academic games.
We all knew we could not form a new organization without him. Over the next few months, his love for the games and the entreaties of his closest friends persuaded him to change his mind. The result was AGLOA.
Even before his first stroke, Larry began training multiple people to replace him and urged the rest of the AGLOA founders to do the same.
Always cheerful, friendly, even-tempered, and optimistic, he never lost his enthusiasm for Academic Games even after a serious stroke. It speaks volumes about him that so many Academic Games coaches considered him as not only their leader but also a friend.
The best tribute we can pay to Larry is to carry on what he started and keep AGLOA as a vibrant, respected, and growing organization.
And to end on a lighter note: Growing up near Chicago, Larry was a lifelong Cubs fan. How wonderful that he got to see his team win their first World Series in 108 years before departing for a better place.
Down Memory Lane
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News and Notes
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