In Memoriam: Dorothy Bannow Larson H'96, 1927-2020

In Memoriam: Dorothy Bannow Larson H'96, 1927-2020

On her final visit to the School of Engineering, Mrs. Dorothy Bannow Larson was gifted a plaque bearing a 3D image of her father, which she held close to her heart.

The School of Engineering community was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mrs. Dorothy Bannow Larson H’96 on September 25, 2020. A Bridgeport, Conn. native, Bannow Larson was a long-time friend and benefactor of individuals and organizations throughout her community — including Fairfield University, where her kindness and generosity touched generations of students, faculty, and administrators on campus. “She was an outstanding woman,” said George Diffley, retired vice president of advancement. “Through her philanthropy, Dorothy was engaged with her heart, her soul, and her time.”

Mrs. Bannow Larson wholeheartedly shared her time and talents on behalf of Fairfield University, serving terms on both the Board of Trustees and the President’s Advisory Council. She was also a lifelong President’s Circle member. A 1949 graduate of Tufts University, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Fairfield’s 1996 Commencement.

The Rudolf Bannow Science Center, current home of the School of Engineering, was named posthumously after her father at the request of Bannow Larson and her mother. Rudolf Bannow, a Swedish industrialist who founded the Bridgeport Machine Company, had donated generously to the construction of the Science Center which opened in 1971.

According to Special Assistant to the President George Diffley, continuing her father’s legacy is what inspired Bannow Larson to support the School of Engineering. Professor Shahrokh Etemad, PhD, chair of the Mechanical Engineering department, recalled sharing many meaningful conversations with her about the field of manufacturing, the future of engineering, and the education of Fairfield students. “She became my mentor and motivator to grow the School of Engineering,” said Dr. Etemad. “Dorothy’s support and encouragement has been instrumental to my effectiveness as a faculty member and department chair.”

In 2017, Dr. Etemad was named the Bannow-Larson Professor of Advanced Manufacturing. “It is an honor,” he said, “and with its leadership comes the responsibility to shape the future of manufacturing and engineering education at Fairfield.” He noted that a new senior/graduate-level manufacturing lab course, inspired by Bannow Larson’s passion to educate career-ready engineers, will launch in 2021.

Always putting the needs of students first, the Bannow-Larson Foundation, chaired by Mrs. Bannow Larson, made possible the creation of the School of Engineering’s new Manufacturing, Robotics, and Automation (MAR) Lab, including a FANUC educational robot to demonstrate real-world industrial solutions, multiple hardware solutions for advanced mechatronics coursework, and several 3D printers.

The lab became a critical manufacturing facility during the pandemic this past spring and summer, as student volunteers ran its 3D printers around the clock to fabricate more than 3,000 pieces of personal protection equipment for delivery to front line workers. “Without Dorothy’s generosity,” said Dr. Etemad, “this would have not been possible.”

“The first time I met Dorothy was about six years ago,” shared Dominic Figueiredo, program director of advanced manufacturing at the School of Engineering. “I knew she was going to stop in for her annual visit and I wanted to make her something special since she donates so much to the School of Engineering.” Figueiredo was later told that the beautiful clear rose he crafted using the machine lab’s Objet Eden 3-D printer found a permanent place of honor atop Bannow Larson’s bureau at home.

On the blustery, cold day of November 14, 2019, the dedication and opening of the MAR lab was the occasion for what would be Mrs. Bannow Larson’s final annual visit to Fairfield’s campus. This time, Figueiredo’s gift was inspired by a photograph of Dorothy’s father, Rudolf Bannow, hanging in the Bannow Science Center’s mezzanine. “I used my laser to create a three-dimensional image of her father’s face – something she could see and actually rub her hands across to feel – on to the front of a wooden plaque, then wrapped it for her to open when she arrived.”

When Bannow Larson opened her gift and saw her father’s image lasered into the plaque she began to cry. “At first I thought, oh no,” said Figueiredo. “Her assistant offered to store it beneath her wheelchair, but Dorothy would not allow her to; she was so happy and loved it so much that she held it against her heart the entire time she was here.”

“I was able to communicate with her in a very personal way, and I’m thankful for that,” he added. “I liked her very much, and she will be sorely missed.”

Dr. Etemad agreed, “It has been our joy and privilege to partner with Dorothy Bannow Larson. The School of Engineering has, in so many ways, been shaped by her leadership, service, and philanthropy. Although she is not here with us anymore, her valuable contributions continue to educate hundreds of students every day.”

Read Mrs. Dorothy Bannow Larson's obituary here.

Tags:  School of Engineering and Computing


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