Established on 02.16.2022 by Dr. Bennett '63 and Piola Larson

Dr. Bennett (Ben) C. Larson ‘63 and his wife Piola (Pat) A. Larson met at the University of Missouri, Columbia, while Ben was pursuing a Ph.D. in physics and Pat was completing a major in physical therapy. They were married in June of 1969. Following completion of their degrees, they moved to Oak Ridge, TN, where Ben accepted a position as a research physicist in the Solid State Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Pat took a position as a physical therapist at the Daniel Arthur Rehabilitation Center. They have two children, Christopher, born in 1973, and Andrea, born in 1976, and four grandchildren.

As the second of nine siblings raised on a farm near Buffalo, North Dakota (35 miles west of Fargo), Ben graduated from Concordia with a BA in physics in 1963; he received a MS degree in physics from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, in 1965 and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 1970. His educational path to a Ph.D. degree and a research career in materials physics was influenced markedly by a succession of Concordia graduates. Initially by his high school physics teacher Lyle M. Dahl ’51, who instilled an interest in the subject, next by the Concordia physics department faculty and in particular professor Carl L. Bailey ’40, and finally by his MS degree physics professor Harold D. Bale ’50 at the University of North Dakota.

During Ben’s 45-year research career at ORNL, he was Group Leader for the X-ray diffraction group for 30 years, ten of which he was also a Section Head in the Solid State and Condensed Matter Science Divisions. In 2003 he became a Corporate Fellow at ORNL and continued X-ray diffraction-based research within the Materials Science & Technology Division. His research using synchrotron x-ray sources led to important advances in the underlying microscopic and mesoscopic science of materials in a range of areas.

Dr. Larson has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in the development and application of new and innovative synchrotron x-ray measurement techniques. Among other awards, he received the 1985 Warren Diffraction Physics Award for pioneering the development of ultra-fast (nanosecond resolution) time-resolved synchrotron x-ray techniques and seminal measurements of the surface temperature of silicon during pulsed laser melting. In 2015 he was co-recipient of the Arthur H. Compton award for the groundbreaking co-development of ultra-high (submicron) spatial resolution three-dimensional x-ray microscopy and its application to probe local stresses and deformation in materials on mesoscopic length scales. Dr. Larson received an Alumni Achievement Award (AAA) from Concordia College in 2020 for the invention and application of new and novel x-ray techniques for investigating the underlying science of materials. Although formally retired, Larson remains actively involved in scientific research at ORNL with Corporate Fellow, Emeritus status.  

The purpose of the Dr. Bennett C. ’63 and Piola A. Larson Endowed Fund in Undergraduate Research is to enrich the student experience at Concordia College by supporting academic year research or summer session research opportunities for one or more students participating in undergraduate research programs in the physics or mathematics departments.