Larry Fuller, trustee emeritus and philanthropist, dies

H. Laurance “Larry” Fuller ’61, a trustee emeritus, philanthropist, bird lover and business leader, died May 15 at his home in Spring Island, South Carolina. He was 84.

Fuller worked for Standard Oil of Indiana, later known as Amoco, for 40 years, rising through the ranks to serve as president, chairman and eventually CEO. He led the company through a merger with BP in 1998, forming what was at the time the world’s third-largest producer of energy.

H. Laurance Fuller ’61

Fuller served on the Cornell University Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2005, receiving trustee emeritus status in 2005. At the time of his passing, he also was a presidential councillor and a member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Administrative Board. He was member of the Engineering College Advisory Council from 1983 to 2005 and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Advisory Board from 2004-09.

Born Harry Laurance Fuller on Nov. 8, 1938, in Moline, Illinois, Fuller grew up in Park Forest and graduated valedictorian from Rich Township High School in 1956. He received scholarship assistance to attend Cornell, where he studied chemical engineering and was a pitcher on the baseball team.

After graduating, Fuller landed a job in the research division of Standard Oil. He attended law school at night and earned his law degree from DePaul University in 1965.

He and his wife, Nancy Lawrence Fuller ’62, made many significant gifts to Cornell, with a particular focus on impactful support for the Lab of Ornithology in recent years. The couple met as undergraduates at Cornell and were married for more than 60 years.

“Like all good leaders, Larry was a better listener than a talker. When he did speak, people listened. His remarks were concise, incisive and always to the point,” said Edwin H. “Ned” Morgens ’63, trustee emeritus, Cornell Lab of Ornithology Administrative Board member and lifelong friend of the Fullers. “As a friend he was generous and caring, almost to a fault. I will miss him.”

The Fullers were deeply involved in the Cornell Lab’s conservation efforts over the past several years. Their transformational gifts to the Lab of Ornithology include the Larry and Nancy Fuller Postdoctoral Fellowship; the Fuller Professor of Ornithology; the H. Laurance and Nancy L. Fuller Fellows Program; and the Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program.

“We view the Lab of Ornithology as the No. 1 scientific enterprise in the world that works with birds, and it’s very important in the training of students, which we value tremendously,” Fuller said in a 2015 announcement of their gift to establish the Fuller Professor of Ornithology. “We thought this would be a great way to be sure the absolutely top scientists are attracted to the Lab of Ornithology.”

“Larry Fuller was a lover of birds and champion of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,” said Ian Owens, executive director of the Lab of Ornithology. “He made an outsized impact on the lab’s mission during a key period of growth, serving on our administrative board for more than two decades, including for many years as chair of our finance committee. We will miss his wise counsel, as well as his humor and resounding laugh.”

Fuller served his alma mater for 40 years, working with six university presidents – Frank H.T. Rhodes, Hunter R. Rawlings III, Jeffrey S. Lehman, David J. Skorton, Elizabeth Garrett and Martha E. Pollack.

In its memorial resolution, the Cornell Board of Trustees stated: “Fuller’s passion for supporting education, new discoveries and the preservation and improvement of our world leaves behind a rich and remarkable legacy that lives on in the Lab of Ornithology, the College of Engineering, the entirety of Cornell University, and in all those who knew him, inspiring the tireless pursuit of knowledge, and the desire to be better each day than we were the last.”

In addition to his wife, Fuller his survived by daughters Kathleen Elizabeth Fuller and Laura Christine (Fuller) Bevier, son Randall Jackson Fuller and five grandchildren.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is accepting gifts in Larry's memory, which will be applied to “advancing the understanding of nature and engaging people of all ages in learning about and protecting birds and biodiversity.”

Linda Copman is a writer for Alumni Affairs and Development.

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