Jackie Kennedy chose one of his textiles for the White House. Richard Nixon asked him to provide Air Force One’s carpets and upholstery. Those are just two of the more influential clients served by A&S alumnus Jack Lenor Larsen (‘49), a world-renowned textile designer and recipient of this year’s Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus.
The award is the highest honor the UW can bestow on a graduate, recognizing a lifetime record of achievement. Larsen received the College of Arts and Sciences’ Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1991.
Larsen began his UW career in architecture but discovered weaving while taking an interior design class. It became his passion. After graduating with a BA in textile design from the School of Art, he earned his master’s degree at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, then struck out for New York City, where he showed his portfolio to a number of design studios.
They all turned him down. But after winning a competition to design the interior wall curtains for Lever House, a new, distinctively-styled office building, Larsen’s career took off. At its peak, his company operated in more than 30 countries, employing several thousand craftspeople to weave his carpets, curtains, and upholsteries. His fabrics are featured in the permanent collections of 16 world museums.
Throughout his career, Larsen maintained his connections to the Northwest. He has designed fabrics for many Seattle buildings, including one on the UW campus: the fabric for the carpet laid in the 1996 renovation of Meany Hall.
Larsen sold his company in 1997 but stays on as a consultant.