Larry Walters discovered early in his life that serving others brought him great joy. He put in effort to turn that love into a career, and now, as an emeritus faculty member of the BYU Marriott School of Business MPA program, Walters can see how his love of public service has spread to others and made the world a better place.
Walters was born in northern California and grew up in the South Bay Area. He became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 17, and after graduating high school, he came to BYU for his freshman year. He then served a mission in Brazil and, upon returning, married his wife, Carol.
As a newlywed, Walters was much more focused on raising a family than trying to finish school. At the time, he worked as the manager of a small grocery store in Ferron, Utah. Walters noticed a public works job opening in the city, and because of the better pay, he applied. He landed the job and took on whatever needed to be done for the city; he plowed snow, dug graves, read water meters, and installed water lines. “I loved being able to go home each night and name the people who were better off because of what I did,” he says. “I couldn’t picture a career more satisfying than that.”
After working in Ferron for two years, Walters and his family moved to Salem, Utah, where he worked as the city manager. While working in Salem, he realized if he wanted to pursue a stable career in city management, he needed to further his education. He and his wife already had five children. Returning to school was a challenge, but Walters knew it was the right decision.
Walters left the city of Salem and went back to BYU, expecting to finish his bachelor's degree and then study in BYU Marriott’s MPA program. However, Walters fell in love with statistical analysis, prompting him to major in public policy analysis. After graduating from BYU in 1980 with his bachelor's degree, Walters studied at the University of Philadelphia, where he received a PhD in public policy analysis and management. By the time Walters finished school, he and his wife had six children.
In 1985 Walters returned to BYU as the director for the Social Science Computing Center within the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. After four years, he joined the MPA program and eventually served as its director.
Toward the end of Walters’s career, he took on new challenges beyond the BYU community. As a visiting professor at Rotterdam University, Walters instructed students from all over the world. He visited the school two or three times a year, helping graduate students from developing countries understand their potential to impact their own communities.
Walters’s accomplishments extend far beyond the academic world. He worked with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and the Utah State Tax Commission. Gary Cornia, former dean of BYU Marriott, says that Walters’s work around the world is unmatched among BYU faculty. “Larry’s behavior and expectations radiated the principles he taught. Larry’s presence made others better,” Cornia says.
To anyone looking for a career in public service, Walters hopes they understand what the job is worth. “Recognize you're probably not going to get rich,” he says. “You'll be able to make a living and raise a family, but you won't be wealthy. But you will go home at night and say it was a good day; my work made a difference in people’s lives.”
Writer: Kaelin Hagen