The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) honors the life and legacy of Larraine Matusak, who died March 26 in her home in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was 90.
“Larraine was a courageous leader who helped redefine globally the notion that anyone can lead, not just those born into leadership,” said WKKF President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron. “She was an inspiration to us at the Kellogg Foundation as well as countless others who are boldly leading change in their communities. While we might never know everyone inspired by Larraine, her legacy lives in the change we’re witnessing across our communities today.”
Matusak’s life was dedicated to serving others and building leaders globally. She joined the foundation in 1982 and was a driving force in directing the Kellogg National Fellowship Program until her retirement in 1996.
In an interview with the foundation in 2016, she shared her passion: “At the heart of my work is the firm belief that everyone has a time in their lives, and a gift, when they will be called upon to lead. And it’s up to them to have the courage to do it.”
Matusak received her Ph.D. in higher education administration from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, California, in 1975. Prior, she spent several years as a nun at Benedictine Sister and was a professional opera singer. Additionally, she taught natural sciences and developed the adult alternative baccalaureate degree program to address the needs of underserved students at the University of Minnesota and served as the first dean and founder of the College of Alternative Programs, which focused on adult learning and continuing education at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana. She also served as second president of Thomas A. Edison State College of New Jersey, an innovative institution dedicated to serving mid-career adults.
After leaving WKKF, she went on to author the book Finding Your Voice in 1997 to help ordinary people unleash their leadership potential.
Matusak’s belief in individual acts of leadership led to the establishment of the Matusak Courageous Leadership Award, originating with the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance, and now managed by the Alliance of Leadership Fellows.
“Larraine used her intellectual talents to encourage, cajole, challenge and inspire a new generation of leaders who sought interdisciplinary skills to solve complex social problems,” said Roger Sublett, who served as director of the Kellogg National Fellowship Program after Matusak retired and was by her side when she passed. “She invested all of her energy in helping individuals become competent and effective leaders and in return became energized by their successes.”
A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. ET on Sat., May 1st, 2021 at Farley Estes Dowdle Funeral Home in Battle Creek, Michigan, and it will be livestreamed. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Matusak Courageous Leadership Award with the Alliance of Leadership Fellows, 5334 Bordley Drive, Houston, Texas, 77056; the International Leadership Association, 8601 Georgia Ave., Suite 1010, Silver Spring, Md., 20910; the Humane Society of South Central Michigan, 2500 Watkins Road, Battle Creek, Mich., 49015; and Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, 7100 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, Mich., 49009.
As we honor Matusak for her courageous leadership, we remember her words of wisdom: “Ethical leadership takes courage. It takes stamina and a willingness to step forward and take action, and not just sit around and talk about what needs to be done.”