Former Emerson Trustee Larry Rasky ’78, a prominent public relations professional in Boston and a personal confidant and consultant for numerous politicians, including former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Jimmy Carter, died Sunday, March 22, at his home. He was 69.
“He was a great friend to the College as well as to many faculty, staff and students,” said President Lee Pelton in a letter to the Emerson community. “He represented Emerson at its very best and he understood profoundly and personally the power of the creative arts, communication and liberal arts to shape societies and empower people.”
Rasky got started in politics in a very unorthodox manner. While attending Emerson, he was a security guard at a building that housed President Jimmy Carter’s reelection campaign. He would talk politics with campaign workers who were so impressed that they asked him to come to the Iowa Caucuses to work for Carter’s primary campaign. He quickly ascended the campaign’s ranks and was deputy press secretary for the Carter-Mondale campaign.
He earned a degree in communications from Emerson at the age of 27. He went on to form numerous companies, including Paradigm Consultants, Rasky & Co., Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, and Rasky Partners, where he served as chairman and CEO at the time of his death.
Sandi Goldfarb ’78 reconnected with Rasky through Emerson, “a place that played such an important part in his extraordinary life,” said Goldfarb, senior vice president at Rasky Partners, co-chair of Emerson’s Board of Advisors and former Emerson Trustee.
“He was always willing to mentor students and alums, and many Emersonians like me were welcomed into the firm he built over the course of an amazing career,” said Goldfarb. “He was smart, funny, a generous friend, a talented strategist, and a respected communicator. Anyone who spent time with Larry and didn’t learn something new wasn’t paying attention.
“Larry loved Emerson. And based on the many calls and messages I’ve received in the days since his passing, it’s clear that Emerson loved him right back,” added Goldfarb.
Rasky was also admired in the world of politics, where he played instrumental roles in high-profile campaigns.
Rasky served as Biden’s press secretary when the U.S. Senator from Delaware ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988. His professional relationship with Biden would continue over the decades, and as recently as last year, he helped launch the super PAC Unite the Country to support Biden’s current presidential campaign.
“He was a real friend,” the former vice president told the Boston Globe. “He was also generous and sharp and he just had a spirit about him. His passion for politics was amazing.”
He would go on to work with other prominent politicians, including former U.S. Sen. and Secretary of State John Kerry, current U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, and current Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
Rasky would return to his alma mater in 1995, where he served on the Board of Trustees until 2006.
“Larry always asked the right question during board discussions,” said Jeff Greenhawt ‘68, current chair of the Board. “He listened to everything that was said and had a knack for being able to summarize and offer an opinion at the same time. His slow deliberate style was always an important part of any meeting. He had a way of presenting things in way that allowed for different points of view but made his point.”
Greenhawt added that he and his wife, Jan (Jacobs ’69), became friends with Rasky and his wife, Carolyn, and would spend time with them in Boston and Florida.
“Turns out Larry was also a great storyteller during our dinners,” recalled Greenhawt. “Everything from politics to the Grateful Dead. He was a great ally of Emerson and a special friend. We will miss that gravelly throaty chuckle and smile.”
Rasky received an Alumni Achievement Award from Emerson in 2009, and became a Trustee Emeritus in 2015. He was a supporter of ArtsEmerson, the Emerson Fund, Emerson Los Angeles, and more. He was also a board member of the New England Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.
Rasky is survived by his wife Carolyn and son Will. Memorial services will be scheduled at a later date.