Eric Larrabee, 68, a distinguished author, editor, teacher and the first provost of the faculty of arts and letters at the University at Buffalo, died Tuesday (Dec. 4, 1990) in his Manhattan home.
Larrabee also had a Buffalo residence, the Barton House on Summit Avenue, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is adjacent to Wright's Darwin D. Martin House on Jewett Parkway.
Larrabee, a former executive director of the State Council on the Arts, came to Buffalo in 1967 after being appointed to the new post of provost of the faculty of arts and letters under UB President Martin Meyerson.
"I am drawn here by the aspirations of the university," Larrabee said when he came to UB. "The interchange between persons in the academic world and the 'literary marketplace' is proving an important one.
"I find, in the city, neighborhoods which have successfully retained their qualities. Buffalo is changing and expanding, and this, coupled with the determination on the part of its people to build a major university in the East, has produced a climate of innovation and experience unequaled in the country."
Dr. Robert H. Rossberg, interim dean of arts and letters at UB, recalled that Larrabee "did not have a typical academic background."
Before joining UB, he served as an editor and jazz critic at Harper's magazine, executive editor of American Heritage magazine, managing editor of Horizon magazine and editorial consultant for Doubleday & Co. publishers.
"He brought a kind of civility, gentleness and culture to this institution that was appreciated at that time," Rossberg said.
Larrabee contributed to UB's transition from a regional to a national institution, Rossberg said, and a "good deal of expansion took place" under his leadership.
Rossberg described Larrabee as a calm presence during the stressful days of campus demonstrations against the Vietnam War.
Although Larrabee's stay at UB was only three years, he returned to the city and his home on Summit Avenue frequently and, in 1982, was guest curator of "Design in Buffalo," a display of local accomplishments in art, architecture and the skilled trades through the years at the Burchfield Center of Buffalo State College. He wrote the introduction for the exhibition catalog.
Larrabee left UB in 1970 after Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller named him executive director of the State Council on the Arts, a post he held for seven years.
During that time, he was remembered for a widely quoted address on the importance of the arts. In that 1974 speech at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, he paraphrased the author Rachel Carson in asking the audience to imagine "a silent spring of the arts."
While the arts council's annual budget jumped from $2 million to $35 million during his tenure, he came under attack in 1974 for the council's delays in disbursing grants to arts organizations, with his critics accusing him of administrative inefficiency.
He attributed the delays to new legislative restrictions.
In May 1977, Gov. Hugh L. Carey asked for his resignation.
Larrabee then became president of the National Research Center of the Arts, an affiliate of Louis Harris & Associates that conducted studies on culture and the arts.
He was the author of three books, including "Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants and Their War," published in 1987, which won the Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians.
He also taught at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College and served as dean of the Pratt Institute's School of Art and Design.
Larrabee also had served as host of New York-based television programs "Past Imperfect" and "Three Views of the News."
Known for his humor, he often referred to his "checkered career." He also loved music, played the clarinet and enjoyed walking, he told a Buffalo News reporter in 1967.
A 1943 graduate of Harvard University, Larrabee was a native of Melrose, Mass., but grew up in Schenectady.
Surviving is his wife of 46 years, Eleanor Barrows Doermann Larrabee.