Internet pioneer who fights for consumer privacy to receive award at May 29 Commencement
SAN FRANCISCO, May 12, 2004 -- Chris Larsen, the co-founder and CEO of online lending company E-LOAN, has been named San Francisco State University's 2004 Alumnus of the Year by the SFSU Alumni Association.
Larsen, 43, who earned a bachelor's degree in international business and accounting in 1984, will receive the award at the University's 103rd annual Commencement exercises at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 29, in Cox Stadium.
"Chris Larsen is a person of vision, business acumen and deeply held principles," said Don W. Scoble, president of the SFSU Alumni Association.
Larsen established E-LOAN in 1997 with co-founder Janina Pawlowski. The online lending company eliminates brokers and bankers and allows consumers to comparison shop for mortgages, home equity and car loans directly from the company's Web site. One of the rare Internet success stories, E-Loan has sold more than $18.9 billion in consumer loans since its inception.
Larsen is among the state's most outspoken advocates of legislation to protect financial data -- bank balances, home phone numbers and other private information that financial institutions sell to outside firms without the consumer's permission.
In 2001, after a bill that would provide greater privacy protection to consumers was defeated at the hands of pro-business legislators (sponsored by Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough)), Larsen used his own financial resources to continue advocating for privacy rights.
In 2002 he co-founded and funded with $1 million of his own money, Californians for Privacy Now, a coalition dedicated to protecting consumer privacy. The coalition gathered more than 600,000 signatures, nearly doubling the required number to place the measure on a ballot for voters to decide. Larsen was instrumental in the passing of the strongest consumer financial privacy law in the nation in August 2003.
"I hold Chris Larson in the highest esteem. He is a visionary and a man of action," said Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough). "Without Chris Larson, California's financial privacy law, which sets the standard for the rest of the nation, would never have become a reality."
In addition to his Alumnus of the Year honor, Larsen will be one of four former students inducted into the SFSU Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Friday, May 28.
"Chris Larsen is a corporate leader with a conscience. He exemplifies the University's ideals of entrepreneurial innovation and ethical responsibility," said President Robert A. Corrigan. "As technology changes the way business is conducted, Larsen continues to meet new challenges while remaining strongly rooted in his principles. We are honored that San Francisco State University was the training ground for his career."
Larsen was born in San Jose in 1960 where he was raised by his father, an airline mechanic, and his mother, who worked as a freelance illustrator. After graduating from SFSU, Larsen worked for Chevron conducting financial audits in Indonesia, Ecuador and Brazil. He later earned an MBA at Stanford University.
A resident of San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood, Larsen is committed to a number of causes. One is a joint effort with his wife, Lyna Lam, owner of Café Panini in Berkeley. Together they are working to assist members of a Cambodian Buddhist community group in San Jose, most recently in their effort to obtain a space to build a temple. Larsen continues to contribute to the education of teachers at San Francisco State University. Each semester the Chris Larsen Scholarship Fund provides $2,500 each to ten students working toward an SFSU teaching credential or master's degree.
As the 2004 Alumnus of the Year, Larsen joins an illustrious roster of alumni, including the 2003 honoree journalist Ben Fong-Torres, "Cheers" executive producer Peter Casey, jazz and cabaret singer Wesla Whitfield, actress Annette Bening, conductor Kent Nagano, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and physician and NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle.
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