Known by many as “the email dude” or “Sir Spamalot,” Executive Director of Media Relations Geoff Larcom is retiring from Eastern Michigan University after serving nearly 12 years as the university’s primary representative and a lifelong career in journalism.
As the university’s executive director of media relations, Larcom is the main person who speaks on behalf of EMU. He fields questions from reporters, writes news releases, EMU Today stories, and handles many internal communications, including the mass emails sent out by Eastern to all university members.
If you have read an official announcement or email from the university in the past 12 years, there’s a good chance Larcom was involved. He has worked in tandem with all levels of EMU’s administration, from the president’s and provost’s offices to department heads, and everyone in between. His job is to work with the Vice President of Communications, Walter Kraft, to ensure all university communications are clear, concise, and correct.
“He [Larcom] is very prideful of the work that takes place at this institution and likes to showcase it, likes to highlight it, and likes to get it out there for other people to see," Kraft, Larcom's boss, said. "I've always admired and appreciated that just so much.”
Larcom’s ties to journalism and Eastern Michigan University run deep — his mother was an editor for the Hartford Courant in the late 1930s, and then a professor of journalism at EMU for about 10 years in the 1970s. She also advised the Eastern Echo during her time at the university. His father was an editorial writer at the Courant and later served as the city manager of Ann Arbor. He even taught a journalism course at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Being the son of two journalists, it perhaps was no surprise that upon arriving as a student at U-M, Larcom joined the student paper, the Michigan Daily. He worked for the paper during his four years at U-M and eventually became the sports editor his senior year.
A nearly 30-year long career in journalism followed. Larcom worked briefly for the Detroit News along with serving 25 years at the Ann Arbor News, first as an assistant sports editor, then as the sports editor, and finally as a reporter and columnist.
In 2000, Larcom took on a position as the higher education reporter for the Ann Arbor News, and in 2004 he started covering EMU. In 2009, however, the Ann Arbor News ceased production of its print newspaper, part of a changing model in how people consume news content, resulting in large layoffs at the company.
With expertise in media and journalism, and extensive experience working with the university in his capacity as a reporter, EMU brought on Larcom as executive director of media relations in 2009, part of its then-expanding communications department. Larcom and Kraft have since become great friends.
“Geoff is an enormously thoughtful, intelligent person, and he is just an outstanding writer and communicator,” Kraft said.
In the space of a couple of months, Larcom moved from a place he covered as a reporter, to representing that institution, writing most of the public-relations material and engaging with reporters who had questions for the university.
“It really helps to know how reporters think and what they need and how to work with them. And that really helped me, having been one for a long time, as well as being an editor and having edited a lot of stories,” Larcom said.
Larcom writes most of the stories that appear on EMU Today, as well as many of the mass emails sent out to campus staff and students.
At one point, emails sent to students from the university had Larcom’s name and picture attached to them, which led to him being known on campus as “the email dude.” For three years, the Echo published Halloween print editions poking fun at Larcom’s campus reputation.
Desmine Robinson, an EMU student pursuing his master's degree in higher education and student affairs, and the former president of Active Minds, first heard of Larcom through these emails. Later, his new student orientation assistant (NSOA) described Larcom to him as a “legend" and someone who “would be awesome to meet.” So, Robinson made it a priority to do just that.
The two have since become great friends with nicknames and make it a point to take a selfie every time they see each other.
“I call him The ‘Larcman’ and he calls me the ‘Desminenator!’ He refers to my skills, talents, and love for building community as ‘Super Desmine Magic.’ My favorite memory of him is when he escorted myself and the homecoming queen, Tyneisha Solomon, to our spots during the homecoming ceremony. He was like my personal bodyguard. I asked him: ‘You got my back, Mr. Larcom.’ He said: ‘I got your back and your front covered,’” Robinson said in an email interview.
But, not every email of Larcom’s was well-accepted by students. Jeffrey Bernstein, a professor of political science at EMU, recalls the one that was not:
“A number of years ago there was a day that could have been a snow day or maybe wasn't . . . this was in that gray area, and he [Larcom] told me a story that it was controversial enough and unclear enough that they decided to send out an email informing the campus community that Eastern was open and that classes would be meeting that day. And he told me you would not believe the type of emails he got and the volume of emails and some of the words that were sent to him,” Bernstein said.
It was at this point that Larcom decided he would no longer make that mistake and that the policy was clear. He would only notify the members of the university if there was a snow day. However, now Larcom and Bernstein are able to share a laugh about the situation.
“I would always joke with him about the emails and he said, ‘You know, people are really nice, except that one day when I sent them all an email telling them that they didn't have a snow day,’” Bernstein said.
The ability to create connections at EMU, including administration, faculty, and students, is something very important to Larcom.
“I interact a ton with university people in creating content,” Larcom said. One of the "single coolest things is that EMU is big enough to matter — it's a big regional university so it gets a lot of coverage — but it's small enough so our staff and communications [group] aren’t that big, so I get to deal with everybody. I get to deal with the president, the CFO, the physical plant, cool faculty, students, the provost office, you name it.”
One way Larcom interacted in student life was by participating in fantasy NCAA bracket contests. The students would match Larcom against the Ypsilanti Water Tower, Sidetrack Bar and Grill, and even squirrels. After voting on social media, the students would vote on “the cooler thing” and declare a winner. Larcom tried hard to beat the entities, such as the Tower of Power but made sure to go down in flames to any student groups he was matched against.
Not all of Larcom’s time at EMU was silly and fun though, as he was also involved in more serious matters at the university. Over the past few years, there have been social justice marches on EMU’s campus to combat racism and police brutality, and it’s been Larcom’s job to be the face of the university’s response to these events.
Larcom recalls one of these marches as one of the most difficult memories of his time at EMU.
“When there was racist graffiti at the university back in 2016 . . . there were demonstrations at EMU, real protests, student protests, and the students were quite angry. . . . So, they gathered at Welch Hall and then they marched from Welch Hall to the president's house down Washtenaw and up Hewitt,” Larcom said.
As part of the establishment, Larcom was unable to echo their protests but instead marched with the students to ensure their safety.
“I actually directed traffic at the corner of Washtenaw and Oakwood and then Washtenaw and Hewitt, just making sure that traffic didn't go through this mob of students, who were very upset and were going to occupy the corner for a while, as they shouted ‘no justice, no peace,'” Larcom said.
Since Robinson was on the president's Commission on Diversity Inclusion and Equity and helped lead some of these marches, he recognizes the effort Larcom put into his work.
“He's had a very interesting year these past [five] years, with all of the things EMU has had to face, “ Robinson said in an email interview. “From racist vandalism and the recent sexual assault lawsuit — these scary moments require honest reporting and clear communication but also a connection to the community to convey the heart of these situations. He [Larcom] is good at that! He's always moving and grooving to his own beat, even when times are tough and that's what he and I bound over —because I'm the same way.”
Larcom’s consistent support toward the EMU community has been witnessed by Kraft as well.
“I've always admired the way he works with students to support them and help them. And, you know, I think he feels that he received the same benefit, and that sort of education from people and he is always willing to spend the time to share that information and, you know, help people out,” Kraft said.
Larcom will be greatly missed by the many people whose lives he has touched here at EMU.
“We'd meet for coffee every so often, we'd end up at the same meetings or at the same events. It was just always nice to see him. He's just a nice guy. And I'll miss seeing my friend around campus,” Bernstein said.
Larcom plans to continue being actively involved within the EMU community after retiring. Robinson speaks for many in congratulating Larcom on a well-deserved retirement.
“The position that Mr. Larcom has held for such a long time has a permanent imprint of greatness, personability, and sunshine that he brought,” Robinson said in an email interview. “However, we're not losing him. He'll always be here! I look forward to seeing him at events, giving him a hug again when times are safer . . . . Mr. Larcom, you're a light in the world! You're a friend, a brother, an uncle, a homie — and you're irreplaceable. I'll always have you in my heart no matter where I'm at and I know you're only a phone call away. You're awesome! I love you! Congratulations!!! You earned this!”
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