Larry Lisenby ’73
Larry Lisenby ’73 was in fifth grade when he moved from Hamburg, New Jersey to Hershey, Pennsylvania to attend Milton Hershey School. As an orphan, he was being raised by his aunt and grandmother who heard about the school and worked with his social worker to apply.
After being accepted, Larry remembers the beauty of growing up on the MHS campus filled with outdoor activities and friendships that would last a lifetime.
“I made friends I would spend the weekends with. I can remember the campfires we would all sit around, and we would fish in a little pond by Memorial Hall,” he said. “There were a lot of activities—camping, climbing, hiking, and fishing.”
When he entered high school, Larry took an aptitude test and learned he was mechanically inclined. He joined the sheet metal and welding vocational trade program at MHS where he developed his skillset and ability to work with different tools and machinery. The school’s long history with the vocational trades, which originated with founder Milton Hershey’s passion for hands-on learning, is embedded in the school’s current Career and Technical Education program.
Larry graduated from MHS in 1973 and accepted his first job at Woolf Steel Incorporated in Middletown, Pennsylvania—a company with historic ties to Milton Hershey. When Woolf Steel Incorporated was founded in the 1900s, Mr. Hershey gave the owner, Ike Woolf, his start in business.
“I didn’t start out welding. I pretty much had to start at the bottom and do the dirty work like cleaning metal,” Larry shared. “As the years went by, I got stronger at my welding trade and remembered everything I learned at MHS.”
Some of the lessons he remembered and applied throughout his daily responsibilities included discipline and work ethic.
“I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning, but I learned from them. I made myself a better worker and a better person,” he said. “I always kept in mind what MHS taught us to do—suit up, show up, and be on time. Work ethic was very important to me.”
Larry continues to share his sense of work ethic and perseverance with current MHS students by speaking at Career Days throughout the year. He tells students to absorb the knowledge and experiences they gain at MHS because they’ll need to rely on those skills once they enter the workforce.
“It gives me joy to come back and pass along what I learned to the kids now,” he said. “I think in today’s world, it’s very vital to pay it forward to the next generation. They’re going to be the ones taking care of our world and our economy. They’re going to need our experience.”
After 45 years in the workforce, Larry retired in 2017. He continues to work part-time and spends time with his 4-year-old grandson. He also is an active member of the MHS alumni network and visits campus for Homecoming each year.
“When I see someone who has gone to MHS, it’s almost like a brotherhood,” Larry said. “You know that when you see another MHS graduate, you’ll make a connection right away and immediately strike up a conversation. There’s a bond there.”
It’s those everlasting bonds and the unwavering sense of gratitude he gained at MHS that guide him throughout life.
“I think about MHS every single day when I wake up. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about what the school did for me and where I would be without it. It saved my life,” he added.