Former Disney Executive on working with billionaire Sid Bass, US Army Surgeon General and commitment - Fred Larson

Fred Larson, Episode 017


Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the oldest of three children; Fred’s father was a combat injured veteran from the Korean Conflict. His mother is a brain injury survivor with associated disabilities. Early on Fred committed to several goals; caring for his family, one day working for Disney and one-day influence the quality of Veteran Care.

For seventeen years out-processing errors and lost files, caused his father to be denied care for his service related injuries. The problem was resolved just before his death in 1970. While his health declined, Fred’s dad served Veterans steadfastly served as an American Legion Chaplain. He was a fixture at the Minneapolis VA Hospital; encouraging and attending to the spiritual needs of our injured troops; just back from Viet Nam. Fred leaned an important lesson from his father’s example of service and sacrifice.

In light of his parent’s poor health; Fred took responsibility for the care for his two younger siblings. At the age of nine, he started a neighborhood snow shoveling and lawn care business. He has never stopped working for others.

Following College, Fred’s professional career began in 1979 with Marriott Corp. He helped open their newest luxury resort, Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, CA. Fred assumed leadership roles in each of the resort’s key operating areas. Five years after opening, Rancho Las Palmas Resort was honored with the coveted Mobil Travel Guide “Five Star Award” (the hospitality industry’s highest honor).

While in California, Fred began volunteer work with United Way of America and Betty Ford Foundation. Since 1980, he has helped to raise over $50 million for United Way Campaigns across America, in support of their work to meet community-based needs. Fred was instrumental in the creation of the Betty Ford Center’s Global Outreach Program. This “Patient-Centered” effort cemented the Betty Ford Center treatment program as one of the best models for addiction recovery in the world, by establishing a broad peer to patient support network.

In 1984 Fred went to work for the Bass Family of Ft. Worth, Texas. Later that year the Bass Family acquired Walt Disney Productions. For the following three years, Fred played a critical role in the family’s re-imagining of what we know today as The Walt Disney Company.

On January 6, 1988, Fred accepted from The Walt Disney Company to open Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, their newest luxury property located at Walt Disney World.

For twenty years, Fred lived the Dream as he led or participated in the many dynamic projects which changed the face and legacy of leisure and entertainment for the company. They include Special Event Production, Disney Institute Professional Development, Disney Cruise Line, Walt Disney Theme Parks, and Resorts.

Most rewarding has been work in support of our United States Armed Forces. Since 2002, Fred and his wife Claire have locally facilitated various grass root efforts designed to support the material and spiritual needs of our deployed Service Members and their families.
Fred facilitated numerous high level visits to Walt Disney World on behalf of several DoD Senior Leaders. They include a 1992 visit by the Pakistani Air Chief and Indian Air Chief, and the meeting of NATO Air Chiefs in 1993. Between 1995 and 1998, Fred planned the annual strategic visit of foreign naval officers hosted by the US Naval Command College. April of 2000, Fred coordinated the official visit to Central Florida by the Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera.

January 2002, February 2004, and April 2007 Fred planned and executed the Army Strategic Leadership Program, hosted by CSA GEN Shinseki, CSA GEN Schoomaker and CSA GEN Casey (respectively). Fred has developed and coordinated programs on behalf of Members of Congress, the Executive Branch and the Judiciary.

June 2004 while working with the Florida National Guard leadership, Fred created “Salute to Florida’s Heroes.” This was a welcome home recognition event in honor of Central Florida Guardsman. Fred has worked in support of several FNG “Good Will” programs to strengthen relationships with neighboring Latin and Caribbean Nations. Since 2005, Fred has worked to carry the Employer Support for Guard and Reserve (ESGR) message to employers and communities across Florida.

Fred helped produce the “Walt Disney World, Christmas Special Salute to our Troops." This ABC Television national broadcast received the Emmy for the Best Daytime Special of 2005.

June 2006 Fred produced the first annual Wounded Warrior Symposium in concert with AW2 Leadership. June 2007 Fred contributed to the President’s Commission on Care for the American Wounded Warrior, a background report on the latent post deployment effects of TBI and Community Base Care for injured service members. January 2008, Fred provided staff for ADM Mike Mullen CJCS with background on the current state of community level care for our transitioning warriors.

December 2007 Fred created the first of its kind career transition orientation for medically retired Soldiers, affiliated with the Army’s AW2 program.
July 2008 Fred accepted a senior civilian role with Army Medicine as Deputy Commander for Transformation, Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Utilizing the service principles learned and practiced successfully for over forty years, Fred has brought about restoration of a world class brand in military medicine. In doing so he helped introduce Army Medicine to the concept of Patient Centered Care.

Fred served as Special Assistant to the Army Surgeon General and Senior Chief of CASE (Center for AMEDD Service Excellence) from March 2011 to July 2014. In this role he supported the delivery of Patient Centered Care and TeamSTEPPS Safety throughout military medicine as the delivery of Warrior care moved toward a new “Joint’ reality.

Fred has been married to his wife Claire for twenty years. They have three sons, Matthew, Zachary, and Kevin. Fred and his family are members of the East Coast Believers Church of Oviedo, FL. He a member of Congressman Mica’s Veterans Advisory Committee. Fred is active in the, Sunshine Chapter, Association of the United States Army (AUSA), supporting the needs of wounded soldiers and their families. Fred is a Global Outreach Coordinator for the Hazelden - Betty Ford Foundation

A glimpse into the work of Army Medicine

Jess Larsen