Colonel Larry Nugent, USMC and Professor Emeritus at MiraCosta College, was an outstanding example of heroism, both in the military as well as in the community. His life was dedicated to the betterment of others, particularly youth faced with challenges. Larry passed away in December 2019, but his legacy endures through those whose lives he touched.
As an integral part of MiraCosta College since 1966, Larry was Chair of the Health, Physical Education and Recreation department, where he created the Wellness Center while also coaching football and wrestling. During his tenure he developed and taught many “first in the nation” courses including surfing, boogie boarding, and surf kayaking at Oceanside Harbor. As a reconnaissance Marine, he introduced scuba diving classes to the MiraCosta curriculum and took students to Catalina Island to complete their diving certificates. Using the snowboard ramp at Hansen’s in Encinitas, he taught evening ski classes, followed by ski trips to Big Bear.
Larry’s intense interest in flying led him to teach MiraCosta students to fly hang gliders in the nearby mountains. He also introduced hot air balloons to the San Diego area and created the Temecula Hot Air Balloon Races.
While teaching at MiraCosta in the ‘60’s, Larry spent his vacations actively training Marines in mountain warfare. When he saw students in his college classes being drafted, he took leave from MiraCosta and requested active duty in Vietnam, where he led over 40 platoons in the jungle. He was awarded the Silver Star for selfless concern and courage demonstrated by diving onto a live grenade to save fellow Marines. For protecting dozens of Vietnamese villages and monasteries he was awarded two Cross of Gallantry medals and the Medal of Honor from the government of South Vietnam. Larry returned home with a Purple Heart, combat wounded and hospitalized, but insisted on returning to teach at MiraCosta.
Larry spent summer breaks teaching young locals, along with his wife Kristina and children, to scuba dive in the Yucatan’s Palancar Reef. With the goal of helping families build sustainable lives, for over a decade he and his family built houses and acquired fishing and dive boats for the benefit of numerous families on the island of Cozumel.
Helping others in need didn’t stop at his family’s front door. The Nugent’s small house was consistently full, as Larry always had at least one student who needed a home. As a tough-love mentor, Larry guided countless students with his clear and thoughtful direction and encouragement. Each of these young people went on to graduate from university, to teach, or to create businesses.
Aside from his more serious attributes, Larry was also a prankster and enjoyed playfully thumbing his nose at authority. For example, his favorite mode of transportation around the college campus was a vintage child-sized Stinger bicycle, which he rode daily despite MiraCosta’s “no bikes on campus” rule. When the bike was confiscated by campus security, Larry replaced it with a Harley and grew a ponytail to his waist, to the exasperation of fellow Marine colonels. A great fan of opera, Larry then traveled to Spain to have the Barber of Seville cut off his ponytail, which he then donated to Locks of Love to benefit children who have lost their hair due to medical conditions.
Larry Nugent was an outstanding role model that believed in paying it forward. In teaching by example he had a tremendous positive impact on the lives of countless individuals. He lived to help others, regardless of the sacrifice of personal time and resources. His zest for life was contagious.
Larry was often heard saying, “If heaven is half as good as this life, it will be wonderful!”
A celebration of life will be held mid-February.
Those wishing to contribute to the Larry Nugent Scholarship Fund for MiraCosta students and student veterans can send donations to: MiraCosta College Foundation – Larry Nugent Scholarship, One Barnard Drive, Oceanside, CA 92056.