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Obituary - Dr. Karen LaRoe


Dr. Karen LaRoe passed away on June 15th, 2019.

She was born on December 13th, 1944, in her grandparent’s four-room farmhouse on Buck Creek, in Lawrence County, Ohio. Karen grew up as the cherished child and valued farmhand of Hershell and Ann Roach on their dairy farm just a half-mile down the road.

Widowed at 23, with two young children and a high school diploma, Karen went on to earn a doctorate in educational leadership. After serving at the Ohio State University, Fitchburg State University, and Montana State University-Northern, Karen was appointed president of the West Virginia University Institute of Technology, just 90 miles from her parent’s farm.

There, together with faculty, staff, and students, she led Tech to significant national recognition for academic rigor and value. She was a leader with a kind heart, an open and curious mind, enthusiastic optimism, and endless energy. Her guiding principle was, “A college is a place where we come together to debate one another’s ideas with love and respect.” May we all follow her lead.

Karen retired with her husband to homes in St. Regis, Montana, and Venice, Florida, where they enjoyed the frequent visits of family and friends for many years.

Karen is survived by her children, Joseph West, Lee Ann West, and Steven LaRoe; her grandchildren, Amanda West and Joey West; her sister, Rena Snouffer; her brother, Keith Roach; an enormous extended family; and her husband, Lin Williams.

Services will be held at the Trinity Baptist Church, a church her family and friends built, near Aid, Ohio, June 29, at 2:00 p.m. Karen will be interred near her parents in the cemetery in Aid. Arrangements will be handled by the Phillips Funeral Home in Ironton, where visitation will occur June 28th from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Karen would tell you that she lived a wonderful life. Her childhood was nurturing and rich in the Appalachian traditions of family and community. Her adult life was full with the love of her family, her many treasured friends, her travels around the world, and her amazing career.

Karen’s life passion was for the uplifting power of education. Her life story is the embodiment of that truth.  

Send flowers. It would make her happy.


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