Syracuse University Magazine


Christine Larsen G'84

A Talent for Technology

Christine Larsen enjoyed the intellectual challenge of organic chemistry when she was an undergraduate at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. But after spending an entire month in the lab conducting day-long experiments, it became clear that test tubes and Bunsen burners were not in her future. “Spending so many hours in the lab was horribly isolating and so wrong for me,” says Larsen, an SU trustee and an executive vice president of JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York City. “I like to talk too much and be engaged with people.”

Larsen was born in Sioux City, Iowa, but when she was 5 years old, her family moved out to the country where she attended a small school with only 43 students in her class. “I don’t consider myself a farm girl from Iowa, although I grew up in a farming community,” she says. “I had a wonderful education, and my graduating class was exceptional—three of us were National Merit Scholars.” 

In addition to her formal education, Larsen learned many a life lesson from her extended family who, in her eyes, seemed larger than life. Her paternal grandfather owned a small printing business and served as the commissioner of highways for the state of Iowa. He was also involved in politics, and she remembers as a child making get-out-the-vote calls on behalf of the Woodbury County Women’s Republicans. Her mother’s father was an engineer who poured the metal alloy for the giant turbines he then helped install in the Hoover Dam, and her father’s aunt was vice president of a regional savings and loan in town. “I spent my summers in high school working at the savings and loan,” she says. “Little did I know I would go on to have a career in banking.” 

After graduating from college in 1983, it became increasingly clear to Larsen that computers would profoundly change the way people work, so she headed east to study for a master’s degree in library science at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) as a University Fellow. She completed 36 credit hours in one year, returned to Iowa to get married, then moved to Chicago for her first job as a consultant at Arthur Andersen. In 1988, a special project prompted a transfer to New York City, where she later joined the Smith Barney brokerage firm. When the company merged with Citigroup Global Capital Markets in 1998, Larsen co-headed its operations for the global corporate and investment bank. In 2006, she joined corporate operations and technology at JPMorgan Chase, going on to lead the complex integration of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual following their mergers with the bank. Today she lives in New Jersey with her husband, Vincent Dopulos, and daughters, Katherine and Phoebe. 

Larsen has been instrumental in creating the JPMorgan Chase Technology Center at SU, one of the most comprehensive collaborations between business and a research university in the country. The center, which opened in 2009, is a cross-disciplinary, on-campus facility where students and faculty work side-by-side with bank employees, conducting research and running global technology operations. “It’s clear to me that I’m greatly indebted to Syracuse for my education and professional success,” says Larsen, now in her second year on the SU Board of Trustees and an active member of the iSchool Advisory Board since 2003. “It only seems fair that I work to steward the University and help others succeed.”

When Larsen learned that iSchool Ph.D. candidates only receive funding during the school year, she created a fellowship program—named in honor of Elizabeth D. Liddy G’77, G’88, her classmate and current iSchool dean—to provide financial support for doctoral students over the summer months to help them complete their degrees in a timely manner. “Liz is a respected researcher in her own right, so it’s only fitting to recognize her role as a scholar,” Larsen says. “Students love being Liddy Fellows—it has a nice ring to it—and I love being their fairy godmother.”  —Christine Yackel