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New TCC scholarship is a powerful living tribute to lifelong educator

Del Karlsen, 68, believed education was key to giving people a hand in life. His estate gift of $125,000 will ensure that continues to happen.

The TCC alumnus, who died on Dec. 9, 2017, had a career at the college that spanned more than 30 years. His donation of $125,000 will establish the Ejner Emil “Karl” Karlsen Memorial Scholarship, named in honor of Karlsen’s late father who emigrated from Denmark.

Karlsen was initially a counselor and associate professor, and later a counselor for Veterans Affairs at the Virginia Beach Campus. He spent many years as faculty advisor to both the Student Government Association and Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges.

For him, being part of a community college meant being part of an institution that exists to serve the students. The Suffolk native and Navy veteran graduated from TCC in 1972. That same year, he was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa.

From there, he went to Old Dominion University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in secondary education, a master’s in education and a certificate of advanced studies in guidance and counseling.

In a previous interview with TCC, Karlsen noted that seeing so many students who often start with very little and achieve so much was the most gratifying part of working at the college. His best memories were of students who transferred to University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary and MIT, where they continued to thrive.

“I’d like to think that we [the counselors] have everything to do with that kind of success,” Karlsen said, “but you have to give a lot of credit to the students themselves.”

Karlsen’s laid back good humor coupled with his strong organizational skills made him a favorite among students.

Once formally established, the scholarship will cover tuition, fees and books for recipients. Eligible students need to demonstrate financial need, live in Virginia and hold an active membership in Phi Theta Kappa at TCC.

For more information about available scholarships at TCC, visit To learn more about establishing a scholarship at TCC, contact the TCC Educational Foundation at or 757-822-1080.