Shaping futures through the Prison Education Project at University College

Larry Marshall, BS ’22, in front of Brookings Hall
Larry Marshall, BS ’22, aspires to use many forms of creative expression, including film and the written word, to share stories of “communities often ignored or forgotten, including poor people, people of color, LGBTQ+ communities, and of course, prisoners.” (Photo: Danny Reise/Washington University)

When we first met Larry Marshall, BS ’22, he spoke at his commencement ceremony from inside the walls of Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific, Mo. In his speech, he said, “We are told that we are our mistakes. … But being part of WashU has given me a better perspective of who I am as a person and as a student.”

Larry learned about the Washington University Prison Education Project (PEP) at University College by chance, from a flier on a bulletin board — and that discovery reshaped his future.

“I applied to PEP to further my education,” he says, “and to build connections and resources that would serve me upon my release.” Larry has since earned an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree — joining the community of WashU alumni — but PEP provided far more than credentials: “It completely transformed my life.”

One of his favorite courses was “Gender and Sexuality,” taught by Professor Jami Ake, a WashU faculty member who helped found PEP. Ake was an inspiring instructor, and the course gave Larry powerful insights into his own experience: “As a Queer person of color, I went through life with little explanation of what or why I was — until this course.”

PEP graduate Larry Marshall receives his bachelor’s degree at PEP’s 2022 graduation ceremony, alongside Sean Armstrong, dean of University College, and Chancellor Andrew D. Martin
PEP graduate Larry Marshall receives his bachelor’s degree at PEP’s 2022 graduation ceremony, alongside Sean Armstrong, dean of University College, and Andrew D. Martin, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

As a PEP student, Larry deepened his long-standing interest in Black activists like Nat Turner, and the tradition of Black August, which he described in an essay published in the San Francisco Bay View.

Speaking at his PEP commencement ceremony was a moment of profound pride for Larry. “It reinforced my desire and confidence not just to see changes in the world, but to be that change.”

Now out of prison after serving 12 years, Larry is eager to put his WashU education to good use.

An aspiring chef, Larry has a full-time job and is honing his cooking skills. He lives in a strong community of other PEP alumni and spends much of his free time reading.

He is one of a small brotherhood: PEP boasts 25 alumni who have been released from prison since the program’s launch in 2014. All 25 are fully employed, and two of the men have started their own businesses. None have gone back to jail, compared to the national recidivism rate of 82%.

Your gift to PEP allows those in the justice system the opportunity to earn their degree and prepare to build new lives after their release. Gifts of every amount also support other important University College initiatives, including scholarships and fellowships, distinguished faculty, and a best-in-class student experience.