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November 30, 2012

Dr. Norman Olson, first UW-Eau Claire Business Dean passes away

Dr. Norman OlsonNorman Claire Olson, Ph.D. passed away November 19, 2012 in Newfoundland, PA at the age of 92. Olson was the first dean of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire College of Business. Establishing the business school was one of Olson’s proudest achievements. Whenever he was in the Eau Claire area, he would stop by the university to see how the business school was doing.

Olson was born on a farm near Colfax, Wisconsin on July 28, 1920; the fifth child of Helmer and Minnie Mae (Holt) Olson. He graduated from Chippewa High School in 1938 and began college that fall at the Eau Claire State Teacher’s College (now UW-Eau Claire). Olson started the semester late that year as he worked in a Chippewa Falls pickle factory and the fall pickle season was delayed. He lived at home and drove several other students from Chippewa Falls to Eau Claire for classes in a used Model A Ford he bought for $50. A gifted tennis player, Olson was ranked No. 1 on the Eau Claire Teachers College tennis team in 1939 and 1940. He remained an excellent tennis player all his life and passed that skill on to his sons and grandsons.

In 1941 Olson transferred to Marquette University in Milwaukee where he lived with his brother and supported himself as a dishwasher. His initial grades weren’t good because he couldn’t afford the textbooks. Later his brother insisted on buying them for him and his grades improved. In 1942, he joined the Army and was assigned to the Army Air Corps where he achieved the rank of tech sergeant.

While acting as wingman for an Army buddy, Olson met his future wife, Dolores on a blind date in October 1944. They were married January 13, 1945. He was mustered out of the Army Air Corps in 1946 and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that fall. The young couple lived in the Army barracks married student housing community at the Badger Ordnance Works located near Baraboo, WI. He was one of the bus drivers who drove students from the community to UW-Madison and back each day. He claimed to have driven seven times around the world while on that route. Olson completed a B.S. in economics and master degrees in education and economics from UW-Madison.

In 1949 he took a teaching job at Concordia Lutheran College in Morehead, MN and continued graduate work at UW-Madison during the summer. In the fall of 1951 Olson moved to Madison, WI to work in the personnel department of Wisconsin Power and Light Company while continuing his graduate studies. He received his Ph.D. in Business Administration in the spring of 1959.

Olson joined the faculty at the Western Illinois University School of Business in Macomb, IL for two years. In 1961, he returned to the Chippewa Valley where he taught part time for the university in the Department of Economics and Business, and served as director of industrial development for the city of Eau Claire and coordinator of management institutes and commerce programs for the University of Wisconsin Extension. The following year he joined the university full time as chair of the Department of Business.

Under Olson’s leadership, the department was organized into the School of Business in 1966 and he was named dean. He also was involved with the construction of Schneider Hall which opened in 1967.

Dr. Norman OlsonOlson left the university in 1973 to become the dean of the School of Business at the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID. He retired from the university in 1989. In 2008, the Olsons moved to Newfoundland, PA to live with their daughter.

He is survived by Dolores, his wife of 67 years, sons Larry (Oxnard, CA) and Ron (Balsam Lake, WI) and daughter Laura Lea Olson Littleton (Newfoundland, PA), eleven grandchildren and fifteen great grandchildren. He was dearly loved by all.

Olson had strong affection for UW-Eau Claire throughout his life. Although he did not graduate from the university, both of his sons and three of his grandsons are UW-Eau Claire alumni.

From materials submitted by the Olson family

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