Death of Emeritus Professor David Olson

Emeritus Professor David Olson died suddenly on Saturday, September 15th after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage at 71 years old.  David was a towering figure in our department and an institution on campus from 1974 until well after his retirement in 2005.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and held a faculty position at Indiana University before coming to the UW.  He held visiting appointments at various points in his career at the University of Bergen, Harvard University, University of Hawaii, and University of California, Berkeley.  He was a noted scholar of state, local, and labor politics and pioneer in the study of the governance of public ports.

At the UW, he was the inaugural holder of the Harry Bridges Chair in Labor Studies, the Founding Director of the Harry Bridges Center of Labor Studies, the chair of the UW-University of Bergen Exchange Program for a number of years, member of the College of Arts and Sciences College Council, and chair of our department from 1983 until 1988.  He received many awards, including the University of Washington S. Sterling Munro Public Service Teaching Award in 2005, the State Senate Outstanding Civic Educator Award in 2007, formal Recognition by the Metropolitan King County Council in 2005, a proclamation of “David Olson Day” by Governor Gregoire upon his retirement, and more recent recognition by members of the State Senate and the State House for his long-term stewardship of the Olympia Legislative Internship Program.  David was most proud of his being knighted in 2006 by the King of Norway as Knight of the First Class, Order of Merit for his contributions to the United States and Norwegian scholarly exchange relations. 

David was a mentor and inspiration to many of us who came up the ranks during his time in the department, to staff who were able to work with him in his many roles on campus, to thousands of undergraduates, to a loyal set of graduate students, and many others in his professional life in the university and for the study and practice of state, local and labor politics.  He was a loyal Husky who enjoyed football and basketball games.  He is survived by his wife, Sandra, daughter Maia, son-in-law Cole, and his pride and joy, granddaughter Stella.  We are anticipating a memorial for him on campus later this fall.

Peter May
Chair, UW Political Science Department


Obituary in the Seattle Times