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Gary A. Olson D'80

Gary A. Olson D'80After receiving a bachelor’s degree from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut, Gary Olson came to IUP because of the national reputation of the graduate program in English. In 1980 earned his Ph.D. specializing in literary criticism, 19th-century British literature, and rhetoric.

“The literature program, which was quite different from other degrees at the time, was nontraditional and values-oriented,” Dr. Olson said. “It was their attempt to be innovative and cutting edge that attracted me.”

Because of Dr. Olson’s achievements in the field of education, he is a recipient of the 2012 IUP Distinguished Alumni Award.

While at IUP, Dr. Olson was the director of the Writing Center from 1978 to 1980. In that role, he supervised a universitywide tutorial service providing instruction in all levels of writing, as well as training and supervising graduate student tutors.

Dr. Olson has dedicated more than 30 years to academics, teaching and directing the writing centers at the University of Alabama and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, as well as the University of South Florida, where he also served as editor of the Journal of Advanced Composition and coordinator for the graduate program in rhetoric and composition. In 2002, Dr. Olson became the interim associate vice president for Academic Affairs at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg before moving to Illinois State University, where he served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as a professor of English and an affiliate faculty member in women’s and gender studies.

Dr. Olson was honored by JAC, A Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and Politics, published by the Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition, when it named the award for the most outstanding book on rhetorical and cultural theory the Gary A. Olson Award.

From 2009 to 2011, Olson was the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Idaho State University, where he oversaw seven colleges, the university libraries, the Idaho State University Press, and the Idaho Museum of Natural History. Currently a professor in the Department of English and Philosophy, Dr. Olson also writes a monthly column for the Chronicle of Higher Education on timely topics such as “Yes, Big Brother Is Watching,” “If Only I Knew Then…,” “To Party, or Not to Party,” and “It Is Who You Know, and Who Knows You.”

“The column ideas arise from my daily experience,” Dr. Olson said. “Usually I will come across a misunderstanding that people generally have about how something in academe works, and I’ll attempt to explain how it really does work. Needless to say, I have a backlog of topics.”

Dr. Olson is the son of Joseph and Charlotte Olson and is married to Dr. Lynn Worsham, a professor of English at Idaho State University. In her last year as a professor of English at Illinois State University (2008-2009), Dr. Worsham was named the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Lecturer, one of the highest honors the college can be bestow upon a faculty member.

Profile published on 5/29/12

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