Dr. Robert C. Olson, a native of Warren, Thiel College's 18th president, will retire July 1 after more than 50 years as part of the Thiel College community, Greenville.
Olson graduated summa cum laude from Thiel in 1960 and received a master's and doctorate in history at Pennsylvania State University in 1962 and 1969, respectively. He returned to his alma mater in 1965 as an assistant professor of history and rose through the associate and professor ranks, teaching a variety of U.S. history courses with a special interest in the history of Native Americans. Olson was appointed vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college in 1999 after serving as interim vice president and dean since 1998. In 2005, he retired, but was recalled to assume the interim presidency of the College in March 2007.
In November 2008, the Thiel College Board of Trustees officially designated Olson as the 18th president of the college, retroactive to his interim appointment. Olson has served as president for 27 months. As president, Olson has created an environment that has allowed the College to more effectively carry out its mission, including fostering collegiality among the members of the college community and establishing a trusted system of shared governance on campus.
Throughout his professional tenure at Thiel, Olson has served on numerous committees including faculty council, and he proudly carried the Thiel College mace as faculty marshal for 21 years. He also served as adviser to various student organizations such as Alpha Chi, Thiel's most prestigious academic honor society. In 1996, he earned the Thiel College President's Award for Teaching Excellence. At the Commencement Exercises in May 2009, Olson served as the keynote speaker and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities.
Beyond campus, Olson served as president of the Reynolds School Board from 1981 to 1989, is a member of the Mercer County Historical Society Board of Directors and belongs to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Greenville. He holds membership in the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, American Association of University Professors and Phi Alpha Theta.
Olson, a resident of Mercer, and his late wife, Margaret-who was for many years the college's bookstore manager and purchasing agent-are the parents of a son, Erik. He has two grandchildren. Olson grew up in Starbrick, where he attended elementary school, then attended junior high and high school in Warren, graduating from Warren High School in 1956.