In Memoriam

Bruce H. Olson
Professor Emeritus of Finance
1935 – 2008

Bruce Olson (Ole-, Doc, Doc O), dearest husband, father, Grandpa, friend, colleague and fraternity brother, died November 9, 2008, at the age of 73. His passing was sudden and unexpected but stemmed from complications of a lifelong and very private struggle with diabetes that began when he was nine years old.

Ole was born on September 19, 1935, in Lombard, Illinois, to George and Jeannette Olson. He earned his B.A. degree in Economics from Wabash College in 1957, where he was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He graduated from Indiana University with an M.B.A degree in 1959, followed by a D.B.A in Economics with Finance minor in 1961, also from Indiana University. Immediately after receiving his D.B.A, he joined the faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle as an Assistant Professor of Finance. He remained at the University of Washington from 1961 to 1967. In 1967, he came to Miami University as an Associate Professor in Finance. Five years later Ole was promoted to Professor in Finance. In 2004, Bruce retired after more than forty years of teaching and was granted Professor Emeritus status. He was quite proud of the fact that he taught across five decades at Miami University.

While at Wabash College, Ole met Joann who attended and graduated from nearby DePauw University. Marriages between the two schools were common since Wabash College was an all male institution. Ole and Joann were married for fifty-one years. They had two children, both Miami graduates, Eric (Rick) and Jean (Jenny, deceased 2005). The tragic death of Jenny was truly the worst time in their lives. Without the love of Joann and their son, Rick, who always stepped up when needed, without the caring of his colleagues, students, friends and alumni, Ole may not have made it. Joann and Ole had always enjoyed visiting Jenny and husband Peter Lanjouw and their two children, Max and Else. These grandchildren were loved and cherished by Ole and came to occupy a central point in his life. You could sense the excitement and anticipation each time he and Joann were going to see the grandkids; his face would light up, and he would tell you that he was the happiest man in the world.

Teaching was Doc’s first priority, and he was an excellent teacher. His devotion to teaching and his students is evidenced by the many awards and honors he received, including the Beta Gamma Sigma Teaching Award and the Miami University Alumni Association’s Effective Educator Award of 1985, for which he was nominated again in many subsequent years. In 1987, three of his former students funded the Bruce Olson Scholar Leader Room. He received the A.K. Morris Miami University Alumni Award for Distinguished Service in 1989 and was named the Associated Student Government Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 1990. He also worked in the business world in various capacities, including lending his expertise as a member of the board of directors of funds for several corporations, which gave added credibility to his teaching.

An accounting of student remembrances about Doc O would take much more space than we have here. Students remember the first day of class when Doc O would write TANSTAAFL on the blackboard. TANSTAAFL stood for, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” and meant that hard work is needed to succeed in this world. Because Doc O’s class average on examinations often equaled forty-five percent or below out of one hundred percent, many students found his classes to be humbling. Students knew they had to come to class prepared, for they never knew when that possibly fatal question could be asked of them from Dr. Olson. Rather than give examinations, Doc O gave “opportunities” and the last examination was called the “golden opportunity” which was often printed on gold colored paper.

Throughout his career he was a deeply caring and compassionate teacher who worked tirelessly to create a classroom environment that enhanced and supported student learning. He felt that one of his major contributions to his students was in career counseling and in connecting them with his network of former students who had successfully moved into positions of importance in commercial banking, corporate finance and investment banking. When recommending students for positions in finance—a historically male-dominated field—he made no distinctions between his male and female students. He kept close contact with many of his former students, and outside his office in Upham Hall, Doc had a collage of hundreds of photographs sent to him by past graduates, proudly showing their spouses and children. A romantic at heart, he also promoted many a “Miami Merger,” often giving the guy a friendly push.Doc O was simply the best when it came to creating an informal network among his former students who were either interested in hiring Miami graduates and/or wished to advance their own careers. When going to various professional meetings around the country he would visit former students at their places of business. He used this time not only to renew relationships but also to promote the recruitment of a new crop of finance graduates. Not surprisingly, more than forty of his former students paid him back in 2001 by establishing the ongoing Bruce Olson Innovation Fund, which underwrites a broad range of internships and other programs that help prepare finance students for productive careers.

On campus, Doc would often arrange for students and a few finance faculty colleagues to meet and have dinner with recruiters, particularly bank recruiters. These gatherings gave finance students an opportunity to interact with potential employers in a more congenial and relaxed setting. Although students who were particularly nervous might not have always appreciated this aspect, they were able to discuss a wide variety of topics in far more depth than in the standard interview. As Ole shrewdly anticipated, many students who attended these dinners received attractive offers, making worthwhile all the work involved on his part. Furthermore, the School of Business and Miami University reaped enormous benefits.

Fortunately, for many adult learners, Ole’s classroom talents were not the exclusive enjoyment of Miami’s undergraduate students. In the early 1980s, Ole lectured on one of his loves—investing—as part of a “Lunchtime Learning” series for faculty and staff. The knowledge and clarity he brought to the subject matter were imposing, and he gave an eager audience a first-rate overview of how markets operate and, more importantly, the tools and confidence needed to actively invest in stocks and bonds. Over the years, his friends and colleagues continued to shamelessly exploit this expertise as they sought his ‘free’ and highly valued advice on the stock market.

Being a member of Delta Tau Delta as an undergraduate student at Wabash College, it was quite natural for Ole to become involved with the Chapter at Miami University. For years he served as Treasurer of the fraternity’s local Alumni Board House Corporation. Ole was a driving force behind the financing and construction of the present Delta Tau Delta fraternity house on Tallawanda Road in Oxford. Through the years Ole coached many “Delts” to become house treasurers and to manage the business of the local chapter. Fraternity brothers from Baltimore to Bangkok, from Hollywood to Hamilton, Ohio, have openly confirmed the impact that Doc O had on their lives.

From his book on the National Bank of Commerce of Seattle and first article in the Journal of Finance, “Time Deposit Building by Commercial Banks: A Problem Analysis,” in 1963, through his extensive work with the National Credit Union Management Association, Ole maintained a keen academic interest in financial institutions and investments. Ole was instrumental in founding the Miami University Community Federal Credit Union and for many years served on the Board and the Credit Committee. He also served several years on the Miami University Faculty Welfare Committee. He was a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma (national business honorary), the American Finance Association and the American Economics Association.

On a personal level, Ole had a wide circle of friends. Ole and Joann met regularly with their gourmet dinner group and evening bridge groups, where he was an ardent and skillful bridge player. One colleague remembers the time Ole and three finance faculty friends attended the 1991 NCAA Men’s Championship basketball game in Indianapolis. Sitting in the Duke University section, they watched Duke beat North Carolina. “The trip to and from the game, along with watching the game, was an absolute blast!”

In later years, when his illness had finally grounded him, friends often supplied him with jigsaw puzzles, which Ole loved to do by the hour. He was also active in, and especially cherished, his friends-based investment club. Throughout his career at Miami he was an active follower of Miami sports, particularly football. Perhaps it was fitting that he spent his last evening out with Joann and his dinner group friends, talking about stocks, football, and, of course, the beloved grandkids.

On the campus there is a memorial that Ole loved and often quoted. It most aptly sums up his feelings for Miami University, “To think that in such a place I led such a life.”

In addition to his loving wife Joann, his son Rick, his son-in-law Peter Lanjouw, and his grandchildren Max and Else Lanjouw, Bruce Olson (Ole, Doc, Doc O) is missed and remembered by his friends, former students and staff/colleagues of Miami University.

Respectfully submitted by the Memorial Committee: Robert Carmean, William Hazleton, James B. Kehr, Mark and Charlene Niederhelman, Barbara Pontius, William Serraino, Wayne Staton