Dec 12, 2011 - Claremont, Calif. -
Students, faculty, staff and friends gathered to reflect upon Olson’s years at HMC during a Dec. 7 retirement celebration in the Platt Campus Center.
“Dick has been wonderful leaven within our faculty culture. He is kind, upbeat, passionate but open to new ideas,” said Dean of Faculty Robert Cave. “He has achieved a remarkable amount, but never wears his achievements on his sleeve. Rather, he approaches us all with humility, humor and support.”
Darryl Wright, chair of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts Department (HSA), credited Olson with creating an atmosphere that allowed junior faculty to flourish.
Erika Dyson, assistant professor of religious studies, shared how Olson has been one of her favorite reasons for coming to work each day.
“He’s the first person I go to when I find some strange oddity in my research. I’m so grateful to have somebody I can go to and share my excitement about these discoveries,” Dyson said. “He’s a generous mentor and has an enthusiastic way of teaching students. My only complaint is that he’s going away, which could be solved simply by his not retiring.”
Dyson and others were pleased to hear that Olson would return for 15 weeks in the spring semester to serve as the 2012 Hixon-Riggs Visiting Professor in Science, Technology and Society.
“I can’t remember a single day that I didn’t look forward to coming to work,” Olson said. “Every colleague has as their central concern and joy the education of top-rate students. It’s really been a joy. Thank you for the opportunity.”
An HMC alumnus, Olson majored in physics, yet discovered his passion for history and science’s role in shaping it while still a student at Mudd. He later earned his master’s in physics and a doctorate in the History of Science from Harvard University.
At HMC Olson developed and taught history of science courses and served in many leadership roles, including chair of the steering committee for the Hixon Forum for Responsive Science and Engineering, chair of the HSA department and director of the STS Program. His work has focused on the interrelationships between the natural sciences and other cultural domains, such as social sciences, political ideology and religion.
He’s a prolific writer with more than 60 published works, including articles, invited book chapters and books. His most recent books include "Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe" (University of Illinois Press, 2008), and "Technology and Science in Ancient Civilizations"(ABC-CLIO, 2010).
Media Contact: Judy Augsburger