Friday, January 30, 2015
We are saddened to share that John E. Olsson, founder of Olsson Associates, passed away on January 28. He was 88 years old.
Mr. Olsson leaves behind a great legacy, marked with the formation of Olsson Associates in 1956. His perseverance and determination to build an engineering design firm based on value and quality is clearly evident today.
“Many of our employees had the privilege of knowing Mr. Olsson and remember him not only for his accomplishments in business, but as a person, Olsson President Brad Strittmatter said. “We remember his professionalism, his wisdom and his direct sense of humor. He was a joy to talk with.”
Mr. Olsson was born in Queens, New York in 1926. He graduated in 1951 from the University of Nebraska with a degree in mechanical engineering. In 1956, he became the sole engineer in his new company, John E. Olsson Professional Engineering. His wife, Jean, performed clerical work and their first project was a cemetery plat for J. Township in Seward County. His two-person company turned into Olsson Associates. Today, it employs 900 people in 24 offices in eight states. Olsson provides engineering, planning, landscape architecture, surveying and environmental services.
While having a degree in mechanical engineering, Mr. Olsson became a registered civil engineer and gained much early work through municipalities. As the municipalities grew, so did the firm. As time progressed, his key projects included designing diesel power plants, working for the City of Lincoln, performing water and sewage work for small communities, studying fallout shelters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and designing a total energy plant for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. He led the firm until 1976 and retired in the early 1990s. Mr. Olsson remained involved with the firm’s Board of Directors up until his passing.
In addition to his 50-year involvement in the American Water Works Association (a past Nebraska president), Mr. Olsson was also involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Nebraska chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies (a past president), the National Council of Engineering Examiners, and the Nebraska Examining Board for Engineers and Architects. Mr. Olsson long believed in being involved in one’s profession and one’s community—a value that still remains in the firm’s culture today.
Roger Severin led the firm after Mr. Olsson and said this of his former boss:
“For me, John was about integrity, honoring the engineering profession, supporting your community, and looking over his employees. He was never too busy to find out if anything was new with your family.
“He also had an ability to see the potential in people that others may have missed. He held everyone to high standards, but he was there to help if you stumbled. I feel lucky to have been one of his early ‘projects.’ He will be missed.”
In his spare time, Mr. Olsson enjoyed sailing, playing tennis and spending time at Pelican Lake in Minnesota with his wife Nancy and her children and grandchildren.
Mr. Olsson is preceded in death by his first wife, Jean. Family includes: brother Ted Olsson; children, Sarah O’Neill, Bud and Janesse Olsson, Liz and Steve Jordet, and John S. and Jody Olsson; grandchildren, John Lewis, Steve (Beth) O’Neill, Scott O’Neill and Matt, Jack, Kate and Nick Olsson.
The family will hold a private burial for Mr. Olsson. The memorial service will follow at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31, at First Presbyterian Church (840 S. 17th St. in Lincoln, Nebraska). Memorials can be directed to the University of Nebraska Foundation for the benefit of the Civil Engineering Department.
About Mr. Olsson’s legacy