Steve Olson, a pivotal figure in North Coast agriculture and education, was honored with the Santa Rosa Junior College President’s Medallion for his extraordinary contributions to the college – and community – during a half century of service and leadership.
The award was presented by Santa Rosa Junior College president Dr. Frank Chong at the annual President’s Address to the Community held on May 30 in the Walter Haehl Pavilion on the SRJC campus.
“Steve has contributed greatly to the enhancement of SRJC and we are proud to recognize him with the President’s Medallion,” said Dr. Chong.
A record crowd turned out to honor Olson, 70, a man of quiet dignity and calm reserve whose life has been dedicated to family, community, agriculture and education.
Terry Lindley, president of the SRJC board of trustees, introduced Olson at the presentation on May 30. Lindley has known Olson for more than 40 years. Their friendship goes back to the days when Lindley was a farm boy in Humboldt County and Olson was the young agriculture instructor at Ferndale High School. Olson has served as a mentor to Lindley, himself a respected agricultural and community leader who is senior vice president of marketing for American AgCredit.
Many of the people whose lives have been touched by Olson were at the event honoring him. There were representatives from agriculture, education, community organizations and the Rotary Club, which has been a major part of Olson’s life for nearly 40 years. Olson’s family including his wife of 45 years Elaine Olson joined in paying tribute to a man who has truly made a difference in Sonoma County
Olson has been associated with Santa Rosa Junior College since 1970 when he started as a plant science instructor in the college’s agriculture department. He quickly moved into administrative positions when his management skills, keen intellect and professional demeanor became apparent to college officials.
When Olson retired from SRJC in 2007, he held the position of Dean of Occupational Educational and Economic Development. His 37 year legacy at SRJC includes the acquisition and development of the Shone Farm, a 300 plus acre working ranch with vineyards, orchards and livestock pastures where agriculture students gain valuable, practical hands-on experience in the ways farming.
Olson’s work ethic, leadership abilities and dedication to agriculture became evident early in life. A star member of the Santa Rosa Chapter Future Farmers of America, Olson graduated from Santa Rosa High in 1960. He attended SRJC and transferred to Fresno State University in 1963. He earned a bachelor of science degree in agronomy in 1966. Olson holds a teaching credential and master of arts degree in education from the University of California, Davis.
Olson has won many honors and accolades for his contributions and community service to agriculture, education and farm youth. A Rotarian for 39 years, Olson’s work with the Santa Rosa Rotary Club earned him Rotary’s highest honor, the Harold D. Bostock Lifetime of Service Award. Olson is one of only three people to receive the award in the 92 year history of Santa Rosa Rotary Club.
Olson is a member of the Sonoma County World Affairs Council and served as a member of the Sonoma County Task Force on Hunger. He is a trustee of the Santa Rosa Junior College Shone Farm Foundation and the Farm Bureau Foundation of Sonoma County. He is a former director of the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County and now holds the honored title of director emeritus for his years of service.
Olson and his wife have two daughters, Jenifer Cordova and Rebecca Conway, and seven grandchildren.