Alumni Spotlight: Barbara (Mlot) Olson, '64

Monday, June 16, 2014 4:00:00 PM

When Jubilarian Barbara (Mlot) Olson, ʹ64, describes her life, she is quick to count her blessings. Her deepest loves, family and an appreciation for continuous learning, become immediately apparent.

Barbara Olson

"My husband John and I have lived in the same house in Brookfield for 34 years," she said. "I have been blessed with a wonderful family from grandparents to grandchildren. We have a son, and our daughter who lives in Illinois has fraternal twin girls. These granddaughters have been the joys of our lives for more than five  years. I have also been blessed with a continuing love of learning, particularly history and biographies, and I enjoy gardening, travel and genealogy."

Since graduating from Stritch with a degree in English, Olson has lived her love of learning both personally and professionally.

"The “teacher” in me started in grade school when I 'played school' with neighborhood friends," said Olson. "At a junior high, I taught English and Spanish. As our children went through school, I was involved in religious education. I also tutored a wonderful young woman from Mexico who was learning English. After work hours at the Medical College of Wisconsin where I have been for 33 years (still working 32 hours/week), I taught a 14-hour, seven week session of Medical Terminology 46 times."

Her appreciation for the value of education was supported through her early relationships with her teachers, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, first at St. Mary's Academy and then at Stritch. In fact, Olson has such fond memories of her years at Stritch that for the last several months, she has volunteered on the Jubilarian Reunion Committee to plan the June 20-22 events.

As the excitement for the weekend builds, she has agreed to share some of her favorite memories with her fellow alumni.

What brought you to Stritch? How has Stritch remained with you in your personal life and career?

For college, my only choice was Stritch. I never considered another. Several of my 1964 Stritch classmates and I graduated from St. Mary’s Academy whose buildings Stritch shared on the old campus facing Lake Michigan, so there was always a Stritch presence. I had had the Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi since first grade and knew they were good teachers. Also, Stritch was still an all women’s college which was, for me, a good education fit. My years at Stritch were and remain an integral part of my life.

What do you remember about being on campus during those years?

I was a day student rather than a resident, so I do not have as many storied memories of Stritch and classmates as those who lived on campus. All of us, students and teachers, remember Father Graham hiding on the other side of doorways with his tripod and camera, catching us with his Can-do, Can-did, Can-done photos, many of which are now in the Stritch Archives.

Stritch, in those years, did not have “majors” but rather “fields of concentration.”  Mine was English.  Final exams consisted of questions based on all four years of courses in one’s field.  In our senior year, we even took a course to prepare for the finals.  This was a memorable process of endurance for every student.

Our 1964 class is unique, being the only class that spent two years each on the old and new campuses.  A big issue for us day students, when we moved from the south campus after our sophomore year, was the commute to the north campus. Many day students lived on the south side and got to school by bus, which was not a viable option to the north campus.  So, during our junior and senior years, four of us squeezed into a small car for the commute. The car owner and driver, Donna (Wright) Stehling, picked up me first, then Sue (Koetting) Morey, then Jan (Cira) Raymond.

Are you still in touch with any of your professors or classmates?

During the half century since graduation, I have kept in regular contact with two classmates, Carolyn (Miller) Mitchell and Sue (Koetting) Morey. Carolyn has lived in Wauwatosa for decades, but Sue, currently living in Vancouver, Washington, has resided in 11 states and The Netherlands. They are our most widely-traveled classmates. Sue has been to 49 states, Carolyn to all 50, and both to many countries outside the United States.

Have you been back on campus recently? If so, what has changed the most?

Being on the Jubilarian Reunion Committee, I have returned to Stritch for meetings since last fall. One meeting was on All Saints Day; beforehand, we went to Mass in the beautiful St. Francis of Assisi Chapel.  Since graduation, several significant new buildings are on campus.

What are you most looking forward to during Jubilarian Weekend?

I am looking forward to taking the campus tour, and I am very excited about the visit to the Archives to reminisce with my classmates.

Stritch is excited to welcome back its Jubilarians (the Classes of 1937-64), as well as the Class of 1989 for its 25-year reunion from June 20-22.