Charles E. Olson Jr., professor emeritus in the School for Environment and Sustainability, died June 28.

Charles E. Olson Jr.
Charles E. Olson Jr.

Olson was born Feb. 18, 1931, to Charles E. Olson and Mildred Schlimme Olson in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When he was about 2 years old the family moved to Detroit, where Chuck attended Detroit Public Schools. He spent his last two years of high school at the Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, Michigan, where he graduated as class valedictorian in 1948.

While at The Leelanau School, he became interested in the natural environment. He continued his education in the School of Forestry at the University of Michigan, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1952. He received a master’s degree in forest management from the University of Minnesota in 1953.

During these years he began to combine his forestry studies with learning about air photo interpretation.

Olson married Constance (Connie) Kay on June 27, 1953, in Owosso. Two weeks later he began his career in the U.S. Navy, where most of his active duty was spent as an instructor at the Photo Interpretation Center in Washington, D.C., until his retirement from active duty in 1956 after which he served in the active Naval Reserve for an additional 30 years.

Although his experience had been with military situations, he realized that the principles could be applied to many civilian situations, and that became his focus for the remainder of his professional career, starting at the Dixon Springs Experiment Station in southern Illinois and then as a faculty member in the Department of Forestry at the University Illinois.

Olson returned to U-M for his Ph.D. in forestry in 1969. By then he had joined the American Society of Photogrammetry and established himself as a prominent member in that field. He was often a speaker at national conferences and international events.

Along the way he received many honors and awards and accolades from colleagues and former students. He retired from U-M in 1999 as an emeritus professor.

In retirement, Olson served as an expert witness on several court cases involving environmental issues, represented the Michigan Envirothon to the National Envirothon and attended many of the national competitions.

He participated in Elderwise as a student, lecturer, committee member and chair, took part in various Ann Arbor Rotary service projects, tutored elementary students and served as an election inspector. He became part of the Michigan Tech Research Institute, where several of his former students worked, and was an adjunct professor at Michigan Tech University.

Olson was a Boy Scout in Detroit and later became a Scoutmaster in Washington and Ann Arbor, where he served on the District Committee. He coached youth baseball teams in several locations.

Olson is survived by Connie, his wife of 67 years; son, David Olson; daughter, Suzanne LeSar, and son-in-law Richard LeSar; two brothers, John and Jim, and two granddaughters, Kendra and Katherine LeSar.

Memorial contributions may be made to The Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, Camps Leelanau and Kohana in Maple City, Michigan; Elderwise Learning of Ann Arbor; or an educational institution of the donor’s choice.

Submitted by the Olson family