Gordon Olson Award

Recognizing Outstanding Contributions to Local History

Connie Navarro

2020 Award Recipient Connie Navarro

The Kutsche Office of Local History recognizes Connie Navarro's commitment to using history to give voice to Latino communities in west Michigan. For decades, Navarro has been a powerful force for documenting, sharing, and celebrating local Latino life and culture. She and her family founded the Muskegon-based nonprofit Latinos Working for the Future in 1991. The organization promotes collaboration and education in support of the city's Latino population, most recently hosting the inaugural Muskegon County Latino Festival in 2019.

Navarro grew up in Texas and Oceana County, Michigan. Her migrant farming family relocated to Muskegon's Ryerson Heights Federal Housing Project around World War II, becoming part of an enclave of Latino families in the neighborhood. This community - affectionately called La Colonia - would inspire Navarro to conduct a series of oral histories in the 2000s to capture and memorialize this unique community. Much of her work culminated in her co-authorship of A New Home in Michigan: The Mexican-American Experience in Muskegon, published in 2010.

Navarro has worked closely with the Kutsche Office of Local History since its inception in 2009. A dear friend of office namesake Paul Kutsche, Navarro has served on the Advisory Council and provided essential guidance to projects related to Latino life and history in the region.

Connie Navarro with Paul Kutsche

Jo Ellyn Clarey

2018 Gordon Olson Award Winner, JoEllyn Clarey. 

4th annual winners

4th Annual Award Winners: Wallace Ewing and Peg Finkelstein with Gordon Olson and Kimberly McKee (2017).

Gordon and Paul

Paul Kutsche and Gordon Olson in 2014 as Gordon receives the inaugural award.