Gordon Olson Award

Recognizing Outstanding Contributions to Local History

Established in 2014, the Gordon Olson Award will be given to one individual each year. Named in honor of Gordon Olson, former Grand Rapids City Historian, whose books, leadership, programming, mentorship, and advocacy have inspired generations of West Michigan residents, the award is intended to recognize individuals whose work embodies the Kutsche Office’s mission, “Using history to give voice to diverse communities.” The award is announced at the Annual Local History Roundtable. Recipients are given a commemorative plaque and are recognized through Kutsche Office publicity and local news media.

2019 Award Recipient: Kim Donald Rush
2018 Award Recipient: Jo Ellyn Clarey 
2017 Award Recipients: Wallace Ewing and Margaret (Peg) Finkelstein 
2016 Award Recipient: Carl Bajema
2015 Award Recipient: Sook Wilkinson

Kim Donald Rush

2019 Award Recipient, Kim Donald Rush

Kim Rush received the Gordon Olson Award as a result of his unrelenting research and documentation of local African American community. In 2003, he became curious about authentic African American blues bands in Grand Rapids, and scoured local newspapers and other sources for information on the African American music scene in the city. He interviewed almost 100 local elders many of whom were musicians. In 2011 Kim and Doug Taylor founded the website, West Michigan Music Hysterical Society, which is a rich archive about local musicians from all genres, including past and present. Kim has written articles for the website on the local African American music scene since the 1940s, and featured individual musicians, bands, and music venues like Roma Hall and the Horseshoe Bar. Kim’s interest in the history of the African American community in Grand Rapids currently focuses on early African American barbers in the city, the subject of a future book he is writing.

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.