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.
2018 award was given to Jo Ellyn Clarey.
2017 award was given to Wallace Ewing and Margaret (Peg) Finkelstein.
2016 award was given to Carl Bajema. Finalists for the award included Jeff Smith and John McGarry.
2015 award was given to Sook Wilkinson. Finalists for the award included Cindy Laug and Lori Shusta.
2018 Award Recipient, Jo Ellyn Clarey
By profession a literary scholar, Jo Ellyn Clarey is also a long-time local women's historian working with the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council. After graduate school at the University of Iowa she taught for several years and co-edited a book on narrative theory. She remains invested in literary study; but she has recently been more focused on proving the significance of local women’s history to national narratives, inspiring scrupulous work from “citizen historians” to bolster still-inadequate accounts of American women’s history, and organizing their participation outside city borders in regional conferences. For 25 years she has tracked down Grand Rapids women's contributions to community building through their organizations and professions; and, currently, she is overseeing the completion of an elective history of the city’s women beginning in 1887 and its contribution to a national crowd-sourcing project, Her Hat Was in the Ring. She has served on the boards of the Grand Rapids Historical Society, the Grand Rapids Historical Commission, the Progressive Women’s Alliance, Torch Club, and acted as liaison to the Michigan Women's Studies Association, whose statewide conference she has chaired. In 1999 Clarey was awarded the Grand Rapids Albert E. Baxter Award for her contributions to local women’s suffrage history, including the production of a centennial re-enactment of the 1899 national suffrage convention in Grand Rapids and organization of month-long women's history series for community schools and various other organizations. She continues to coordinate research and programming for area institutions and academic conferences across the city, state, and nation—and hopes to publish more substantively herself than she has managed so far.
4th Annual Award Winners: Wallace Ewing and Peg Finkelstein with Gordon Olson and Kimberly McKee (2017).
Paul Kutsche and Gordon Olson in 2014 as Gordon receives the inaugural award.