Gordon Olson Award

Recognizing Outstanding Contributions to Local History

Nominations Now Open for 2024!

Submit your nomination using our online form by 11:59 pm on Sunday, February 25, 2024.

The Gordon Olson Award recognizes individuals whose work embodies the Kutsche Office’s mission of “using history to give voice to diverse communities.” We celebrate those who help facilitate our understanding of the past and those who are documenting history as it happens in the present. Nominations are open to anyone, from historians, librarians, and genealogists, to journalists, artists, and community organizers. Winners receive a monetary award, plaque, recognition at our Annual Local History Roundtable, and GVSU media coverage for their work.

Our 2023 Winners

Melissa Fox

Since 2008, Melissa Fox has contributed her skills and enthusiasm for local history to the Grand Rapids Public Library, History Detectives Grand Rapids, and Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council. Along with serving important roles in these organizations, she has contributed to numerous projects and publication related to the history of West Michigan. Nominators noted Melissa’s willingness both to work on crucial behind-the-scenes aspects of projects just as well as comfortably and confidently jumping into the public-facing aspects of local history work. Her work consistently highlights diverse communities in West Michigan in a way that is engaging and informative for the local public.

Black and white image of Melissa Fox looking to the side
A basic head shot of Marjorie Viveen against a black background

Marjorie Viveen

It is likely that many Kutsche Office regulars already know Marjorie Viveen from her decades of work within the West Michigan local history community. In her nomination form, she was heralded as crafting “a legacy for the benefit of those who strive to preserve local history and recognize generations of the people of all cultural heritage who have lived in our area.” Marjorie has taken a particular interest in greenways, parks, public spaces, public fixtures, cemeteries, and other areas where West Michiganders have gathered throughout the years.

Established in 2014, the Gordon Olson Award is given once each year. Named in honor of Gordon Olson, former Grand Rapids City Historian and inaugural President of the Kutsche Office of Local History's Advisory Council, Olson's books, leadership, programming, mentorship, and advocacy have inspired generations of West Michigan residents. Past winners include:

  • 2023: Melissa Fox & Marjorie Viveen
  • 2022: Christine Byron & Tom Wilson
  • 2021: Lisa Plank
  • 2020: Connie Navarro
  • 2019: Kim Rush
  • 2018: JoEllyn Clarey
  • 2017: Wally Ewing & Margaret Tracy-Finkelstein
  • 2016: Carl Bajema
  • 2015: H. Sook Wilkinson
  • 2014: Gordon Olson
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.  

Page last modified November 7, 2023