Story Magazine - Fall, 2011
Charles and Sharon Olson strengthen community life at Luther: Lead gift funds major renovation of campus center
by Laura Kaslow, Communication Specialist
"If we can help with this, it is like we are helping the whole church," Charles and Sharon Olson said of their gift toward a major renovation of Luther Seminary's Olson Campus Center.
By providing the lead gift for the project, the Olsons have made a commitment to strengthen community life at Luther Seminary.
"We both felt in our hearts that there was this need," they said. "It felt good to support it."
The remodeled campus center will include a notable addition—the Charles and Sharon Olson Commons and Cafe, an informal gathering space and coffee shop. This new space will allow small groups of learning, discipleship and prayer, encouraging disciplines that will strengthen students' ministries throughout their lives.
President Richard Bliese said of the renovation, "This is important for community life at Luther Seminary. Good architecture shapes a community in significant ways. Our prayer is that the renovated campus center will create an atmosphere of hospitality and fellowship, community and perspective on the world that will teach and encourage the seminary community about mission to and for the world."
The Olsons first established a relationship with Luther Seminary in 1986 when Charles became a board member. Based on their long-standing commitment, they could quickly see the need for casual gathering space to support informal learning outside the classroom.
"We see both the short- and long-term benefits. It seems to us that in a place like that, you can cover a lot of important topics not discussed in a more formal setting," Charles said. "So much good can happen in a relaxed environment with no pressure."
By hearing about how the renovation will benefit the preparation of leaders for the church, it did not take long for the Olsons to feel affirmed in the need for their support.
"We were inspired by the enthusiasm and confidence for the project," Charles said. "We thought, if the seminary needs this, we should support it."
Tom Jolivette, vice president for seminary relations, said, "This is a continuation of Charles and Sharon Olson's generous involvement with Luther Seminary. They have consistently supported projects that help prepare leaders for the church. The Charles and Sharon Olson Commons and Café will encourage the building of community among the students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus."
Their passion for preparing church leaders drives the Olsons' support of Luther Seminary.
"We see this need ... that something has to be done, especially with youth, but also with adults coming and participating in worship. You can't lose by bringing people into the church," Sharon said. "The way for this to get done is by preparing leaders and that is what the seminary is all about."
Added Charles, "There is no greater cause than what the seminary has to offer—preparing leaders to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. It just behooves us to support the seminary in any way we can—through our financial giving, prayer and in other ways."
For more information on the Olson Campus Center construction project, visit www.luthersem.edu/construction.