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The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The next chapter

Associate Professor of Business Bruce Olsen announced he will retire at the end of the semester after 31 years of teaching and many years of accounting and finance work.

Business professor Bruce Olsen can’t help but smile as he reflects on how proud he is of his students. In between grading and classes, he meets with former students to hear how far they’ve come. Earlier in the day he had breakfast with his former TA. She has been working in public accounting for the past decade and will teach accounting for the University of Northwestern in St. Paul. Later, he had lunch with another former student who now has two kids and is looking to teach. He proudly brags about his student who won the Elijah Watts Sells award for her performance on the “brutal” Certified Public Accountant exam. Only 50 of around 67,000 exam participants are honored with the award.

These moments when he can see his students thrive is why Olsen teaches. 

Olsen, who began teaching at Bethel in 1993, announced he will retire after this semester. He started his Bethel journey as a student in 1974.

Writing was Olsen’s passion. In high school, he wrote for his school newspaper because he wanted to see his name in print — and it helped him get out of his shell. His freshman year at Bethel, he took the class News and Feature Writing from former Bethel journalism professor Alvera Mickelsen. She taught him a lot about how to write succinctly and appropriately and got him involved with The Clarion. As the editor, he spent late nights writing stories and editing. Wednesday production nights went the latest. The 1978 Clarion staff recognized “Boss Bruce” for his leadership in his last issue. Supplying the cold-riddled staff with Kleenex, making late night coffee runs, tolerating excuses and writing upward of three stories a week were some of his mentioned heroics.

Devanie Andre

Like many college students, Olsen was unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. He was deciding between studying journalism, French or business. He was unsure of what he could do with a French degree after college and his introverted nature made continuing to chase stories as a journalist unappealing. Back then, the business department was new. There was only one full-time faculty member, but Olsen’s knack for numbers and math ultimately led him to major in business. A business degree could have helped him run the family moving company. 

Olsen’s first job — other than his paper route — was working for the moving company in his hometown, Chicago. His father wanted him to come and work for the company full-time after college like his three brothers. When Olsen graduated from Bethel in 1978, he went a different route. Caught by the “accounting bug,” he decided to get his Master of Business Administration specializing in accounting from the University of Minnesota. Before starting full-time at Bethel in 1998, Olsen worked in CPA, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President roles. He felt that he could do good for people as a professor.

“I wanted to start giving something back. And so I thought maybe this was a way I can give back,” Olsen said.

Associate Professor of Business Brian Holland recruited Olsen. They both attended Elim Baptist Church in Anoka and met in Sunday school class. The two became close friends playing on an intramural church basketball team together 39 years ago. 

“Neither one of us was good,” Holland said. “We just ran up and down.”

At first, Olsen turned him down. Holland persisted and helped bring him to Bethel as an adjunct professor. Olsen enjoyed his role but thought that there wasn’t enough time to spend with the students. He eventually started teaching full-time.

“Being an adjunct where you teach a class for five weeks, you never see those folks again. Here you create the relationship over a four-year period,” Olsen said. “You get to know them really well. They get to know you early. And that’s the fun part for me.”

Olsen encourages students to pursue minors in history or philosophy — something unrelated to accounting — in order to become well-rounded people. His student Breanna Vermeer, who graduated in January 2024, described Olsen as a professor who is interested in your personal life and teaches practical things while maintaining a lighthearted attitude.

Professor Olsen is a professor who cares deeply for his students despite his frequent sarcasm and dry humor,” Vermeer said.

Outside of his accounting classes, Olsen has found other ways to be involved with the Bethel community. He watched Bethel become competitive in nearly every sport as Bethel’s Faculty Athletics Representative for the past 19 years. He spent 10 years serving on the Board of Governors, using his expertise to assist in managing the school’s funds. Widening students’ worldview by leading over 13 interim trips to Europe is something he will miss the most.

“You see it through their eyes for the first time. And how excited they get about seeing the Eiffel Tower or something like that, or Big Ben, you know, or hearing Big Ben for the first time,” Olsen said. “It’s always fun. So I’ll miss that.”

Olsen’s advice to future professors is to get to know your students. Be vulnerable around them. Show them that you struggle with some of the things that they do.

Olsen and the 2024 Introduction to International Business in Europe students pose in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Olsen will miss leading students through Europe and seeing them experience these landmarks for their first times.

“I take what I do seriously, but I don’t take myself too seriously,” Olsen said. “I do like to laugh and I’m okay with laughing at myself.”

Olsen teaches for his love of the students. He hopes that they continue to show up and do what they can every day. His advice to them is to not get bogged down by their troubles.

“Try to do the best you can every day,” Olsen said. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

His wife Dorothy, an elementary school principal, decided that they would retire together. 

“I let her make that call,” Olsen said. “We wanted to kind of retire at the same time.”

Olsen recently finished reading “Gun Lap: Staying in the Race with Purpose,” a book about how to live your later years in life. He and his wife Dorothy plan on traveling during the times of the year that work wouldn’t allow. Greece, Portugal and Turkey are at the top of their bucket list — maybe in the fall to avoid the summer heat. They would like to see the Christmas markets in Europe as well. He will have more time to go hiking at places like the North Shore and Wild River State Park. He has big plans for his garden and is considering planting some fruit trees and starting a vegetable garden. Dorothy is worried he’ll spend too much time in the garden. 

Retirement will be a big transition for Olsen after spending three decades teaching Bethel students. After the spring 2024 semester, he will begin the next chapter of his life.

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About the Contributor
Devanie Andre, Staff Designer
Devanie Andre, 20, is a junior graphic design major. She enjoys being a member of Bethel’s volleyball team, playing intense card games like Dutch Blitz and contemplating what tattoo to get next.

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