Muehlig Funeral Chapel

403 South Fourth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI


Charles E Olson Jr.

February 18, 1931June 28, 2020

Charles E. Olson, Jr. was born to Charles E. Olson and Mildred Schlimme Olson on February 18, 1931, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When he was about two years old the family moved to Detroit, Michigan. Chuck attended Detroit Public Schools until his last two years of high school when he became a student at the Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, MI. He graduated from there as class valedictorian in !948. It was while he was there that he became interested in the natural environment. He continued his education in the School of Forestry at the University of Michigan, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1952. He went on to the University of Minnesota to receive a Master’s degree in Forest Management in 1953. During these years he began to combine his forestry studies with learning about air photo interpretation.

The next step was a return to Michigan where he married Constance (Connie) Kay on June 27, 1953, in Owosso. Two weeks later he began his career in the U.S. Navy. Most of his active duty was spent as an instructor at the Photo Interpretation Center in Washington, D.C. until his retirement from active duty in 1956 after which he served in the active Naval Reserve for an additional 30 years. Although his experience had been with military situations, he realized that the principles could be applied to many civilian situations and that became his focus for the remainder of his professional career. It started with work at the Dixon Springs Experiment Station in southern Illinois and progressed through becoming a faculty member in the Department of Forestry at the University Illinois. Recognizing that his future would be in the academic world, he returned to the University of Michigan where he received his PhD in Forestry in 1969. By then he had joined the American Society of Photogrammetry and established himself as a prominent member in that field.

He continued to teach and kept up with the development of new technologies. When ASP added Remote Sensing to its name he was one of the pioneers in the development of that technology both in the area of teaching and research. He was often a speaker at ASPRS national conferences and at international events. He conducted short courses on the subject all over the world. When he travelled to places of interest he often took Connie with him so they could both enjoy the experience. He guided at least 60 students to careers in remote sensing in the areas of academia, private industry, government agencies and frequently kept in touch with them for many years, continuing to guide and mentor them. Along the way he received many honors and awards and accolades from colleagues and former students. He retired from the University of Michigan in 1999 as an Emeritus Professor.

Retirement is a relative word because he continued to be active in his professional life as well as having several extracurricular activities. He served as an expert witness on several court cases involving environmental issues. He was the representative from Michigan Envirothon to the National Envirothon and attended many of the national competitions. Elderwise was another activity he enjoyed as a student, lecturer, committee member and chair. He took part in various Ann Arbor Rotary service projects, tutored elementary students and served for many years as an election inspector. The highlight of retirement was probably being asked to be part of the Michigan Tech Research Institute where several of his former students worked. He became an adjunct professor at Michigan Tech University.

If there is one word to describe Chuck Olson it is educator. He was a Boy Scout in Detroit and later became a Scoutmaster in Washington and Ann Arbor where he served on the District Committee. He coached youth baseball teams in several locations. Regardless of whether someone was a preschooler or senior citizen, he loved to educate, train, and inspire them. This trait lasted almost to the end of his life on June 28, 2020.

Chuck is survived by Connie, his wife of 67 years; son David Olson, daughter Suzanne LeSar, and son-in-law Richard LeSar; two brothers, John and Jim, and two granddaughters, Kendra and Katherine LeSar. Memorial contributions may be made to The Leelanau School in Glen Arbor, MI; Camps Leelanau and Kohana in Maple City, MI; Elderwise Learning of Ann Arbor or an educational institution of your choice.


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Charles E Olson Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Arthur Endsley

July 15, 2020

Chuck was a great mentor and teacher! At the Michigan Tech Research Institute, as an intern, I was introduced to him when he ran a short course on aerial photo analysis. He brought a unique way of thinking about image interpretation into the classroom that captivated my attention from the very first day.

Philip Huber

July 13, 2020

I was a student of Dr. Olson at the University of Michigan in the late 1970s. I am 60 and still work for the US Forest Service. I still use the photo interpretation skills he taught to this very day! Thank you Dr. Olson!

Gerald Grossman

July 13, 2020

My condolences to Dr. Olson's family. He touched thousands of young people in a positive way leaving a great legacy. Dr. Olson launched my forestry career when I showed up in Ann Arbor 40 years ago as an 18 year old freshman interested in being outdoors but without much of an idea what I wanted to do. He pointed me in the right direction and helped develop my passion for forestry.

Debra Huff

July 11, 2020

My sincere condolences to Dr. Chuck Olson's family. I have known him since I was his student at U-M in 1982. He was so supportive and a great instructor, loving posing problems in remote sensing for students to solve! He remained a friend and very supportive over the years, as I stayed in Michigan with the DNR. He was truly a gift to the forestry community. I will miss him and his generous smile.

Bill Banzhaf

July 11, 2020

He was my photo Interpretation professor and a real leader within the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources. He was a grand guy and a mentor.

Don Holecek

July 11, 2020

I took a course from him at the University of Illinois and used the knowledge gained during a summer job with the Forest Service in Oregon. He was a great professor. Condolences to his family.

Robert McBrayer

July 8, 2020

My most sincere condolences to Chuck's Family. We served together in the Navy Reserve at Selfridge ANG Base for a period of time. We enjoyed numerous conversations together, many more associated with our outside interests that with Navy affairs. I will miss him. may he rest in peace.

David Banach

July 7, 2020

I worked with Dr. Olson at the Michigan Tech Research Institute and my cubical was right next to his. My undergrad was in earth science, with a special interest in remote sensing. Little did I know that the person sitting next to me was instrumental in developing some of the remote sensing principles that I had learned about in school!
Dr. Olson was always a pleasure to talk to and I especially enjoyed when he would tell me one of his many stories about his past careers and/or the little lessons he taught me. I will take those lessons throughout the rest of my career.
My condolences go out to his lovely wife, Connie, and his family. Dr. Olson and his infinite wisdom will be truly missed but never forgotten!

Zhenkui Ma

July 6, 2020

Dr. Olson is my life time teacher. He taught me not only remote sensing, he taught me patience and love in daily life, he taught me critical thinking and persistence in professional work. My wife and I remembered great summer time we spent with Dr. Olson and Mrs. Olson in northern Michigan. With great support from Dr. Olson, I was able to get my PhD degree in 1990. Many many thanks.

Neil and Beth Newport

July 5, 2020

Chuck will be greatly missed by our family, especially remembering our wonderful times together during the Thanksgiving season. Connie we are very sorry for your loss,
We Love you,

Neil, Beth and Family