GARDEN CITY, N.Y. - Saint Michael's College professor Paul Olsen received the second annual Northeast-10 Conference Faculty Mentor Award on June 4 during the NE10's year-end banquet. Olsen, an associate professor of business administration and accounting, is a long-time supporter of Saint Michael's Athletics, and serves as a faculty affiliate for the men's ice hockey program, providing academic support and guidance to that team's student-athletes.
Olsen became the second Saint Michael's professor in as many years to claim the honor, following 2017 winner Ray Patterson, the College's Religious Studies Department Chair and recently-appointed Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR). The accolade is chosen by a group of Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) members at NE10 institutions.
"Working with our student-athletes is one of the most personally and professionally rewarding aspects of my job," said Olsen. "I'm inspired by their dedication to their sport and academics. As a professor, academic adviser and faculty affiliate, I'm there to support our student-athletes in the classroom and on the court, field, pool or ice. More importantly, I'm present and let our student-athletes know that I am a resource for them when and if they are having a hard time academically or personally. After all, they are humans first. As young men and women, they have the same struggles that many of us have had in our lives."
Capping this year's festivities, the award was renamed in honor of Dr. Dave Landers, who spent the past 13 years as the College's FAR. Landers, who earned the 2014 Dr. Dave Pariser Faculty Mentor Award, as selected by the NCAA Division II National SAAC, saw the Saint Michael's SAAC name its faculty member of the year award in his honor in 2016.
"We are pleased and proud that Paul has been recognized for his selfless dedication to our student-athletes," said Director of Athletics Chris Kenny '86. "To have it happen on the same night that the award was named for Dave Landers only amplifies the honor."
Olsen was presented the award by 2017 graduate Justin McKenzie, a four-year member of the men's ice hockey program. "Professor Olsen was one of the first faculty members I got to know at Saint Michael's," said McKenzie. "I was assigned to Paul my freshman year and remember leaving his office after a one-on-one session thinking to myself, 'maybe I'm actually not just here to play hockey.' I think that's what makes Paul so special to Saint Michael's students and deserving of this award. Yes, most of the conversations you'll have with Paul in the hallway or before class will start with whatever teams you have upcoming on the schedule, but they will end with how classes are going and what you're up to outside of the classroom and athletic facilities. Most student-athletes think life's pretty much over when the final whistle or buzzer blows, but it's people like Paul who help us realize it's only the start."
Olsen, who recently completed his 23rd year of instructing at Saint Michael's and 30th of employment, has also been involved around campus through such activities as Pre-Orientation Weekend (POW) and Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts (MOVE) extended service trips, including leading a recent stay in Burgundy, France, in May. Olsen has been recognized twice in the past seven years with a Class Appreciation Honor by the College's graduating class, and was honored this winter with the Rev. Marcel Rainville '67 Service to Saint Michael's Men's Ice Hockey Award.
"Paul is both a formal and an informal adviser to many student-athletes, and can be seen at almost every athletic contest, cheering our student-athletes on and urging them to do their best both in and out of the classroom," said women's basketball head coach and SAAC adviser Shannon Kynoch. "He has demonstrated his commitment to developing well-rounded student-athletes by encouraging involvement in areas beyond athletics, including service trips and weekend studies off campus. He is committed to ensuring that each student-athlete under his watch has the resources available to be both academically and athletically successful."