Carole Mae Brandt Olson '55

2005 Distinguished Citizen Award

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As far back as high school, Carole Mae Brandt Olson was dedicated to becoming a social worker. A sociology major at Macalester, she worked at the Ramsey County Probation Office before earning her master’s in social work at Columbia University. For a decade she directed the Family Violence Program at Family and Children’s Service in Minneapolis. There she developed nine Parents Anonymous groups serving abusive parents. She also helped establish the Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, an abuse prevention program that has expanded across the state. In 1979 she co-founded the Pride Program, the first self-help group in the U.S. for adult women prostitutes.

In 1986 Olson began a 13-year term as executive director of Episcopal Community Services. Under her leadership, a new program for low-income single fathers was initiated to help them gain employment, pay child support and become responsible fathers. In partnership with Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, ECS developed the Transitional Housing Program. "That program has grown into a leading Twin Cities-area effort, and has helped numerous low-income families find stable housing over the years," wrote Westminster Pastor Timothy Hart-Andersen, a Macalester trustee.

For six years Olson co-chaired Westminster’s $15 million building and renovation project, an extraordinary commitment for an historic, downtown church. She held offices at the state and national levels in the National Association of Social Workers, and provides workshops on risk management for its members. The NASW, Parents Anonymous and the YWCA have all honored her with their leadership and dedication awards. Most of her long and varied career, Olson maintains, would never have been possible without the steadfast support of her husband Glenn, and she is deeply grateful for that.