“It’s because I can”

Hamline says goodbye to Matt Olson.

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“It’s because I can”

Matt Olson during one of his classes.

Matt Olson during one of his classes.

Courtesy of Hamline Archives

Matt Olson during one of his classes.

Courtesy of Hamline Archives

Courtesy of Hamline Archives

Matt Olson during one of his classes.


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“How has Hamline changed…” Psychology professor Matt Olson pondered while gazing out the window of his slowly emptying office in Giddens Learning Center.

Professor Olson has spent roughly 40 years witnessing the changes of Hamline and doing his part to enrich the Hamline community, even if it at first startled him.

“We were in this office for the final interview and the door was open. At some point some young woman walked by… clearly a student and she goes, ‘Bud! [Baldwin Hergenhahn] My mom sent you some tomatoes!’ A student calling a professor by his first name; I was shaken to my core. During that interview we got interrupted by all kinds of kids coming through and I thought ‘Woah! This could be really cool,’” Olson said.

This openness is what compelled Olson to make a life and career at Hamline.

“I always hoped that we did a good job for people… I always thought we used to do something for students that was different,” Olson said.

He went on to express the importance of Hamline keeping their doors open.

“I hope Hamline keeps some of that personal contact,” Olson said.

Olson emphasized how important his relationships to the students were to him, both those he worked closely with and those who might have unknowingly stumbled into one of his psychology classes just to fulfill a Hamline Plan requirement.

This relationship went both ways with many students making clear how Olson changed their lives.

Emily Stark, a 1999 alumna of Hamline, spoke high praises of Olson.

“His Intro to Psychology course convinced me that I should become a psychology major.

“Matt encouraged me to apply for a summer research fellowship at the University of Minnesota between my junior and senior years of college…This experience paved the way for me to go on to graduate school…I’m now a psychology professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and I can truly say that without Dr. Olson’s support and encouragement, I would never be where I’m at today,” Stark said.

Hamline alumna of 1994, Carrie Carroll, gave a touching story on how Olson, who acted as her first-year advisor, impacted her life beyond the classroom.

“I was a first generation college student so I was navigating college without a lot of support from home. About a month into college, I failed a lab in Chemistry. I was devastated…Matt listened and said, ‘Carrie, I have known you for just a few weeks and already know that you will not be satisfied working in a lab for the rest of your life.’ He supported me in my decision to let go of stress and find out what I would love to do for the rest of my life.  I trusted his guidance…I ended up with a management major and psychology minor with no regrets,” Carroll said.

Shona Ramchandani, class of 2005, explained the impact Olson had on her life on and beyond the Hamline campus.

“Professor Olson taught me a true passion for understanding other people, gave me insight into the human mind and helped me to figure out my own path in the world. I credit him for helping me to think critically, to be compassionate to where others are coming from and to be in a thoughtful community with others,” Ramchandani said.

It is clear that Olson’s passion and compassion is what drew students to him and why he will be so dearly missed.

“I wanted to deliver information, I wanted to be able to get people to think hard about something and every now and then stumble onto something that’s a ‘WOW’…And Hamline let me do that.” Olson said.

Why retire?

“It’s because I can…while my body still works and I have things to write that aren’t psychology….while I’m still mobile and I think my head is working okay… I’ll have plenty to do,” Olson said.

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