|Olsen (right) with Grand President Beals|
When Ted Olsen graduated in 1968 and accepted a position with Allis-Chalmers Corporation in Milwaukee, little did he know that almost 50 years later he would still be with the same company. To this day, he is grateful for his education and his time with Sigma Phi Delta. It taught him life lessons that have helped him throughout his long and successful career.
“I am ever so thankful to have attended Bradley University,” said Olsen. “I remember when a fraternity brother from another school saw the equipment we used in our sophomore EE lab, and they were astounded. At their school, such equipment was not available until the graduate level.”
The Early Days of Rho Chapter
Olsen was there when Sigma Phi Delta first became a chapter at Bradley. Colonization wasn’t an easy process at that time. Being involved in it, and being successful at it, gave him a great sense of accomplishment. He became a chapter officer and learned a lot from the experience of organizing and managing the activities of the group.
“We had a very strong chapter while I was in school, a testament to the entire group and to the officers, probably more so than a testament to me,” he said. “The collective mind is definitely more powerful than that of a single individual.”
Olsen has especially fond memories of the Rho Chapter Annual Road Rally. This tradition started just a few months after they became a chapter. The Road Rally involves groups getting together to answer questions about things along a specified route. The all-day activity has recently been revived by the newly re-chartered Rho Chapter.
|The Rho Chapter Photo from the 1966 SPD Yearbook|
Sigma Phi Delta gave me my guiding light,” said Olsen, “and the support of life-long friends active in the same discipline.”
Sigma Phi Delta first came to Bradley during an expansion effort. Brothers Jim Ransom, Ron Davis, and Bill Cocagne met with a group of the guys at Bradley in May of 1965. They decided to form a local fraternity. Bob Malinowski, Eastern Province Counselor, and Professor Donald Shertz also helped in the process.
On December 18, 1965 the Rho Chapter of Sigma Phi Delta was installed with Grand President Robert J. Beals presiding.
“All of us who were at the initial meetings with the Delta brothers were impressed and their enthusiasm was infectious,” Olsen recalls. “The aura surrounding Dr. Beals at the installation injected even more enthusiasm and spirit (if that were possible) when we were inducted.”
The name of the company Olsen works for has changed several times over the years. Today it is Siemens Industry, Inc. The company was originally a good fit for him because they offered training and a wide variety of assignments, perfect for someone figuring out what they wanted to do with their new engineering degree.
He eventually settled into a product area known as switchgear, which is used in industrial plants like Caterpillar, U.S. Steel, and any utility-generating station.
“I was attracted to the switchgear area because every day brought something new,” he said. “I had been in some areas where day after day, it was the same thing, and I could not have survived long in such a position.”
Working for an international company also gave Olsen the opportunity to travel. He has been to New Delhi, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Chile, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Mexico, and Canada.
Olsen enjoyed success in his career and was promoted to higher positions over the years. He doesn’t like to admit it, but his high school English professor was right when he said you have to create an outline before you start writing something.
“I had too many experiences of dictating a long-winded proposal, only to get it back for proofing. I soon realized that it was just a bunch of words thrown together that did not have any chance of convincing a purchaser to part with that precious purchase order,” Olsen explained.
So while he’s learned that his communications skills are just as important as his engineering skills, he says his engineering skills are still stronger than his English skills.
For the past 20–25 years, Olsen has become more involved in creating and maintaining the standards for switchgear and motor control products. For switchgear, these are primarily IEEE standards in the C37 family, while for motor control, they are primarily UL standards.
“I have been a member or officer of countless working groups on dozens of standards, and have chaired a number of committees in the IEEE Power and Energy Society Switchgear Committee,” he explains. “I recently got booted upstairs to past chair of the Switchgear Committee, after seven years as secretary, vice chair, and then chair of the committee.”
He was also involved with the IEEE Standards Association governance in the Standards Board, beginning in 2004.
Advocate of Co-ops and Internships
Olsen is a strong believer in co-ops and internships. When he was in school, some of the guys would attend school for a semester and then work outside the school for a semester. The work assignments increased their maturity, helped them focus, and in turn improved their grades.
Another group that was widespread in the 1960s was veterans of military service who were able to attend college due to the GI bill. These engineers were often already married, going to school, and working.
“The most popular jobs for them was as the engineer at local TV and radio stations on the night shift. Usually, they could study at work until all heck broke loose and the transmitter went down,” explained Olsen. “These folks were able to focus 100% on what they were doing. If it was time to study, they were 100% study. If it was time to party, they were 100% party. And they could turn from one to another in a heartbeat. They had their goals aligned and really had their act together.”
“I can’t say enough about how highly I value the co-op program,” said Olsen. “Three of my children went through school on co-op or internship programs, and I can say absolutely that the programs worked for them.”
Olsen and his wife, Janice, have been married for 47 years. They have four children, Scott, Michael, Richard, and Jill. Scott and Michael both became engineers, and Richard and Jill are very successful in their fields. Between the four children, there are seven degrees, including two master’s degrees and a PhD, with five of the degrees from North Carolina State University.
Today, Olsen lives in York, PA, near his daughter. He plans to retire in spring 2017.