“As an historian, Jim valued the arts as a bridge to
humanity, culture and understanding. He believed in the integrative and
unifying power of the performing and visual arts.”
With these few words, Vera Olson gave voice to the
reasons why UMKC’s Performing Arts Center was renamed in memory of her
late husband, James C. Olson., former
The James Olson Performing Arts Center was rededicated
on June 12, 2008, thanks to encouragement from Olson’s friends and
However, many remained faithful to the new building, which was needed for Conservatory offices and classes and a home for the Missouri Repertory Theater. The building was completed in 1979.
When Olson retired as President of the UM System, Mel
George, Vice President for Academic Affairs, came up with a way to honor
George’s plan would utilize the Conservatory which was a source of pride
“Mel did not want to give Jim the typical gold watch or plaque,” said Vera Olson. “He put an idea before the Curators, and they agreed to set up the James and Vera Olson Fund for the Arts. The fund provides for performances on all four UM campuses.”
Olson’s family credits him with stimulating their cultural interests through a variety of arts and travels. Olson repaid the compliment in a book dedication when he thanked his wife and two daughters, “for cheerfully accepting the fact that vacations are times for visiting libraries, Indian reservations and abandoned forts.”
Olson died in 2005 at age 88.