Former KSU president dies

Rachel Abbey

Former Kent State President Glenn Olds passed away in his sleep at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, after a long battle with heart and kidney diseases, said his son Dr. G. Richard Olds. He was 85.

“He was not worried about dying,” Richard said. “And he had led a very full life.”

Olds became Kent State’s president six months after the May 4 shootings, Richard said, serving from 1971 to 1977. After resigning from his government job because of political differences with President Richard Nixon. Kent State was the only place where his father could find a job, Richard said.

As a member of the Economic and Social Council for the United Nations, Olds refused to vote against the international ownership of the sea beds, the stance that the conservative administration had been encouraging, Richard said. He felt that was not the best choice and tried to convince Nixon of that.

“He basically gave up his political career as a matter of principle,” Richard said.

Before the United Nations, Olds had worked for Nixon, interviewing possible cabinet members. Richard said that’s how some liberals became part of Nixon’s administration.

“Dad is neither conservative, nor Republican,” Richard said, laughing.

As president at Springfield College in Massachusetts, Olds awarded an honorary degree to Martin Luther King Jr., Richard said. The controversial move earned Olds death threats and cost the loss of a huge gift from a board member.

“My dad always did what he felt was the right thing, no matter the consequences,” Richard said.

Olds was the president of Kent State during the emotional years following the shootings, Richard said. He felt the tragedy had occurred because the university gave the power over to the state and federal governments, rather than taking care of it by themselves. During many of the struggles during his presidency, Olds would try to personally run interference at protests.

“He would not give up control at Kent State through the succeeding tumultuous years,” Richard said.

Olds resigned when the faculty chose to unionize and went to Alaska, Richard said. He took Alaska Methodist University, a school that had been closed for the past three years and bankrupt for the seven years before that, and reopened it as Alaska Pacific University. Everyone had told him it couldn’t be done, including his son.

“He was not to be denied,” Richard said.

Olds was easy to work with, said Michael Schwartz, who was a vice president of research and graduate studies under Olds. He was always open to new, creative ideas.

“He never lacked for enthusiasm,” Schwartz said.

Olds graduated high school as the valedictorian of eight students, Richard said, and became the first college graduate in his family. He received a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University, a master’s of divinity from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, a master’s of philosophy from Northwestern University and a doctoral degree in philosophy from Yale University.

He worked as a faculty member or an administrator at Yale, the University of Denver, DePauw, Cornell, Springfield and the State University of New York system. He also served as the head of several large foundations, such as the Better World Society and the World Federalists. Olds was the commissioner for natural resources in Alaska until he was 79 years old.

Olds’ wife, Eva, was also a college professor. He has two children, Linda, a college professor, and Richard, a physician.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].