MANKATO — During a performance of the “Minnesota State Mankato Hymn” Tuesday afternoon, Scott Olson couldn’t resist jumping out of his chair.
The departing provost and vice president for academic and student affairs just had to join the MSU Theatre & Dance students in song at the farewell reception in his and his wife’s honor. “Minnesota State we hail to you. Purple and gold we’re ever true.”
Packed into the student union’s Hearth Lounge, Olson’s colleagues and friends said that’s pretty typical of Olson’s personality. He’s enthusiastic, he’s warm and he’s a whole lot of fun, they lined up to say — some more bluntly than others.
“We’re really pissed that Scott is leaving,” said Paul Hustoles, event emcee and chair of Theatre & Dance. “We’re really angry, we’re mad and I think we should have a revolution.”
Olson is leaving MSU after nine years to be president of Winona State University, which several speakers pointed out Tuesday is still in the MnSCU system, so Olson won’t be too far away. But, still, they all found personal and individual ways to tell him how much he’ll be missed during daily life at MSU.
“We have fun almost every day,” said MSU President Richard Davenport. “I want to state, for the record, Scott is the best administrator I’ve ever worked with.”
The few serious moments were broken up with lots of humor. Gifts included shiny purple tennis shoes and a purple top hat, both of which Olson put on immediately. Kelley Olson, Scott’s wife, received a purple cowboy hat. And Davenport gave Olson a book, telling the audience the gift was inspired by Olson’s insatiable “quest for weird knowledge,” a lesser-known aspect of his personality.