By Teresa Hagen
Mentoring comes naturally to staff emeritus Stan Olin, whether he is looking after his two granddaughters or staying in touch with his CSULB family.
“You know how grandfathers are; they talk about grandchildren,” Olin, the former director of Housing and Residential Life, said with a smile. “We didn’t think we’d ever have any grandchildren because our daughter, fairly young in life, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. We have two really cute granddaughters (Jackie, age 10, and Jessie, age 12).
“They’re pretty involved in soccer, which I never took much notice of before and now I do,” he continued. “When my daughter was growing up, I coached softball for about 6 years, and my daughter played. She thought her own daughters might enjoy playing softball, and so as a family we tried it for a year, but they weren’t that interested. Now they’re involved with soccer, piano lessons, dance, gymnastics and the junior lifeguard program in Huntington Beach.”
Olin’s interest in sports comes naturally, having started his CSULB career in the Athletics Department.
“I worked for 8 years in the Athletics Department,” Olin said. “I bemoan the fact that in those times we had some 33 sports we were funding. Now, we have about half that. Times have changed and money situations have changed, and Title IX has had an impact so you just have to reform yourself.”
In 1984, during an Athletics staff shuffle, Director of Housing and Residential Life Frank Bowman asked Olin to join his staff.
“They’d begun construction on the Parkside residence halls, which would double our size at that time, and Frank was going to need some more help,” Olin explained. “He told me that I might find a new career, and we both laughed. Twenty-four years later, I retired as director of Housing and Residential Life.”
Campus housing saw a lot of changes during Olin’s tenure. The most significant transformation involved upgrades for Internet access and cable TV.
“In 1996, we went through and put Internet and cable TV into all of our spaces, which turned out to be a gamble but kind of smart,” Olin stated. “One of the things I was most proud of—not my actual doing, but I had a finger in it—was installing the Internet in the residence halls in concert with the university people who helped us design it. We wanted students to be able to log on and have everything they needed to make use of university resources as well. People over in IT did some brainstorming with us, and we gave our students a cutting edge system.
“I was also particularly proud of our efforts in the area of substance abuse,” Olin added. “We implemented a three-step educational program. Additionally, one of our Faculty-in-Residence developed for us a cartoon non-hero, who in a couple of film segments highlights some of the dangers of alcohol abuse and urges students to think before acting.”
Olin admits that often his job was a balancing act.
“It’s interesting, when you get to be director of Housing and Residential Life, what hat you wear is actually the question,” he said. “There’s the business hat—you have to operate in the black and you have to think about the future of your facilities. But you’ve also got these 2,000 students that you have to watch out for and provide a safe, clean, learning environment. If you came into my office, you’d often find me arguing with myself. Is the student advocate winning or the business guy?”
Today, it is Olin’s knowledge and experience that still serve as valuable assets to his former colleagues. On a regular basis, he meets for lunch with Housing and Residential Life senior staff. “They’re really hardworking, nice folk,” he said. “We try to stay in touch. I check in, and we talk about how things are going; it helps to have someone to vent to. We have some nice interchanges and some nice lunches, and I enjoy that.”
Since retirement, Olin also maintains season tickets to CSULB women’s volleyball and basketball as well as men’s basketball and baseball games. “I go to a fair number of athletic events because I enjoy all those. I’m afraid I’m a bigger men’s basketball fan than anything else,” he admitted. “Got to root for the rest of the gang, too.”
Along with his grandfather/mentoring duties, Olin and his wife, Julie, have renovated their home and traveled to Italy, where they enjoyed “magical experiences” while exploring the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Olin serves as president and treasurer of the local golf club, and even tried to learn how to play guitar, though he “parted pleasant company with the instructor” after realizing that “the kid doesn’t have the right fingers.”
“Whatever keeps you young,” he concluded, “whether it’s working with students or trying new things.”
And that’s a good suggestion for us all.