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University Professor Emeritus David R. Olson was born on June 16, 1935 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the son of Martha (M.E.) and Robert (W.R.) Olson and the younger brother to Ken, Roger, and Roland. Following his graduation from Radville Christian College, he studied Education at the University of Saskatchewan from 1953-1955 before moving to teach at Alsask Elementary School from 1955-1956 and Western Christian College in Weyburn, Saskatchewan from 1956-1958. He earned a Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan in 1960, a Master of Education from the University of Alberta in 1962 and a PhD from the University of Alberta in 1963. Following graduation Prof. Olson was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at Dalhousie University from 1963-1965. He moved to Toronto in 1966, taking up the position of Associate Professor in Applied Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, becoming a Professor in Human Development & Applied Psychology in 1971 and University Professor in 1998.
Prof. Olson was also involved in the creation of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology, acting as Director/Co-director from 1982-1990. While at OISE he taught courses in educational psychology and learning theory with his related fields of interest encompassing cognitive developmental psychology, children’s understanding of language and meaning, and the cognitive implications of literacy, topics that he has researched, written and spoken extensively on.
In addition to his work at OISE, Prof. Olson worked as a consultant for the National Institute of Education in Washington, DC and the Center for Study of Reading and Cognition at the University of Illinois. He held numerous fellowships throughout his career, including time at the Harvard University’s Center for Cognitive Studies studying under Jerome Bruner, Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and Oxford University’s Department of Experimental Psychology. He was a visiting professor in the Department of Psychology at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden in 1994 and honorary LLDs from the University of Saskatchewan in 1996 and the University of Toronto in 2012. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
In addition to his research and teaching experience, Prof. Olson has been part of various editorial boards or scholarly journals, including the Journal of Communication, the Journal of Educational Psychology, among others. Prof. Olson has also held the positions of Acting Centre Head for the Centre of Applied Cognitive Science at OISE, the President of the Canadian Psychological Association, and sat on the Board of Advisors at the American Biographical Institute. Professor Olson currently lives in Toronto with his wife Frances and has five children: Joan, Bradley, Ellen, David, and Kristen.