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Whelen Engineering President to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

Tina Altadonna - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Whelen Engineering President to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award 

John Olson, president of Whelen Engineering, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Business and Industry Association next month for his commitment to building and strengthening manufacturing in the state and promoting career opportunities for young people.

“His background is quite impressive,” said Adrienne Rupp, vice president of communications for BIA. She said Olson was chosen by the committee because he represents leadership not only in the field of manufacturing but also in his community and state.

The award “recognizes business leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to leadership in their professions, communities and New Hampshire,” the BIA said in a news release.

“John fits that perfectly,” Rupp said. “He has really grown Whelen into a worldwide manufacturer and that shows he appreciates and understands the importance of manufacturing in the state.”

Olson earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Hampshire and, after a stint in the Coast Guard, was hired by Whelen in 1954 as its first full-time employee. He was manager and chief engineer until being named president in 1976.

 In 1984, Olson opened a facility in Charlestown that now employs 1,000, with 500 more in Connecticut, where the company started. Olson was chief engineer for the Deep River, Conn., fire department and a volunteer ambulance driver for 30 years.

Rupp said Olson’s commitment to manufacturing goes beyond Whelen. He began a school-based program that he refers to as the “Little League of Manufacturing.” With permission from the state, the 15-week course allows students under the age of 16 to work in a factory environment and earn course credit. “This gives kids experience and the opportunity to learn a skill set and develop interest in manufacturing,” Rupp said.

“They are then poised to go to work or school. It is a testament to his (Olson’s) understanding for the need to build manufacturing in the state and give manufacturers access to that talent.”

In a telephone interview last week, Olson said students in today’s economy are not even aware of the jobs in manufacturing and that prompted him to start the program.

“Manufacturing has disappeared so kids don’t have a parent who worked in manufacturing,” Olson said. “When I was young, everybody worked in manufacturing.”

The program is in 12 school systems, including Fall Mountain, Springfield, Vt., and Claremont.

Olson, who is on the UNH College of Engineering and Physical Sciences Advisory Board and the Governor’s Advanced Manufacturing and Education Commission, will be honored along with former Elliot Health System CEO Douglas Dean at the BIA’s 101st annual dinner on Oct. 29 in Manchester.

Read the full article

Article Written by Patrick O’Grady

Valley News Correspondent
Sunday, September 28, 2014
(Published in print: Sunday, September 28, 2014





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