HDI 50th Anniversary Spotlight — Ken Olsen

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My advice to current and future staff and students at HDI is only to fully embrace the interdisciplinary approach and to learn as much as you can about the other disciplines. As clinic director, I initiated a series of training events to acquaint students with all the disciplines, PT, OT, Pediatrics, etc. In truth, the one who learned the most was me.  —Ken Olsen, Former Director of Mid South Regional Resource Center

How did you come to know HDI?

I was with IHDI before it became HDI. 

How long were you with HDI and what was your role?

In 1977, we bid the first MSRRC grant (later a contract) and I served as an associate director. We were not with IHDI/HDI at that time, but we were folded in later. When the director, Bob Sterrett, left, I became the director and continued in that role until my retirement in 2005. During my tenure I also served part-time as director of the Interdisciplinary Clinic. 

During your time at HDI, of which accomplishments are you most proud? 

I am most proud of three accomplishments: 1) Successfully winning contracts for MSRRC for over 25 years, some of which were only one year in duration, and the resultant service to multiple states over those years; 2) the establishment of ILSA to provide consultative support to states in their efforts to include students with severe disabilities in state testing; and 3) the establishment of the HDI Program Evaluation Unit. 

Looking back, can you please share with us a fun or fond moment you had at HDI? 

Looking back, I loved the times we held the HDI Open Golf Tourney, where the idea was to have a foursome made up of a regular golfer, a sometime golfer, a first-time golfer, and a non-golfer-driver. One year I asked Bill to be our non-golfer-driver. Bill had never driven anything, much less a golf cart, but I rode with him to be safe. After a few holes, one of the other teams yelled across the fairway “How’s it going?” I called back “Great! So far we’ve had a double bogie, took out two bushes, and knocked off a trash can!”  Later, we had crossed a narrow grass bridge with no sides between two little lakes to get to a green. Forgetting that Bill really didn’t know how to drive, I left him to go to the next tee box and yelled for him to bring the cart. My partners looked at me like I had lost my mind, but Bill made it over bridge without a tire getting wet.  

Do you have any advice you would like to share with current and future staff and students at HDI? 

My advice to current and future staff and students at HDI is only to fully embrace the interdisciplinary approach and to learn as much as you can about the other disciplines. As clinic director, I initiated a series of training events to acquaint students with all the disciplines, PT, OT, Pediatrics, etc. In truth, the one who learned the most was me.  

What do you think the future holds for HDI?

I’m no longer in a position to predict the future of HDI, but I hope it continues to make a difference in the lives people with disabilities and the people who serve them.