Faculty image Charles E. Olson, Jr. Professor Emeritus School of Natural Resources and Environment

I began my involvement with the University of Michigan in the Fall of 1948 when I entered the School of Forestry and Conservation as a Freshman in the Forestry program.  The required course in Air Photo Interpretation, taken in Winter 1951, convinced me that much of what we had been trained to do in field measurement could be done more comfortably from aerial photographs.  An Air Photo Interpretation minor on my Master's degree at the University of Minnesota led to a Photo Intelligence billet during my active service in the U.S. Navy, and an additional 30 years service in the Naval Reserve. 

I was released from active duty in November 1956, spent the next seven years with the Foretry Department at the University of Illinois, and returned to Ann Arbor in August 1963 with a joint appointment in the School of Natural Resources and the Infrared Physics Lab in the Willow Run Lab complex.  The latter assignment included field research in Panama and Thailand, and a July 1965 trip to Saigon to brief General Westmoreland at MACV Headquarters and help explain the capabilities of thermal remote sensing systems.

The outcry against classified research that led to the demise of the Willow Run Labs, patially because such research was not subject to peer review, was led by Faculty from the Economics Department who claimed that their economics model was priviledged and not subject to peer review.

In August 1973 I returned from directing the Image Interpreter Training Course for the LACIE Program at NASA, Houston, to find a message asking me to meet with the Provost.  When I was asked to accept the Dean's position at SNRE, I told Provost Frank Rhodes that I didn't think the next Dean of SNRE should be a UofM alumnus, a forester, or a current faculty member - and I was all three.  After he convinced me to take the job for one year while a national search continued, he told me: "Last year, SNRE overspent its Current Account by 86%, and I expect you to balance it this year; and, as you know, we have a review committee looking at the possible merger of all natural resource related units on campus."   Starting in September, two months into the budget year with the faculty spending at the old rate, I actually succeeded in balancing the budget. 

During a reception following a monthly meeting of the Deans, I overheard a former Engineering staff member who had gone to Lansing to work in State Government asked. "How do you like the politics in Lansing?"  He responded, immediately:  "They're infinitely cleaner than those on this campus."  In my short tenure as a Dean, I became aware on many circumstances that confirmed his reaction. 

My parallel careers in aerial and space image analysis as a Naval Intelligence Officer and as a University Faculty Member included participation in founding the University of Michigan's Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Remote Sensing, the first of its kind in the United States.  It also led me to a position as Chair of the Biology Panel of the Nataional Academy of Sciences Committee on Remote Sensing in Earth Resource Surveys (CORSPERS). 

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