October 19, 2023
Bob Olsen did not attend Sacramento State, but he is part of the Hornet Family.
In the early 2000s, Olsen and other industry pioneers were instrumental in growing the University’s Construction Management (CM) department. Olsen co-founded and is a former president of the Sacramento Construction Management Education Foundations (SCMEF), a nonprofit that raises funds, provides scholarships, and supports CM.
“Sac State’s Construction Management program was floundering, and we were having trouble as a community of contractors with getting engineers at a college,” he said. “So, a few of us got together and … started brainstorming about what we could do.”
Today, CM is thriving with 100% job placement and high rankings in national competitions. Olsen helped Sac State’s program succeed, mentoring students and serving on its accreditation committee.
For his commitment and service to Sac State and the surrounding communities, Olsen is the recipient of this year’s Honorary Alumnus Award. He and six others will be honored on Oct. 19 at the Distinguished Alumni Awards reception and dinner.
The original 10 founding members of SCMEF were awarded the Sac State President’s Medal for Distinguished Service in 2014 by then-President Alexander Gonzalez.
Now retired from his construction business, Olsen is board chair for Pride Industries, “the leading nonprofit employer of people with disabilities in the country.” Founded in Auburn in 1966, the organization provides jobs in manufacturing, facilities management, and related fields.
“I joined the board in 1992. I’ve been the chairman for the last 15 years,” Olsen said. “It just is the greatest thing that I think I’ve ever done, to be able to help that community get involved, and have the parents have a place for their children to survive and interact with people.”
Olsen’s roots on the West Coast and in Sacramento are clear. In 1971, Olsen, who grew up in Oregon, graduated with bachelor’s degrees in construction engineering management and in business administration from Oregon State University, where he played rugby.
Finding job opportunities to be rare, he moved to Sacramento and joined a friend at Continental Heller Corporation, where he worked for nine years.
Olsen subsequently helped found two construction companies in the early 1980s, J.R. Roberts Corporation and S.D. Deacon. The two companies later merged to form Deacon, a top construction firm in the region whose projects include Sutter Health Park.
“You just go through your life, do what you think is best,. Some of these (awards) come up, and it’s been great being involved in Sac State, but it’s also been great to be in the community and do what I could for them.” — Bob Olsen
Olsen said he is “not a big award guy” but allows that being recognized for his work at Sac State and in the community is an honor.
“It’s something I just wasn’t thinking about. You know, you just go through your life, do what you think is best,” Olsen said. “Some of these (awards) come up, and it’s been great being involved in Sac State, but it’s also been great to be in the community and do what I could for them.”