Our Campus: Dan Olson—Wandering entrepreneur, ex-Deadhead and EUS president | The Ubyssey

Our Campus: Dan Olson—Wandering entrepreneur, ex-Deadhead and EUS president | The Ubyssey

By:  February 6, 2012

“Physically, I’m 38, my liver’s 78, and maturity, probably 23-24.”

This is Engineering Undergraduate Society President Dan Olson’s response when I ask him about his age. He may be older than your average undergraduate, but that doesn’t mean he’s had any trouble keeping up with the rest of the student society he runs. “Really, it’s a trick for them to keep up with me,” he says.

His first crack at university began in 1991, as a bright-eyed pre-med student at Utah State University. But after three years of studying biochemistry, Olson decided he needed some time off.

“I realized I’d been going to school so long that I wanted a break, so I was going to take one year off and then finish up and go right to med school,” said Olson.

His respite from the academic grind wound up taking him him from pre-med to Deadhead. “For a few years, I travelled and followed the Grateful Dead,” said Olson.

“I lived out of my Volkswagen van most of the time, but there’d always be a pretty bustling parking lot scene. So I could sell grilled cheese sandwiches or beer out of a cooler. You’d actually make enough money that you could buy a ticket and get gas money to the next city.

“Then Jerry Garcia died, so I went and lived in Austria for a couple years,” said Olson. “I was involved in a lot of service projects…Building houses, and things like that.”

Next Olson returned to the United States, and was met with another stroke of luck.

“My brother and some of his friends went to Olympia, Washington and started an internet service provider,” said Olson.

“As part of the dot-com boom, we got bought out by a big [telecommunications] company out of California, so I kind of went into semi-retirement for three or four years with my stock options and severance pay.

“When that money ran out, I realized if I was ever going to go back to school, I should do it now.”

No longer interested in medicine, Olson decided to give engineering a try. “My oldest brother went through UBC engineering; he graduated in 2002,” said Olson with trademark confidence. “I figured if he could do it, I was way better at math and science, so I should have no problem.”

Olson has held two positions on the EUS, last year as VP External and this year as president. He credits UBC engineers’ legendary school spirit to strong ties with alumni. Olson plans to continue being involved here after he graduates in May.

“The alumni like to come back and tell stories of the pranks they were pulling off, and how things were back in the day.”

Olson doesn’t admit to any involvement in any of the UBC engineers’ famous “stunts,” however, which in past years have included hanging a Volkswagen Beetle off of the Lions Gate Bridge.

“I’ve actually not been involved in any of the pranks…We just kind of hear about them the next day, and hopefully they’re creative and don’t involve too much vandalism.”

Olson is has been preparing for E-Week, the EUS’s yearly celebration, taking place this week. When asked what event he was most excited about, he almost didn’t know where to start.

The week’s most anticipated events, in Olson’s mind, are probably the E-Ball, a formal dance ending the week, and Red Night, a “ridiculous” party at the Cheeze.

“It’s the big party for E-Week, and if you’re wearing your red jacket, red cardigan, or one of the E-Week 2012 shirts, you end up getting [lots of] cheap beer.”

Red Night may pose an opportunity for Olson to show off one of his best-known skills: his ability to polish off an entire pitcher of beer at frightening speed.

“Just under 12 seconds,” bragged Olson. “Somehow, I have a great natural ability to drink very fast.”

Whatcha think?