Meet Board Chair Mary Olson


In October, Mary Olson took the reins as chair of the UM Foundation Board of Trustees. She has served on the board since 2009 and takes over for outgoing chair Joe Whittinghill.

Originally from Billings, Mary followed her now-husband Greg to Missoula, where they both graduated from the University of Montana. She received her BS from the School of Business Administration in 1981, followed by her MBA in 1989.

After beginning her career in information technology for the State of Montana, Mary took a job at IBM in 1989 and has been with the company ever since. She has worked in a variety of capacities, currently serving as client executive.

Mary and Greg were thrilled to move back to Missoula in 2011. Living local has enabled Mary to be active in the UM community and have a hands-on leadership role with the Foundation.

Why did you become a UM supporter?

I was a first-generation college student from a modest background. When I was working my way through school, getting a scholarship was life changing. It not only helped me attend college but was also validation that I belonged there. I wanted to help people in the same situation, so Greg and I created a scholarship for students at the School of Business Administration. We have had such a great experience giving to UM. We are proud to contribute to helping students thrive.

Why is it important to you to volunteer for the UM Foundation?

Through my service with the Foundation, I can have a direct impact on UM’s students, faculty and staff. Our mission is to drive innovation, access and opportunity through philanthropy – all key to UM’s mission. It’s meaningful for me to give back at a higher level.

What is your vision for the next two years?

The University is going through a time of significant transition. Change is challenging, and I believe the UM Foundation can be a stabilizing force during this time. It is so inspiring to see how many people are pulling for the University. We have record fundraising because of the incredibly dedicated staff and because the generous donors are so committed to helping the University of Montana when we need it the most. I am optimistic that the next two years will bring unprecedented opportunity to campus.

Why should other friends and alumni support UM?

Education is the key to moving ahead in life. This is an incredible university that helps young people from across Montana (and beyond) broaden their horizons and learn critical-thinking skills. A degree is more than a piece of paper – it represents knowledge and experience that will help graduates throughout their careers and life. Giving back to support that goal is personally rewarding. I am truly blessed.