Johannes I. Olsen, first principal at Williamsville East - The Buffalo News
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Johannes I. Olsen, first principal at Williamsville East

Jan. 17, 1933 – Sept. 1, 2014

Johannes Ingebret Olsen, Williamsville East High School’s first principal, died Monday in his Williamsville home after a long illness. He was 81.

Mr. Olsen came to the Buffalo area in 1975 to become principal of the newly opened high school after completing his doctorate in education in 1974 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

After he retired in 1995, he served as an adjunct professor at Canisius College until 2009, teaching courses in adolescent education.

Born in Kingston, he earned his bachelor’s degree from City College of New York and served in the Army infantry from 1955 to 1957, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. He later received a master’s degree from Auburn University.

Before coming to Williamsville, he served as an assistant high school principal in Burnt Hills and Tarrytown and as high school principal in Hinesburg, Vt. After receiving his doctorate, he taught for a year at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

He was a past Western Zone president for the New York State Retired Teachers Association and served as district governor for District 7090, Rotary International, in Western New York and Southern Ontario in 1998-99.

In 1985, he received the James E. Allen Award for distinguished service to educational administration. Williamsville East gives a scholarship in his name and has designated an area on school grounds as Olsen’s Wood.

Long associated with the North American Lutheran Church, Mr. Olsen was a church organist and choir director, a Bible study leader, a member of the church board and a delegate to regional and national assemblies.

He was a chairman for Young Life, a nondenominational group that works with youth.

He served as treasurer of the Robert R. DeCormier Memorial Trust Fund, which assists needy retired educators. He also was a past president of the Amherst Symphony Orchestra.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, the former Phyllis Isaksen; two sons, Jonathan and Peter; three daughters, Elisabeth Olsen Sturdevant, Laura Olsen Bernabei and Kristen Olsen Parisi; 11 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 8900 Sheridan Drive, Clarence.

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