Two women who helped shape CLU die

First drama professor and former first lady lived in T.O.

Helen Olson served as CLU’s first lady from 1963 through 1971, graciously hosting hundreds of events and welcoming new students and faculty.

Photo: Brian Stethem

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Jan. 21, 2014) A founding member of the faculty and the wife of the second president of California Lutheran University have both died.

Barbara Hudson, the university’s first drama professor, died Thursday, Jan. 16, at the age of 92 after a period of declining health. Helen Adeline Olson, the wife of the late second president of CLU, Raymond M. Olson, died Saturday, Jan. 18, at the age of 100 from natural causes. They were both residents of Thousand Oaks.

Hudson was born on Feb. 2, 1921, in St. James, Minn. She became the Iowa State Debate Champion at 14, earned a private pilot’s license, hosted two shows on WHO Radio in Des Moines, became a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve and acted in TV dramas. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in theater from the University of Southern California.

She moved to Thousand Oaks in 1959 and taught speech and drama at CLU from its opening in 1961 to 1975. During the university’s first semester, she wrote and directed a one-act play in the lounge of a women’s dorm. Her religious drama group at CLU, The King’s Players, toured throughout the Southwest. She also acted in and directed productions with the Conejo Players.

Hudson is survived by her daughters, Jean Powers Cross and Cathy Colleen Powers. A memorial service was held Monday in Westlake Village.

Helen Olson was born on Oct. 29, 1913, in Lee, Ill. She met Ray Olson while earning her teaching credential from Waldorf College in Iowa and taught at a rural school in Illinois before they married.

The Olsons moved to Thousand Oaks when Ray became president of CLU in 1963. Helen Olson served as CLU’s first lady through 1971, graciously hosting hundreds of events and welcoming new students and faculty. She supported the university’s art and music programs, helped shape the CLU Guild and founded the university’s Women’s League, which raised scholarship funds. Together with Ray, who died in 2006, she established an annual art award and the Raymond M. Olson Family Scholarship and donated the money to build Olson Gazebo in Kingsmen Park. She was a founding board member of the California Lutheran College–Conejo Symphony League and a founding member of the Conejo Valley Historical Society and the Alliance for the Arts. The couple received the Christus Award from CLU in 1998 for their service to the university, the church and the community.

Helen Olson is survived by her daughters Eloise Cohen of Westlake Village and Signe Rich of Albuquerque and son Rolf Olson of Cathedral City. A memorial service will be held at noon Friday, Jan. 24, at Ascension Lutheran Church at 1600 Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks.