2001 Alfred E. Alquist Medal Winner:
Robert A. Olson

Robert (Bob) Olson over the last 35 years has been a leader in helping establish and implement public policy for the reduction of earthquake risk in California . He has displayed the unusual ability to guide decision-making bodies on a wide variety of earthquake hazard reduction endeavors. His affable approach to dealing with people and his ability to develop consensus have been hallmarks of his professional life.

Bob started his professional career in 1964 as a planning officer and regional representative for the U.S. Office of Emergency Preparedness, a predecessor to FEMA. His duties in Washington D.C. and California were many, but of particular note was his responsibility for the design, consultant selection and management of the first earthquake vulnerability study, A Study of Earthquake Losses in the San Francisco Bay Area.

From 1971 to 1975, Bob used his organizational skills as Assistant Director for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for the San Francisco Bay Area. During this period, and before, he also served as volunteer chairman of an Advisory Group to the California Joint Legislative Committee cn Seismic Safety.

In 1975, when the California Seismic Safety Commission was formed, Bob was named its first Executive Director. He, along with Karl Steinbrugge, the commission's first chairman, worked diligently to establish the new commission as a viable force in state government. At the same time, Bob established the first office and laid the foundation for a highly competent staff. Bob's ability to deal with people and innovate were critical to the commission's early successes. He served as Executive Director until 1982.

After leaving the commission, Bob established his own consulting practice. His firm, Robert Olson Associates, Inc., has undertaken numerous research and consulting assignments in the earthquake hazards field, funded by agencies such as FEMA, NSF and Congress. In addition, he has consulted with a variety of private companies.

He has authored or co-authored over 40 articles and publications related to earthquake safety. He has received awards for service from the federal government and the state of California .

Under a recent NSF grant, Bob researched decision-making about damaged and hazardous buildings in Oakland after the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Under another NSF grant, he is now researching the political histories of several key California building safety laws.

Bob received his B.A. in political science from the University of California , Berkeley in 1960 with concentrations also in economics and history. He then received an M.A. in political science from the University of Oregon in 1964 with emphasis in international relations, American government and political theory. Also, from 1960 to 1968, Bob served in the U.S. military on both active and reserve duty, being discharged with the rank of captain.

Bob was elected to EERI membership in 1973, the first member to have a social science/emergency management background.

In conclusion, Bob Olson has been a major force in California , as well as nationally, in helping society move toward increased seismic safety.