Reprinted from the May-June 1989 issue

(Editor's Note: The following Service Award presentation was made at the 1988 state convention of the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota.)

Now we come to one of the high spots of our 1988 state convention. At this time we wish to honor an individual who is well-known to almost all of us, but whose quiet and unassuming but effective work we tend to take for granted ... His wide-ranging abilities, his high level of competence in all that he does, the balance of his many interests and activities have made many useful things happen. His efforts have extended all the way from his own neighborhood and community to state and national levels of service.

James Rebney Olsen was born on December 1, 1942, in Minneapolis, Minn., and spent most of his early life in South Minneapolis. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1960 and from the University of Minnesota in 1965, where he earned a degree in business administration. He then went on to become a certified public accountant. On October 8, 1965, he married Anna Felscher. He and Ann have two lovely daughters, Sarah, 19, and Martha, 15.

Jim developed diabetes at the age of 12 and became legally blind in 1976.

... At the local level, Jim has served as president of the Gopher State Blind Associates, which was the forerunner of ACBM. He is a long- standing board of directors member of the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, serving on its rehabilitation committee. At present he holds the office of assistant treasurer of MSB. While involved with MSB, Jim has volunteered to teach braille, has assisted in the woodworking shop, and has become a certified Optacon instructor. He has served on the United Way Speakers Bureau, has addressed all school grade levels on the subject of blindness, has spoken to numerous church and Sunday-school groups, and has held many positions on the Council of the Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church of Minneapolis.

Reaching beyond his local community, Jim has assisted State Services for the Blind by providing counseling services to newly blind individuals interested in accounting. He was appointed by Governor Quie to the State Council for the Handicapped, which has since been renamed the State Council on Disabilities.

As if this were not enough, Jim served on the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped, organized diabetes workshops at ACB national conventions, and was elected to the office of treasurer of ACB. Having completed his full allowable term in that office, he now works as assistant to the new treasurer. Most importantly, since 1978, Jim has held the full-time position of executive director of ACB Enterprises and Services, which, through its chain of thrift stores, provides much of the funding for ACB.

Despite all of these activities, Jim still manages to lead a balanced life and to have time for his home and family, his church and community obligations, as well as personal hobbies and interests. Among other things, he has enjoyed stamp collecting, reading mystery stories, and working on home construction projects. He built doll houses for each of his daughters, for instance, and won ribbons for them at the state fair. ...

Unusual? Not for Jim Olsen, winner of the ACBM 1988 Service Award.

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