John Olienyk, who today received the State Board of Agriculture’s 1998 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, had a choice between two careers in the mid-1970s: investment banking or teaching.
Fortunately for Colorado State University and countless students, Olienyk decided to invest in students. And for the past 20 years, he’s been consistently recognized as an outstanding teacher, mentor and adviser who brings out the best work in students because he cares about what they learn.
"John is very deserving of the award," said Tim Gallagher, chairman of the department of finance and real estate. "He’s been recognized as one of the top teachers on campus for quite some time. John is active in studying the craft of teaching and works with other teachers as well to develop the best possible methods to educate students."
Olienyk, associate professor in the department of finance and real estate, graduated from North Dakota State University with a bachelor of arts in mathematics in 1968 and a master of science in business and economics in 1969. After receiving his doctorate in economics from Colorado State in 1974, he headed to Peoria, Ill., to teach economics at Bradley University. Two years later he moved to San Francisco to try his hand at investment banking.
"I enjoyed the work and it was lucrative, but I thought teaching would be more rewarding," he said. "Over the years that’s certainly proven to be true. It’s rewarding and fulfilling to work with students and help them develop a sense of direction and purpose. When you hear people say, ‘You’ve changed their lives,’ that’s priceless."
Molly Massa, graduating senior in finance and president of the Finance Club, said Olienyk was one of the most effective teachers she had at Colorado State.
"He taught a class in International Finance," she said. "The material was very difficult, but he always took the time to make sure everybody understood it. He was really accessible and ready to help if there were questions."
Massa added that Olienyk always was willing to speak at Finance Club meetings or help with other activities outside the classroom.
As a committed counselor and adviser, Olienyk spends countless hours with students in one-on-one discussions on academic and non-academic matters, Gallagher said in nominating Olienyk for the award. Olienyk has been faculty adviser for seven different student organizations and recognized as one of the most outstanding Mortar Board chapter advisers in the nation.
"The award John received from the State Board of Agriculture adds to a long list of well-deserved recognition," said Edward Prill, assistant professor and former chairman of the department of finance and real estate. "He’s a valued colleague in the department who has an exceptional record of teaching and service."
Olienyk also has received the Oliver P. Pennock Distinguished Service Award for Excellence in Teaching and has twice received the Jack E. Cermak Award for Outstanding Advising. Students in the College of Business have twice named him Professor of the Year.
In addition, he received the Gladys Eddy Award for Enhancement of the Undergraduate Experience, which recognizes outstanding achievements in support of undergraduate students inside and outside the classroom. He also has received Colorado State’s Alumni Association Honor Professor Award and the Alpha Kappa Psi Outstanding Professor Award.
Olienyk joined the Colorado State faculty in 1978.