Kevin Ann Oltjenbruns, emeritus associate dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences and emeritus professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University, will be honored at the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards dinner on Feb. 17. Oltjenbruns, who retired in July 2005 after 31 years of service to the university, will be honored with the Charles A. Lory Public Service Award.
Oltjenbruns is an internationally recognized leader in the field of death, dying, grief and loss who was essential to the implementation of programs in these areas at Colorado State and in the community.
Since she helped start the first hospice in Fort Collins, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, Oltjenbruns has been an instrumental part of the Larimer County Hospice, serving as a board member and recently helping to conceptualize the new hospice grief center, Pathways, which opened in October 2005.
Oltjenbruns has long been an expert in the area of grief and loss. With her colleague, Alicia Cook, professor of human development and family studies, she published the textbook "Death, Dying and Grief: Lifespan and Family Perspectives." This textbook was the first to treat the major aspects of the dying and grieving process from a lifespan perspective. It has proven invaluable for students and clinicians to learn more about the field. Along with Cook, Oltjenbruns developed the first undergraduate and graduate courses on grief, death and dying at Colorado State.
"Kevin Oltjenbruns is an outstanding individual who has dedicated her life to the betterment of humanity," said April Mason, dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences. "She was a pioneer in the field of grief and loss, helping us to better understand the process of death and dying, one of the most fundamental human experiences. Her dedication to improving the student experience has never wavered as her No. 1 priority throughout her extensive career at Colorado State."
Oltjenbruns was named Colorado State’s vice provost for Undergraduate Studies in 2002 and has served in various administrative roles within the College of Applied Human Sciences.
Additionally, Oltjenbruns has been a regular donor to Colorado State since 1973 and worked with colleague Jill Kreutzer to establish the Human Development and Family Studies undergraduate student scholarship endowment for students who have made multiple contributions to fellow HDFS undergraduates.
Oltjenbruns has been recognized for her contributions to the university and community through various awards from Colorado State and the city of Fort Collins. Among others, she is the recipient of the Pennock Award for Outstanding Service to the university and was named a member of the Leadership Fort Collins Class. Oltjenbruns is also a select member of the International Work Group in Grief and Loss.
"Her contributions are many and varied; however, there is a theme of building community throughout her work," said Nancy Hartley, former dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences. "Her energy, support and caring nature have deepened the town-gown relationship and brought people together. Her desire to create meaningful and caring relationships, while solving problems and finding solutions to complex issues, has benefited our community and enhanced the reputation that Colorado State has for forming partnerships with the people of Colorado."
Oltjenbruns came to Colorado State as a Boettcher scholar to study math with a concentration in computer science. After her graduation in 1971, Oltjenbruns continued her study at Colorado State to receive a master’s in human development and family studies. She was hired as an instructor by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies immediately after completing her master’s in 1974. Oltjenbruns received her doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1989.
"Kevin is a mentor, friend and colleague," said Blanche Hughes, associate vice president for Student Affairs at Colorado State. "She made great contributions to Colorado State during her time on this campus. She often has an opportunity to use her knowledge in grief and loss to help colleagues deal with tragedy in their lives. Colorado State University is a better place because of her."
The Charles A. Lory Public Service Award is given to an individual who demonstrates exceptional and sustained leadership in his or her community, professional field or personal commitments and contributes significant time and talents to the university. The award is named for Charles A. Lory, the fifth president of Colorado State whose leadership helped the university attain a vital balance of teaching, research and service.