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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Retired professor passes away

Retired professor Thomas "TJ" Olney. // Photo courtesy of University Communications Director Paul Cocke
Thomas J. Olney was an associate professor of marketing at Western for 30 years. He was known for his quirky behavior and his drive to further students’ studies and success in the field of marketing. He recently died in a paragliding accident at the age of 64. // Photo courtesy of University Communications Director Paul Cocke

Retired associate professor Thomas J. “TJ” Olney died in an accident while paragliding above Blanchard mountain on Wednesday, June 13. Olney’s chute collapsed, which lead to his crash.  Olney was 64 years old and had retired from teaching marketing this past June, Western Communications Director Paul Cocke said.

“Without a doubt, TJ was one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. He was an amazingly wonderful and empathetic colleague as well as a gifted teacher. He believed in his students,” wrote former CBE Associate Dean Sandra Mottner in review of Olney’s 30 years at Western.

Olney would cherish his professional fulfillment and take the time to live each day at its fullest, wrote Craig Dunn, current dean of the College of Business and Economics.

Dunn first met Olney 10 years ago when he began teaching marketing at Western. He remembers Olney as a quirky professor with a thorough understanding of the social context of marketing, he said.

“He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met,” Dunn said.

Olney wasn’t a traditional academic in the sense that he wasn’t interested in furthering his own career, Dunn said. Instead, he was more concerned with helping students achieve their own personal aspirations.

In his career, Olney taught students topics such as the principles of marketing, the fundamentals of marketing research, buyer behavior, sales management, internet marketing, consumer culture and marketing strategy.

“He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met.”

Craig Dunn

Aly Howisey took a sales class with Olney her final quarter at Western, Dunn said. He eventually became her favorite professor in the program, despite their conflicting personalities. He was a wildly disorganized free spirit, Howisey wrote in a blog post one year ago.

Howisey recalled a time when she drove out to Olney’s house at 10 p.m. to pick up her group’s project.

“You know what my office looks like?” he had said on the phone, according to her blog shared by Dunn. “That’s how you’ll know you’re at my house.”

She picked up her project, but also received harsh but helpful feedback aimed at making her group’s project the best it could be, she said. Although Olney and Howisey didn’t always see eye to eye, she said she respected him.

A memorial was held for Olney at 5:30 p.m. on July 18 in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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