Augsburg News

News Archives - 2003

Mary Olson ’74: 'Find passion in what you do'

April 2003
Prof. Roberta Kagin, Zhou Shibin after a conference in Beijing, China.

Professor Roberta Kagin (right), chair of Augsburg's music therapy program, was greeted with flowers in Beijing, China, where her presentation at a conference on music therapy was eagerly received and overfilled the meeting room. Zhou Shibin (center above) is an administrator at Capital Normal University who visited Augsburg in the winter of 1996-97.

Would you like to trade in your business suits, endless meetings, and stale coffee for an opportunity to fulfill your dreams? After 22 years of successfully climbing the corporate ladder at USWest, Mary Olson did just that when she jumped at the chance to transform her dream of owning a winery into a reality. In 1996, Olson sold her lifetime supply of pantyhose and purchased Airlie Winery in Monmouth, Ore.

As a high school student, Olson longed to broaden her experiences, and Augsburg's Minneapolis location seemed the "perfect fit" for this small-town girl from Osceola, Wis. Olson discovered all that Augsburg had to offer through her visits to another Augsburg alumna—her cousin, Julie (Olson) Munson ’72.

"My days at Augsburg gave me great insight into people," Olson said. She graduated from Augsburg in 1974 with degrees in English and political science, and fondly recalls chess games with Professor Myles Stenshoel, her tenure as student body president, and her trip to Russia with Professor Norma Noonan. Olson was highly involved in campus life, and later brought that experience into her professional life and the world of business.

"Work to me has always been more than a job—it is a passion," Olson said. Following graduation, she was hired into the management-training program with Northwestern Bell, which became USWest and is now Qwest. From there, she was transferred and promoted to different branches of USWest throughout the country. In 1990, she was transferred to Portland, Ore., as she worked her way from the technical ranks to vice presidential level.

"I fell in love with Oregon, its people, and the wines, and started telling friends that in my next life I was going to move back to Oregon and own a winery," she said. Her "next life" came sooner than she thought, and her dream came true; she is now the proud owner of a beautiful vineyard and winery.

Olson said she would not change anything that led up to her owning the winery. "My career at USWest made it possible for me to live out my dream." Olson's success is illustrated by her passion for life and work. For others seeking to transform their lives, Olson advises, "Learn, enjoy, and find passion in what you do."

Olson has kept in touch with many of her Augsburg friends, and some have visited her vineyard. If you can't get to her winery in person, you can find Airlie wine at area Twin Cities retailers.