Obituary - Gerry Olsen 1951-2012

23rd November 2012 at 00:00

Gerry Olsen believed in fair play, hard work and the power of education to give young people opportunities. He was an inspirational physics teacher and sports coach, and was once the youngest serving magistrate in Liverpool.

The son of a Norwegian merchant seaman and a Liverpudlian woman, the young Gerry excelled at school and won a place at Liverpool's De La Salle Grammar. He became the first member of his family to go to university, studying physics at Imperial College London.

After graduating, he returned home to train as a teacher. His first job was at St Edward's College, Liverpool, where he quickly became known for his charismatic teaching and his dry humour inside and outside the classroom. He demanded high standards in the science laboratories - and on the rugby and cricket pitches when he managed school sports teams. Throughout his career he mentored Oxbridge candidates, playing the admissions tutor in difficult but effective practice interviews.

In 1981, Mr Olsen travelled across the Mersey to become head of physics at St Chad's Roman Catholic High School in Cheshire. Here he coached football. A lifelong Everton fan and season ticket holder, he expected his pupils to play hard but fairly and immediately stamped out foul play, combating any hint of cheating. The Everton motto is "nothing but the best" and this was the code by which Mr Olsen chose to live and work.

He met his wife Eileen, a history teacher, at St Chad's. The couple married in 1984 and had three children.

At the same time as joining St Chad's, at the age of 30, he was appointed the youngest serving Liverpool city magistrate after being nominated for the position by his local parish priest.

In 1987, Mr Olsen became head of science at John Ruskin College in Croydon, South London. Five years later he moved to City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, where he became deputy head.

In 2002, he was appointed director of science at St Joseph's College in Staffordshire. He was later made head of sixth form and then deputy head. During his time at the school, Mr Olsen oversaw a rapid rise in standards and pupil numbers.

Although he retired in 2010, Mr Olsen continued to work on development projects at St Joseph's and helped to manage a #163;15 million Building Schools for the Future project at Thistley Hough, its sister school.

Mr Olsen died after a heart attack on 5 November. Roisin Maguire, headteacher of St Joseph's College, said: "Gerry was a giant among men, brave of heart and determined to achieve the very best for all the young people he served. He never looked for accolades or praise, but allowed others to shine. We are blessed to have known him and our lives are the poorer for his passing."

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