Windows of Memorial Union


A More Just Society

Washburn Law alumni couple create legacy for public service

Gene and Judy Olander

(Gene, jd '63, & Judy, jd '82 Olander)

From Bell Tower - 2022 
By Annie Flachsbarth

Gene Olander, jd ’63, and Judith (Tholen) Olander, jd ’82, have always been supporters of Washburn University School of Law – they felt that educations equipped them well for their careers in public service. So for them, it was important to give back – and they did so in a big way: by establishing the Gene and Judy Olander Public Service Law Scholarship at Washburn.

After finishing law school, both Gene and Judy took public sector attorney jobs in Topeka. Gene, who passed away in 2017, worked as the Shawnee County District Attorney and was the chief prosecutor longer than anyone in county history. Judy worked in the court system as an appellate reporter for the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court for many years, as well as an assistant city attorney with the Topeka City Attorney’s Office.

“We didn’t make huge amounts of money when working for the government, but – together – we were able to set aside funds for the purpose of helping students in the future,” Olander said.

When planning their estate, the Olanders determined that they would give a certain percentage of their assets to family, with other percentages going to charitable and educational institutions. Judy donated $5,000 after Gene passed but decided to donate an additional $25,000 this year to get it up and running. She plans to contribute more to the scholarship fund from time to time depending on how her investments do each year.

“We felt that our time at Washburn Law had prepared us for a lifetime of public service,” Olander said. “Washburn Law gave us the opportunity to choose from a wide range of classes, so we had a broad background and understanding of the legal system. Once we graduated, we felt comfortable representing the client, and our clients both happened to be the people of the great state of Kansas.”

In addition to their high level of support for Washburn's law school, the Olanders have been philanthropic to their undergraduate alma maters and several other charities as well, including the YWCA, where Gene was one of the founders of the Battered Women’s Center and Judy served on the board as president. Still, given their legal careers, they were particularly excited to create a fund specifically to create a path for more attorneys to go into public service. Which, as Interim Dean Jeffrey D. Jackson noted, is something Washburn is especially well-suited for.

“Public service has always been an area of distinction for Washburn Law and our alumni,” said Jackson. “As the capital city law school, many of our graduates go into public service of some kind, and contributing to a more just society is an integral part of our mission. We’re thrilled that the Olanders have helped lead the way and provide support for students especially interested in building lives and careers centered on public service.”

Olander noted that she’s pleased to be giving students not just a source of scholarship funds, but to also show them that others have gone down the road of public service and want others to join them.

“I am hopeful that this scholarship will serve as an example that attorneys in government service also have the ability to create something that will be helpful in the future for other would-be attorneys who are looking to do the same thing,” Olander said.

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Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483