Ichabod Football Helmet


Special Connections

As fans and donors, Olsens enjoy watching Ichabod student-athletes grow up, build careers

From Athletics Spotlight - Spring 2020

Lou Olsen has worked at Washburn University for 36 years, spending all but two years in the Human Resources department. Among the many people she helps build careers for are coaches and athletic administrators who have been on campus for decades.

As supporters of Ichabod athletics, Lou and Tommy Olsen watch coaches turn programs around and win championships. They watch local athletes come to Washburn, have successful playing careers and return as employees or fellow donors and fans.

“For a lot of college coaches, the days of longevity are gone,” Lou said. She and Tommy are longtime football and basketball season-ticket holders. “We've enjoyed getting to know a lot of the former athletes who have been hired on as staff now. It's been fun to get to know them in a different capacity, from being a student-athlete to being an employee.”

Tommy and Lou OlsenIt's a special connection, but one that’s common among Washburn fans who become part of the close-knit community.

“We get to know the athletes,” Tommy said. “A lot of them stay around here and join the Ichabod Athletic Fund board that we’re on. They received scholarships, but they also turn around and help the University and give back. It's kind of keeping the cycle going.”

The Olsens have been Washburn donors for as long as they can remember. They support athletics during the annual faculty/staff giving campaign. They made a major gift during the 2003 Yager Stadium renovation and joined friends in purchasing a suite in Bianchino Pavilion. Tommy’s family has a nursing scholarship to honor the caring treatment his father received before passing away in 1983.

Lou and Tommy were both born in Topeka. Lou worked in a Topeka bank before starting at Washburn in 1984. Tommy is recently retired from a 30-year career with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. He played football growing up and recalls his father taking him to Washburn games.

“I remember watching Jerry Rice back in the 80s when he was with Mississippi Valley State,” he said.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer wasn’t the only athlete to come through Topeka during college. Washburn has seen its share of football, baseball and basketball players go on to professional careers, and the Olsens have been there to cheer them on.

Besides watching athletes succeed, their favorite part of being Ichabod fans is the friendships they build with fellow fans. They have been part of football tailgating since it took off in the parking lot north of the stadium. They have also joined friends on road trips.

“That's our social outlet,” Tommy said. “We've met a lot of our current friends through activities like After Hours, basketball games and tailgates.”

Their favorite memories are the 1984 men’s basketball national championship, the football team winning the 2004 Mineral Water Bowl and ESPN coming to campus in 2013 the morning of the Super Bowl featuring two former Ichabods.

The Olsens also formed a special connection watching Lou’s sister, Brenda Soldani, b ed ’84, play basketball and softball in the 1980s.

“When my sister went to Washburn, there wasn't a whole lot of money to give to the athletes,” Lou said. “I see the difference it really can make now to a lot of these student-athletes and the scholarships they are given.”

Lou Olsen and her sister, Brenda Soldani

Lou Olsen (left) and her sister, Brenda Soldani (right), pose with friends, Gayle Smith and Mr. Ichabod at a football game.

Ichabod mascot

You can give student-athletes a chance to pursue their athletic and educational dreams by supporting the Ichabod Athletic Fund with a gift online.

Matt HutchinsonYou can also contact Matt Hutchinson by email or at 785.670.1334 to learn about these events, the Ichabod Athletic Fund, or creating an endowed scholarship or estate gift that will change student-athletes' lives for generations to come.

1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483
Email: contactus@wualumni.org