Board of Visitors spotlight: Luther Olsen

Photo of Luther Olsen.

Former member of the Wisconsin Legislature and a long-time advocate for improving healthcare and education, Luther Olsen joined the La Follette School Board of Visitors in 2020.

Olsen served in the State Assembly for 10 years before being elected to the State Senate in 2004. He retired in 2020 after serving 26 years in both Assembly and Senate. A lifelong resident of the 14th Senate District, Olsen received his bachelor’s degree from UW–Madison. In the Legislature, he served on numerous committees, including the Joint Committee on Finance and the Senate Education Committee. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Education Commission of the States and many other state and national boards and committees. For many years, he has served as a member of the La Follette School’s Family Impact Seminars Advisory Board.

Through his service on the UW Health Authority Board, Olsen helped to create UW Health. He was also involved in the transformation of the state’s public medical school into the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, which incorporates an emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion into the tradition of medicine.

Olsen supported legislation that helped retain and recruit more physicians to practice in Wisconsin, and he was instrumental in passing the 2010 Rural Healthcare Access Act. Through his close connections with hospital leaders in his district and his deep understanding of how legislation could impact hospitals and their patients, he helped to improve healthcare in Wisconsin, and in 2011 he received the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s Advocate of the Year award. Olsen is also an advocate for improving mental health care in Wisconsin and was recently elected as board president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wisconsin.

“As a legislator, I benefited from the La Follette School’s efforts to bring research-backed initiatives into the policymaking sphere,” says Olsen. “As a member of the Board of Visitors, I appreciate the opportunity to help the school continue this tradition.”

The La Follette School Board of Visitors provides important guidance by identifying resources that can raise the stature and standing of the school, helping with fundraising, providing career advice to students, and acting as goodwill ambassadors. The La Follette School is grateful to Olsen for sharing his experience and expertise with the board and the school.

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