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On Wednesday, May 15, Olivet College will host the 23rd Annual Leadership Awards Dinner at the Country Club of Lansing. This year’s dinner will honor Erik Larson ’97, Joan Nelson and Linda Lee Tarver, Th.D., as the recipients of the Leadership in Individual and Social Responsibility Award.

“The Individual and Social Responsibility Awards were the brainchild of former Board of Trustees Chair David Hayhow,” Carol Flanigan, senior director of annual giving and donor services, said. “After the College updated its vision and adopted the Compact, Mr. Hayhow wanted to bring the concept of individual and social responsibility to a public sphere and highlight some of the people in our state that are doing amazing work for their communities.”

Erik Larson

Larson graduated from Olivet College in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He is now the executive director of Impression 5 Science Center, located in Lansing. He’s spent most of his life volunteering or working at Impression 5, beginning at age 14 when the museum was just getting its start. During his senior year at Olivet, Larson worked full-time at Impression 5 while also taking a full course load. Upon graduation, he worked as the exhibit area supervisor and over the years found himself in a variety of positions before taking over as executive director. Completely dedicated to the museum, he’s more than happy to have found the right fit for his life. Larson expresses the importance of pursuing dreams to effect change.

“Find something you love and are passionate about and do it,” he said. “What is your personal mission? What are you going to invest in? What are you going to do today, tomorrow, the next day that will have a positive impact on society? Probably more so than ever today in society we need to lean in and make it a better place. I feel that call to action all the time.”

Joan Nelson

Nelson serves as the executive director of the Allen Neighborhood Center (ANC), an organization that promotes neighborhood revitalization and offers activities and resources to improve the health and well-being of Lansing’s Eastside community. After graduating from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary social science, she worked at Lansing Model Cities, a federally-funded program devoted to addressing urban poverty. Then she returned to school in 1978 to earn her master’s degree in health education and exercise physiology. While operating her own business — a hub for health and movement-related activities — Nelson did consulting and personal skills training across the state. She eventually joined the Eastside Neighborhood Summit Project, otherwise known as the Eastside Summit, a “healthy communities” initiative launched by Sparrow Health System and Eastside residents in 1996. In 1999, the Eastside Summit became what is now known today as ANC.

Nelson believes that people can change the world in a wide variety of ways.

“I think we all have a responsibility to build community in whatever way we can,” she said. “For some folks, it may be keeping an eye out for the senior who lives across the street or sharing extra produce from their garden with people on the block. It could be volunteering at the park for a park cleanup. As members of the community, we have an obligation to improve the world around us in whatever way makes sense for us. We get to choose the ways — large or small — that we do that.”

Linda Lee Tarver

Tarver finds fulfillment through her faith as she aims to do her part in the world. She is the president of the Republican Women’s Federation of Michigan, vice chair of the Lansing Promise, the community affairs director and elections integrity liaison for secretary of state Ruth Johnson, and the author of “Dyed in the Wool.” Tarver was an initial drafter for the Lansing Promise and a key player in adding Olivet to the list of schools included in the Promise. She has also been inducted into the Republican Women’s Federation of Michigan Hall of Fame and has worked as a commissioner for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Tarver claims that her passion for service grew out of her role as a Sunday school teacher, and ultimately, her faith as a whole. No matter what one encounters in life, she believes it should be addressed without hesitation.

“Your life is not for yourself, and it is meant to be experienced for the good of the community,” she said. “It starts with your family, then your local community, then impacts the rest of the nation and the world. Life needs to be lived with urgency. We have a finite number of days to do everything we are purposed to do.”

Continuing to Be More and Do Good

Flanigan stresses that these honorees are an inspiration as they change their communities and do good in the world.

“I think of it this way: the Leadership Awards honorees stand as perfect examples to our current students that individual and social responsibility doesn’t stop being important when you graduate,” she said. “You can continue to live them out in your personal and professional life as well.”

Registration for the dinner includes a charitable gift to the Olivet Fund, which supports the students of Olivet College. To learn more about Olivet College, contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

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