The William Olson Student Achievement Award has been created to recognize Auburn students who exemplify the same passion and commitment to sustainability as the award's namesake, Auburn alumnus William K. Olson (1986 – 2012). This special honor will only be awarded when there is an Auburn student who embodies the same level of commitment to a sustainable future as Will.
Having already battled brain cancer that first emerged when he was 14, Will started as a student at Auburn in 2005. Although Will's major was Chemical Engineering, Sustainability was his passion. An Honors student with a voracious intellectual appetite to learn about a wide range of sustainability topics, Will was involved as a Freshman with the efforts that eventually created Auburn's current recycling program and was an intern with Auburn's Office of Sustainability in 2010.
Will worked alongside his peers to advance sustainability in the Auburn community with humor, kindness, eloquence, and professionalism. He had the ability to move smoothly up and down the scale between fine detail and systems thinking, and brought a sense of the larger picture whether he was working on organic gardening, renewable energy, energy efficiency, alternative fuels, or waste reduction. Will's passion for sustainability, determination in both thought and action, personal selflessness, and maturity beyond his years set a very high bar for what it means to be a student sustainability leader at Auburn University.
Will graduated from Auburn in 2011 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and minors in Spanish and Sustainability. Will was working as an engineer and passionate sustainability practitioner when he died suddenly in May 2012 as a result of complications from his continuing 11 year battle with cancer. There is no doubt that Will would have continued to make significant contributions to the sustainable future he knew was possible, and would have expanded his role as a sustainability leader and role model for other Auburn students.