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Edward Olson was born in Weldre, Norway on August 29, 1847. His parents immigrated to the United States when he was a boy. Olson received his preparatory training at the Academy of Beloit College and the University of Chicago. He traveled extensively in Europe and upon his return was named professor of Greek at the University of Chicago. He suffered a temporary mental collapse in the mid-1880s. Olson then taught at the Union Theological Seminary until he was made the president of the University of Dakota in the fall of 1887. Olson proved to be a very popular president. The university grew under Olson. Faculty members increased to 15 in Olson's first year and grew to 25 by 1889. In June 1888, USD graduated its first student, and by 1889, this number increased to nine, 7 men and 2 women. Unfortunately, Olson lost his life trying to escape a fire at the Tribune Building in Minneapolis, Minnesota on November 30, 1889.
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