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North Central Michigan College Provost Peter D. Olson, Ph.D., has announced his retirement from the college effective June 30. 

Olson was named provost in 2020, after serving as vice president of Academic Affairs since 2014.  He joined North Central in 2006 as an adjunct instructor teaching Emergency Medical Services classes.  In 2009, he became the college’s director of Allied Health, and then in 2011, the associate dean of Health, Business, Science and Technology. 

Prior to his career at North Central, Olson served on the faculty of Hillsdale College, where he was chair of the English Department. 

Olson left the field of higher education in 2000 to work as a licensed paramedic and paramedic instructor, following a passion that was born during his service as a Basic EMT while growing up in the Colorado mountains.  Still, he said, returning to an academic setting “just felt right.”

“I had no idea that my path would eventually lead to the office of the provost,” Olson said, “but I have thoroughly enjoyed the demanding opportunity of using ‘both sides’ of my head — the liberal arts English professor side and the problem-solving paramedic side — to help our students and faculty navigate the considerable challenges we all face as higher education evolves.”  

As provost, Olson led North Central’s total instructional activity, including curriculum planning and budget allocation. He forged new partnerships with K-12 colleagues and peer and senior institutions, always with an eye toward improving the educational experience for North Central students.

Olson’s academic program development includes the Surgical Technologist Associate of Applied Science Degree and Certificate, the Medical Assistant Certificate redesign, the CNC Machinist Certificate of Development, and the Bookkeeping Certificate of Development.  During his tenure, North Central’s nursing students achieved national recognition for a Top Five performance on their licensure exam in 2019, and then a No. 1 ranking in 2020.

Olson has served on the President’s Cabinet since 2014 and as North Central’s liaison to the Higher Learning Commission, the college’s accrediting body, for the same period.  Drawing on his background in public health, he also led the college’s response to the considerable challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am extremely proud of North Central’s efforts to try to keep us all safe over the past year, and I remain in awe of the dedication that I see every day among my colleagues who so creatively apply themselves to solving our students’ unique and difficult problems with grace and compassion,” Olson said.

North Central President David Roland Finley describes Olson as “a respected academic leader whose impact will continue for generations.”

“For these reasons and many more, I am pleased to have nominated Dr. Olson for the title of Provost Emeritus in recognition of his outstanding commitment to students, his exemplary service to the college and his profession, and his outstanding contributions to the local community,” Finley said.

North Central’s Board of Trustees will vote on Olson’s emeritus nomination at an April 27 meeting.

Dr. Olson's Reflections


North Central Michigan College is an open-door community college based in Petoskey, with additional locations offering classes and services in Cheboygan and Gaylord.  North Central’s mission is to provide exceptional, accessible, relevant higher education of and for the community.  North Central is an Achieving the Dream Leader College with a designation of Veteran Friendly Silver by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.

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Megan Van Horn
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