William Olive, 74; pioneered co-ed industrial arts class

'Kids liked him,' says co-worker

By Jack Williams

STAFF WRITER, San Diego Union-Tribune

January 31, 2002

To William Olive, metal shop and wood shop were as important to girls in middle school as home economics. For that matter, so were drafting and electricity, he argued. Or any practical discipline falling within his teaching specialty – industrial arts. So, in the 1950s, Mr. Olive began pioneering industrial arts for girls as an instructor at Horace Mann Junior High School in East San Diego. Introduced in the summer curriculum, the girls program preceded by many years co-educational industrial arts classes throughout the San Diego Unified School District. "His classes were nearly always completely full," recalled Edward Casebolt, who was principal at Horace Mann from 1968 to 1984. "He was one of the outstanding educators in the field. I would liked to have had a whole staff just like him."

Mr. Olive, who retired from Horace Mann in 1991 but continued teaching there for another decade as a substitute, died Jan. 23 at Alvarado Hospital Medical Center. He was 74. The cause of death was lung cancer, said his son, William.

After returning to Horace Mann as a substitute, Mr. Olive welcomed the changing demographics, including an infusion of Asian and African immigrants, and took on a new responsibility: teaching special education students. "He always concentrated on what was happening today and seeing things as they were," said Nancy Crouse, Horace Mann's math administrator. "A lot of people cling to 'the good old days' but he never went there in his thinking. He became an integral part of our special education department. He seemed to develop an understanding and appreciation ofc hildren with special needs."

Karen Jackson, a social studies teacher at Horace Mann, said teachers felt comfortable with Mr. Olive as a substitute. "For one thing, the kids liked him," she said. "And he had so much experience."

A former Eagle Scout, Mr. Olive began serving as a merit badge counselor in the 1950s. In 1970, he became Scoutmaster of Cub Scouts Troop 930 in Allied Gardens. During the next 10 years, he doubled the size of the troop, producing 26 Eagle Scouts. His many Scouting awards included the San Diego County Council Order of Merit in 1973, the Silver Beaver in 1975, San Diego Council Scoutmaster of the Year in 1976 and national honors in 1984 and 1986.

Mr. Olive, an Allied Gardens resident, was born in Hugo, Okla. He attended Kemper Military School in Missouri, where he starred at running back on the football team, before joining the Naval Reserve during World War II. While in the Navy, he met his future wife, Doris Mae Hardger, a WAVE stationed at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. Discharged in 1946, he married and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at East Central University in Ada, Okla. He added a master's degree in industrial education from Oklahoma State in 1950 and began his teaching career in Hartshorne, Okla.

Mr. Olive moved to San Diego in 1953, teaching for a year at what today is Memorial Academy before joining the Horace Mann faculty. His 47 years at Horace Mann represented "without question the longest service of a teacher at the school," Casebolt said. "He just loved teaching and he was always right there to volunteer any service to the community or the school." Mr. Olive, a recipient in the 1970s of the annual PTA Honorary Service award conferred by the school and community, was among the leaders of the former annual boat regatta for students in San Diego city schools. "It was for youngsters who made and raced their own boats," Casebolt recalled. "Bill's kids won those awards annually.

Before retiring from his full-time teaching post in 1991, Mr. Olive helped create technology programs and laboratories in San Diego middle schools. From 1991 to 1993, 21 schools in the San Diego Unified School District opened high-tech labs, exposing students to new worlds of learning.

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Doris; a daughter, Pamela Baily, of San Diego; a son, William of San Diego; and a grandson. Donations are suggested to the Boy Scout Campership Fund, Desert-Pacific Council, 1207 Upas St., San Diego, CA 92103.

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