New UNH Advanced Manufacturing Center honors Whelen’s Olson

Olson Center will focus on high-precision machining, light materials and flexible electronics


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The UNH John Olson Advanced Manufacturing Center, founded with a $5.3 million gift from Charlestown-based Whelen Engineering, is honoring its retiring president, John Olson.

A new center focusing on improving the pool of highly skilled advanced manufacturing workers with hands-on experience will open this fall at the University of New Hampshire.

The John Olson Advanced Manufacturing Center, founded with a $5.3 million gift from Charlestown-based Whelen Engineering, which is honoring its retiring president, John Olson.

The Olson Center will focus on three main areas – high-precision machining, light materials and flexible electronics. The center is designed to help bridge the skills gap in the nation’s $1.7 trillion manufacturing industry, and serve as a home for academically derived technology incubators, next-generation manufacturing technologies and a cross-curricular approach to engineering and manufacturing concepts.

The center, planned for the former Goss International building on the west edge of campus, will introduce students to innovative manufacturing technologies and allow visualization of manufacturing concepts to complement the skills learned in traditional classroom settings. It will serve as a pipeline for trained, skilled workers who will be able to successfully step into the state’s manufacturing sector with practical knowledge and experience.

‘Passion for excellence’

Olson graduated from UNH with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1957, and two years later began his career at Whelen, which has a facility in Chester, Conn., as well as Charlestown.

He has been Whelen’s president since 1976, and oversaw the opening of the Charlestown facility in 1984.

“Much of our growth and success has been due to the passion for excellence in engineering that John Olson has fostered within the company,” said George W. Whelen IV, owner of Whelen Engineering Inc. “John made sure we always looked for a better way and used cutting-edge technology whenever we could. Since he opened the Whelen facility in Charlestown, he has made many connections with the engineering programs at his alma mater. Finding qualified and motivated employees is very important for any business but particularly for an engineering company.”

For Olson, having his career recognized in this way by the Whelen family is an honor.

“It pleases me to see that UNH students are now going to have a manufacturing facility where they can tinker and innovate the manufacturing of tomorrow,” he said. “I have stated many times that manufacturing was central to our ability to win two world wars. We now have tremendous competition from overseas in manufacturing, and owe it to the next generation to prepare them well to hold their own and keep this country strong. Staying ahead of the competition in innovation and efficiency will be key. I think that UNH students can do that.”

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