Mount Mercy receives $1 million gift to endow chair in marriage and family therapy

Philanthropists Gerald and Audrey (’76) Olson have continued their generous support for Mount Mercy University with a $1 million gift to establish an endowed chair in the university’s marriage and family therapy (MFT) program. Randall R. Lyle, Ph.D., Mount Mercy’s founding MFT program director, has accepted this inaugural honor.

The Olsons previously endowed a scholarship for Mount Mercy students who are parents of young children. They also committed significant funding in 2012 to name The Gerald & Audrey Olson Marriage & Family Therapy Clinic at Mount Mercy’s CRST International Graduate Center.

The Olson MFT Clinic offers specialized training to student therapists, enabling them to provide high-quality services in a professional clinic under the guidance of licensed practitioners. This critical community asset sets the Mount Mercy MFT program apart.

“The Olsons’ extraordinary gift and longtime support demonstrate their generous spirit and confidence in Mount Mercy’s excellence,” said University President Laurie Hamen. “We are very grateful to the Olsons for their vision of a healthy community and their investment in Mount Mercy.”

With the Olsons’ most recent gift, Mount Mercy is well-positioned to expand its leadership in marriage and family therapy, and launch its first-ever doctoral program—an important objective of the university’s strategic plan.  

Under Lyle’s oversight, Mount Mercy’s MFT program achieved success quickly—developing an impressive reputation and receiving national accreditation just five years after its launch. Mount Mercy offers the only accredited, practice-oriented, masters-level MFT program of its kind in the state.

“I am most grateful to the Olsons for their strong belief in our work and am honored to be appointed the first Gerald & Audrey Olson Endowed Chair for Marriage & Family Therapy,” Lyle said. “I look forward to further serving our students and community, as well as gaining even more visibility for the MFT program.”

An endowed position provides top scholars with dependable, perpetual sources of funding—allowing for cutting-edge teaching, research and leadership, all of which attract exceptional students and nationwide recognition.

“We are pleased with Mount Mercy’s accomplishments in this field and are excited to support the expanding MFT program,” Mrs. Olson said. “This program provides opportunities for graduate students to deliver much-needed, low-cost mental health services to individuals, families and veterans in the Cedar Rapids community that we hold so dear.”

“I am very thankful to the community for their support of my company in the tough, early years,” Mr. Olson said. “I’ve always been impressed with the attitude, commitment and hard work of the people of Iowa.”

Originally from Chicago, the Olsons have strong ties to Cedar Rapids. Audrey (Johnson) Olson earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and sociology from Mount Mercy in 1976. Gerald Olson, who earned his master’s degree in civil engineering from Iowa State University, founded a small engineering firm in Cedar Rapids in 1965 which expanded and became Terracon—one of the largest engineering consulting firms in the country. The retired couple currently live near Scottsdale, Arizona.

Learn more about Mount Mercy’s Marriage & Family Therapy Program at mtmercy.edu/marriage-and-family-therapy and The Olson Marriage & Family Therapy Clinic at olsonmftclinic.com

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