John Olver Design Building
University News

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy’s Statement on the Death of Congressman John Olver

On Feb. 24, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy sent the following message to the campus community following the announcement of the death of former Congressman John Olver.

Yesterday, Western Massachusetts lost an extraordinary advocate and UMass Amherst a powerful champion. Former Congressman John Olver, a passionate public servant, UMass professor, activist and conservationist, died at the age of 86. Our community mourns his loss deeply.

Since the day he joined our campus in 1962 as a chemistry professor, to his days in the Statehouse and the U.S. Congress, and even through his retirement, John worked behind the scenes to push the Amherst campus to not only be better, but to be the best. In recognition of his support, he was made an honorary alumnus in 1981 and received an honorary doctorate in public service in 2014.

John Olver Chancellor Subbaswamy
Congressman John Olver with Chancellor Subbaswamy in 2017.

He was deeply committed to improving infrastructure as well as protecting the environment. Those two passions came together when he began working to persuade us to adopt new and innovative building technology for our proposed Design Building. Within the span of a week, he changed the trajectory from a traditionally constructed steel frame to a state-of-the-art building that emphasized the very latest in green building technology.

There is no other project that better personifies John’s commitment to the environment, his love of science and planning, and his desire to bring people together for the greater good. So much so that worked with President Marty Meehan and our Trustees to name the Design Building, the largest academic contemporary wood structure in the entire country, as the John W. Olver Design Building in 2017.

John Olver Design Building
The John W. Olver Design Building at UMass Amherst

His legacy also lives in our library, and students of true public service are well served to learn from it. In 2012, John gifted his papers to the Robert S. Cox Special Collections & University Archives Research Center. They contain thorough documentation of the congressman’s career in Washington, including records of his policy positions, committee work, communications with the public, and the initiatives he supported in transportation, economic development, the environment, energy policy, and human rights.

We offer our condolences to his family and many friends. Thank you, John, for your public service and your devotion to UMass Amherst.