John Olszowka: former professional student

Written by: 
Zoe Safeer

From dorms to homecoming queens, BYU-Hawaii alumni John Olszowka, aka John O., has seen development and changes at BYUH for the past 43 years. Olszowka came to school in 1972, lived in the dorms till 1986, and continued working at the university from 1988 until early 2015, when he decided to retire.

Olszowka remembered when homecoming was a major school event in the 70’s. “It turned into ‘The Miss Na Hoa Pono pageant’, or the righteous companion competition,” said Olszowka. “It might have been homecoming when I got here in the 70’s and then they said let’s do a Miss Na Hoa Pono. It’d be less of a beauty pageant, but more of the whole person.” The Miss Na Hoa Pono pageant was a competition where women showed off their skills in categories like sewing, cooking, performing a talent, speech giving, evening wear and interview.

He recalled celebrity visits, such as Lee Majors, who came to film a scene for the show “The Six Million Dollar Man.” He said, “The Ke Alaka’i office was transformed into a hospital room for filming this show. That was a big deal. That’s star power. They did the filming right here.”

The Premier of China visited the PCC during Olszowka’s time working there. He recalled, “I was in the night show when he came. They had the helicopter land in the Little Circle and then escorted him over. They had the secret service because it was daytime. We had the night show during the day - just a short one – and then he flew away in the helicopter. Those are fond memories.”

With the Hales under construction, Olszowka was reminded of how they used to be. “The dormitories now are being rejuvenated. I was in there when they had the eight horse stalls and just the curtains as your front door. We’ve come a long way. The Hales have always had the same shell.” The dorms changed from the 8-person curtained dwelling to rooms for two roommates, and now the hales are being made for four students to a unit.

With all these memories, Olszowka said, “I don’t miss any of it. I understand the leadership saying we can’t do this anymore.” However, there are a few traditions that have been kept along since the beginning. Culture night, Foodfest, Worldfest, school movies in the Little Theatre and outdoor showing of movies are activities that have passed the test of time, Olszowka said.

Olszowka said his best advice to students is to “make memories where we are right now. Make memories with what’s available, duh!”

Uploaded June 5, 2015