On April 19, 2016, so many of us were deeply saddened when we learned of the loss of our close friend and wonderful colleague, Rob Olszewski. We remember Rob for his passion for forests, his great big smile and his even bigger heart.
Rob embodied the Greek proverb that says: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Sadly, Rob was not old; his life was cut short by cancer, but we know he contributed greatly to society and the numerous organizations he served.
While it often seemed to us he was purely dedicated to the SFI team, we know that his enthusiasm and dedication was given to many other organizations including National Alliance of Forest Owners, Forest Landowners Association, and of course his former employer Plum Creek, where he served as vice president of environmental affairs from 2001 to 2016. He began his career in 1980 as state forest hydrologist with the Florida Division of Forestry. From 1986 to 1993, he served as director of governmental affairs for the Florida Forestry Association. He then worked for Georgia-Pacific Corporation and The Timber Company where he served as director of environmental affairs. He held this role until he joined Plum Creek. Rob received a bachelor of science degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University and a master of science in forest hydrology from the University of Georgia.
Rob was a true champion for forests, he understood that forests bring us so many things: clean air, clean water, and of course wonderful places to find peace and tranquility. It is only fitting that his contributions will be felt for generations to come. Rob’s career in forestry spanned three-and-a-half decades and established him as a forest steward of the highest order.
At SFI, we are fortunate to be able to call Rob a founder and a builder. SFI would not be the success it is today without Rob’s tireless dedication and vision. His direct involvement can be seen on the evolution of the SFI Standard – from the very beginning, more than 20 years ago, through the most recent SFI 2015-2019 Standard where he chaired the SFI Standard Revision Steering Committee. He was both a member and chair of the SFI Resources Committee multiple times. His generous spirit and dedication also led him to serve on many other SFI committees and task forces.
Despite the demands of the senior professional roles he played during his career, Rob was always generous with his time. He mentored university students attending SFI annual conferences and was a source of inspiration for future generations who will carry on his legacy.
In honor of Rob’s commitment to educating and mentoring the next generation of forest advocates and leaders, SFI has established the Rob Olszewski Memorial Education Fund for Future Forest Leaders. SFI funding will be used to support mentorship and educational opportunities for youth and students interested in learning about or pursuing careers in hydrology, sustainable forestry and other educational pursuits. If you are interested in contributing to this fund, please visit this page and see the donation information on the right.
Rob was always eager to show the way forward to a sustainable future for our forests and the communities that depend on them. So the next time you are in the woods, take a moment to enjoy the shade of a beautiful tree and think of him. Rob’s ashes will be spread across the tracts of forestlands that he owned in Georgia and Florida, as these very forests provided him with great peace and tranquility.
We send our prayers, our thoughts and sympathy to all those who knew and loved Rob.
We miss you already Rob.
Kathy Abusow on behalf of the entire SFI Community
President and CEO of SFI Inc.