Ted Olsson, PhD and Vice Chairman of SACC-SF/SV, is a third generation Swedish-American who has continued the family tradition of promoting Swedish culture in the Bay Area.
All four of Ted’s grandparents emigrated from Sweden and distinguished themselves in San Francisco. Ted’s grandfather, Alexander Olsson, traveled as a young man to San Francisco and secured employment as typesetter at Vestkusten, the local Swedish newspaper, later becoming owner, editor and publisher – a commitment of more than sixty years.
Alexander was an influential member of the San Francisco Swedish community. Eight days after the 1906 earthquake destroyed his business, he published an edition of Vestkustenand that summer celebrated Midsummer, both of which helped the Swedish community reunite and find support after the disaster. Alexander founded and was a member of a number of Swedish organizations in the Bay Area, including the Swedish American Patriotic League, SAPL, Sveadal and the Swedish Society, and was instrumental in keeping all the local Swedes aware of what was going on in their Swedish community.
Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Ted has served as the president of the SAPL; he is a member of Fylgia and the Sveadal Club; he is on the boards of the Swedish Society, the SAPL and Sveadal Governors; and he has served as a member of the Midsummer Committee for many years. Ted spent several years in Central and South America teaching as a Fulbright and Peace Corps professor before entering the business world. His professional focus was education and technology, and at IBM he specialized in government affairs and community relations. With a passion for English composition and literature, and with the writer’s ink in his blood (Ted’s father, Hugo, took over the helm at Vestkusten after Alexander), Ted has been an avid writer for more than 50 years, contributing stories to Vestkusten and later to Nordstjernan.
For his commitment to promoting bilateral trade and relations between Sweden and America, Ted received the Polar Star Medal from the Swedish King in 1988. He was honored to be the third generation of his family to be so decorated (paternal grandfather, father and mother). Last year he received the Gold Medal from the SAPL for his many activities and services for the Sveadal community.
Ted married Astrid Yperman in 1984. They have two children, Alexander (Zander) and Juliana, who are both graduates of UC Berkeley. Zander is at Hastings Law School and Juliana works for the Smithsonian. Astrid has served as secretary for many of the Swedish organizations in the Bay Area; she created the website Scandinavius.com, to keep track of the various club activities in the area and now serves on the Swedish Library and Archives Committee, preserving Vestkusten and the community’s history.
Ted keeps himself busy devoting his time to community service in the Bay Area and is involved in a number of historical and civic activities.”In my civic roles, I’m interested in showing how Sweden is acknowledged as exemplary by so many leading indicators. I am indeed proud of my heritage as a Swedish-American and of our regional community, which, as the City’s Archivist said, has the longest published history here of any ethnicity.”
Among his many commitments, Ted is a member of the Executive Visitor Relations committee (a lifelong learning council) at the Exploratorium as well as a docent leader at the California Academy of Sciences, and a San Francisco City Guide for Mission Murals. He is also a member of the non-profit SPUR, which promotes “ideas and actions for a better city” and he is Chairman of the Community Advisory Committee for the city’s newly-building regional transit hub, the Transbay Center.
Ted has served on the SACC-SF/SV board for more than 25 years. As Vice Chairman of SACC-SF/SV, he is proud to have witnessed the transformation of the Chamber, while staying close to its purpose of promoting bilateral trade and to advocate for Sweden’s leadership in technology, social issues, and the arts.
Reflecting on his years at SACC and how the organization continues to grow, Ted comments, “Since joining our SACC board in 1988, I have watched this Chamber transform from a convivial men’s club to a dynamic and entrepreneurially activist organization, with equal representation of men and women leaders on our board. Now, Chairwoman Charlotte Danielsson is revitalizing our programs and services yet again. In addition to our members enjoying our events and seminars, we customize regional tours for visiting delegations of Swedish businesses and facilitate J1 visas for interns to regional companies, to provide young Swedes career development. Our several new event series have been well attended and we’re serving many more interests.”