The Wheatley Institution

Terrance D Olson


Terrance D Olson

Terrance D. Olson is a Fellow at the Wheatley Institution and an emeritus professor of the School of Family Life, having retired after 39 years and one day of faculty service at BYU. He completed a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Living from Florida State University in 1973 emphasizing therapy, social science theory and family life education. He taught at the University of New Mexico from 1971-1974 and was the principal investigator on a series of grants from the US Department of Health and Human Services from 1981-1987. The project trained teachers in a character and citizenship curriculum designed to address problems associated with adolescent pregnancy. He later assisted with curriculum writing and training for a federal grant to the National Council for Adoption designed to promote infant adoption. He was the keynote speaker to professional and international year of the family meetings from 1994 to 2000 in Australia and New Zealand.

He has participated as a consultant with the Arbinger Group, a business consulting and educational institute showing companies how management and productivity problems are frequently grounded in ethical self-deception. As a Fellow of The Wheatley Institution, he participates in activities designed to “Lift society by preserving and strengthening its core institutions.” His work on moral agency is applied to issues of adolescent sexuality, AIDS, marital interaction, parenting, adoption, the moral dimension of short story and film writing, and family life education. He is a member of the International Association for Moral Education and the National Council on Family Relations.

He has served as the Chair of his department; as an Associate Dean of the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences; as Associate Director of the World Family Policy Center, and as Associate Director of The Faculty Center, all at BYU. He served as one of the editors of The Encyclopedia of Mormonism. In 2007 he was awarded the University’s Abraham O. Smoot Citizenship award, and in 2010, he was designated “Co-Certified Family Life Educator of the Year” by the NCFR. In 2011, he received the Ernest G. Osborne Family Life Education award from NCFR.

His current work includes showing how family life education is moral education, how being specific about one’s ontology of human being is a starting point for intervention efforts in business, education and therapy, and how education for diversity must be grounded in an ethical starting point.

Terrance grew up in Albuquerque New Mexico, served an LDS mission in Scotland and then married Karen Miller of Stockton, California. They have raised six children. He reads history and biography, focusing on World War II and more specifically, espionage, the Holocaust, Rescuers and how individual moral action makes a difference. Perhaps this interest was originally spawned by the fact that his father was a B-24 pilot over Europe who didn't make it back—but whose actions over Austria saved every member of his crew.

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