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From the Archives: A 2011 profile of Fr. Harry “Dutch” Olivier

Photo by Colin Prenger ’11 – Fr. Olivier blesses the student body during the closing Summit Mass on Ash Wednesday Mar. 9.

Editors Note: Fr. Harry “Dutch” Olivier, SJ died March 17, 2015 at the age of 88. Here’s a profile from 2011 of his long life as a Jesuit priest and impact here on campus. This originally published in April 2011.

By Eric Villanueva ’11 & Tyler J. Scott ’12

From a shelf in his office within the Office of Faith and Justice, the Rev. Harry “Dutch” Olivier, S.J. pulls down a black and white photograph of two, young smiling children.

Fr. Olivier points to the haircut of the younger, blue-eyed child sitting on a bench.

“That was what we called a ‘Dutch cut,’” he said. “The idea is that it’s straight blond hair that comes across as bangs and then it drops down and levels off into your ears.”

At about the same time the picture was taken, a paint store called Dutch Boy Paint opened in San Francisco near Candlestick Park, the home of the 49ers football team.

In the window of the store was a poster of a Dutch boy with a particular haricut painting wide strokes across the advertisement.

“And so my brother said, ‘Hey, that’s Harry: the Dutch Boy,’” Fr. Olivier said remembering the day the brothers walked by the store.

Fr. Olivier, blue-eyed but now with white, wispy hair, was four or five years old then, but the nickname “Dutch” has stuck for the past 80 years.

“In fact, when I was in high school, one of the teachers asked, ‘Do you have a first name?’” he said.

After graduating from St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco, Fr. Olivier entered the seminary in 1944, 67 years ago.

“Maybe I had nothing better to do,” Fr. Olivier said jokingly.

But a better reason may be the fact that priesthood runs in his family. His uncle was one of the original Jesuits at Brophy when the high school opened in 1928.

He said after graduating from a Jesuit high school and witnessing the camaraderie and happiness of the 14 Jesuit Scholastics who taught at St. Ignatius, he was inspired to enter the seminary straight out of high school.

“I liked what they were doing: teaching, coaching and directing,” Fr. Olivier said.

Fr. Olivier was ordained a priest in 1957. This year he celebrates 54 years as a priest and 24 years at Brophy.

In that time, Fr. Olivier has watched Brophy change.

Keating, where his office is today, was just being built when he arrived. Where Piper, Eller, the Great Hall and Robson Gymnasium now stand was open space.

Fr. Olivier has also witnessed a change in the spirit of the school.

“When I first came, they used to talk of hazing the freshmen, belittling the freshmen,” he said. “This is something that is just disallowed at Brophy (today).”

With mentoring clubs like Big Brothers, he said seniors and freshmen today have mutual respect for each other.

“Now we have a family affair,” Fr. Olivier said.

For 16 of his 24 years at Brophy, Fr. Olivier taught Understanding Catholic Christianity, a freshmen religion class.

Math teacher Mr. Jeff Viso ’94, who had Fr. Olivier as his freshman religion teacher, said he was absolutely a good teacher.

Mr. Viso said he learned from Fr. Olivier that priests were normal people.

“He had stories that related to us,” Mr. Viso said. “He was not somebody up there in the pulpit. He was somebody you could talk to.”

But eventually, 16 years of freshman classes tired Fr. Olivier.

“Then it wore me down,” Fr. Olivier said. “But I enjoyed it. The teaching was fun.”

This year, Fr. Olivier taught one period of Jesuit Spirituality, a senior religion elective, during the first semester.

“This frees me up for the retreats,” he said.

So far this year, Fr. Olivier has gone on two Kairos retreats at Brophy’s Manresa Retreat in Oak Creek Canyon.

“He’s available to anybody that needs help. He’s highly respected and funny,” said Brophy’s President, the Rev. Eddie Reese, S.J.

When he’s on campus, Fr. Olivier, chaplain of the football team, said he attends all the football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse games he can.

“Anything that moves, I go see,” he said laughingly. “And I never miss a concert or a play.”

He said the high point of his time at Brophy has been the student activities.

“I enjoy seeing the guys who are active,” he said. “I prefer it to a pro game …”

He should know as he is also chaplain for the Arizona Cardinals.

He especially gets rowdy at the basketball games.

“We always tease him, especially at yelling at basketball games, yelling at the referees,” Fr. Reese said. “That’s why we make him stand way up at the top so they can’t hear him.”

Asked if there is anything the Brophy community doesn’t know about him, Fr. Olivier laughed heartily.

“One of the things they don’t know, because I can’t do it, (is that) I can’t sing,” he said.

Most recently, Fr. Olivier presided over Ash Wednesday prayer service March 9, but said he let Fr. Reese lead the school in song.

“If I do anything, I kind of lip sync and listen to him,” he said.

After knowing Fr. Olivier for 50 years, Fr. Reese said he’s amazed by Fr. Olivier’s involvement in the Brophy community.

“It’s amazing for somebody his age, for all the stuff he does, how he keeps up on things,” Fr. Reese said.

With his years of wisdom, Fr. Olivier offered one piece of advice to students.

“Enjoy high school,” he said. “That age, 14 to 18, is a great time. Put the iPods away and enjoy the company (of friends). Get away from the video games; they just isolate you.”

“Get around and mix with the guys.”

Fr. Olivier hears confessions Monday and Friday mornings beginning at 7:30 a.m. in Brophy Chapel. He celebrates Mass in the chapel every day during lunch.

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