Glen Olson '03, pictured by the River Seine in Paris, received the Medal of Valor from the Frech government for his heroic rescue of a drowning man.
By Noreen Hobson '99
Glen Olson '03 is not impressed by his own bravery. The French government, on the other hand, was so grateful that he dived into a cold river and saved a drowning man that it bestowed its Medal of Valor on the American visitor.
The story began when Olson, an economics major and French minor from Montana, went to Paris last fall through a PLU study abroad program. He grew fond of the place and stayed on through January to spend time with his new friends there.
Early Jan. 7, Olson and friends he met while studying abroad were looking across the River Seine toward Notre Dame Cathedral and saw a man in the water. Some wondered if the man might be swimming, but Olson suspected something was wrong and went to take a closer look. He realized that the man, wearing boots and a trench coat, was drowning and, without another thought, jumped into the chilly water.
Olson had trouble locating the man as he disappeared under the water, but his friends on the shore had a better vantage point and helped guide him in the dark. Olson asked passers by - in French - to call police. When Olson finally reached the man he quickly pulled him to the water's edge. A police boat soon arrived and pulled the two aboard.
Parisian officers gave the rescuers warm brandy while the man, who was homeless and had jumped into the river, was revived. He came to and was agitated with those surrounding him, Olson said. That was his sole contact with the man he saved.
But he says he doesn't need thanks or awards.
"It's cool, but most anyone would have done the same thing," he said. "I was just in the right place at the right time."
The French government believes that Olson's actions are quite noble. In March, far removed from the banks of the Seine, Olson unexpectedly received a package delivered overnight from Paris. The weighty parcel contained the Medal of Valor presented by France to honor Olson's bravery that winter night.
Olson says it was a night he'll never forget, but he also has great memories of his months in France.
"The people I lived with and around were wonderful," Olson said. "They were intelligent, cultured and fun to be around."
Caption: Glen Olson '03, pictured by the River Seine in Paris, received the Medal of Valor from the French government for his heroic rescue of a drowning man.