The Lynn University community mourns the passing of longtime university friend and benefactor Benjamin Olewine III, who died May 27, at the age of 96.
Olewine has been a strong supporter of Lynn over the years —establishing the Olewine Culinary Lab for hospitality students, as well as the Olewine entrance garden at the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center. He has been a consistent, annual donor to the Leadership Society since 2007 and received an honorary degree from Lynn in 2011.
His generous $1 million gift created Lynn’s new entrance on Potomac Road, the back perimeter road and relocated the preserve, dedicated in November 2013, as The Benjamin Olewine III Preserve. The preserve’s relocation was a major part of the city-approved master plan, an important component of the campus expansion. Home to Florida scrub, the 11.59-acre preserve provides a living laboratory for the study of this ecosystem, including seven animal species and 40 plants listed as rare, threatened or endangered.
“When the university showed me a need to construct a new back entrance to campus and also to relocate the preserve, I was happy to be the major donor,” he said.
Olewine and his family have been ardent supporters of wildlife preservation throughout the world, establishing sanctuaries and habitats in North and South America. He said one of his proudest accomplishments is the Wildwood Lake Nature Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The Olewine family has deep roots in Harrisburg, with the first generation of his family arriving in the 1700s. His grandfather opened the family's first grocery store in 1905, and over the years that store evolved into market stalls, catering, and specialty foods. In 1958, Olewine's Cheese House became Olewine's Inc., and under Olewine’s entrepreneurial leadership became one of the top 50 full-service wholesale food distributors in the United States. The company was sold to Sysco Corp. in 1988, and Olewine became Chairman Emeritus continuing to go to his office at Sysco every day until the age of 91.
Olewine served in the United States Army in the 82nd Quartermaster Mobile Battalion from 1942 to 1945 in India, Burma and China. He generously funded many organizations, projects, and young people seeking an education in Central Pennsylvania and around the world.
"I am very proud of everything I have done and happy that I have been able to do it. I always said I'd give back if I was ever able to do so," he said.
A funeral service will be held Thursday, June 1, at 11 a.m., at Paxton United Methodist Church, 3550 North Progress Ave., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Interment in Harrisburg Cemetery will be followed by a reception. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Audubon Pennsylvania, Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, or the Pinnacle Health Foundation, Grateful Patient Program,