Don and Shirley Oscarson

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Devotion to family, business, education, community, and church is the essence of R. Don and Shirley Oscarson’s lives. Their significant support of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at Brigham Young University influences students and faculty alike.

Don Oscarson and Shirley Calder met while attending BYU and started their life together when they married in the early 1950s. Shirley grew up in the state of Oregon, while Don grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. At BYU Don participated in football, track, theatre, the Student Program Bureau, and the Tribe of Many Feathers. Shirley sang in the University Chorus.

After graduation in 1954 Don entered the U.S. Air Force. Once he had fulfilled his military commitment, he went into business and soon found his real traveling days still lay ahead. His career as an executive for several major department store chains has taken the family to St. Louis, Missouri; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Columbus, Ohio. Even after retiring as senior vice president of marketing for Kohl’s Department Stores, he remained active in the business world and served on the board of directors for Kohl’s Illinois, Inc.

Don and Shirley have been involved in community activities wherever Don’s business career has taken them. Shirley has served as a docent in historic homes, sung with the chorus of the St. Louis Symphony, and has been a volunteer with regional opera companies. Don’s community efforts have included serving on the Philadelphia Symphony Publicity and Public Relations Board and the Milwaukee Music Conservatory Board as well as serving as honorary Swedish vice consul in St. Louis. In addition, he has written several musical plays, produced seminary films, and written the book Traveler’s Guide to Historic Mormon America, which is in its 25th printing. For many years he wrote and produced the City of Joseph pageant in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The couple’s service to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mirrors their commitment to the community. Don has been a bishop, stake president, and regional representative, and Shirley has also filled numerous leadership positions. After Don’s retirement they respectively served as a counselor and assistant matron in the St. Louis Temple presidency. Don and Shirley’s devotion to family has been equally strong. They are the parents of three children, James, Stephen and Brooks, and are also blessed as grandparents and great-grandparents.

The Oscarsons’ connections to BYU have continued throughout the years. Don has served on the BYU Alumni Board and as chair of the College Leadership Council. Both served on the President’s Leadership Council and co-chaired the Jesse and Amanda Knight Society. The College of Fine Arts and Communications itself has been generously assisted through the Oscarson Discovery Grant. In 2005, they were presented the Franklin S. Harris Award in recognition of their visionary leadership and generosity in advancing the purposes, interest, and potential of the College of Fine Arts and Communications. At the presentation of that award Don was also invited to speak at the college's April convocation.

Don passed away after a long illness on October 12, 2014.

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