“SMC got me deeper into American life. I found incentive to see things differently. And I found people who made me feel at home.”
Families often show up at SMC in two’s and three’s. But with the family of Henry Olivier the number stands at seven, so far. “My wife is in Emeritus classes,” says Henry who graduated in ’66. “Her whole family went too: three daughters and a son.” And then there is Henry’s “ex-son-in-law” Mike Murray who played football for the Corsairs after the Vietnam War. But the trip to campus didn’t have its beginnings for Henry in a short drive across town.
“I was a prisoner of the Japanese during their occupation of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia),” recalls Henry. “It was much like that movie Bridge Over The River Kwai.” After the war, Henry, a gifted painter, was furloughed to Holland where he worked as illustrator and designer for several Dutch companies. But when Indonesia became independent from Holland, Henry found himself “a man without a country.” “We moved to the U.S. with 20,000 other displaced people,” says Henry. “And to keep us going, I was a pool cleaner and I pumped a lot of gas on Sepulveda,” he says with a hearty laugh.
But over the years of adapting to U.S. life, Henry kept his two great passions in focus: painting and learning. “After SMC I began teaching art in adult schools,” he says. He exhibited his art, sold to national collections and finally his took his Masters in Fine Arts. Now a museum docent and frequent lecturer Henry adds that, “SMC was an ideal transition place for me. And I would advise anyone to go there, get the basis of your learning and then…carry on!”
Read more stories from present and past years in the
SMC Student Spotlight Archive.