Skip to main content

Student’s thesis documents Tempe campus

November 30, 2007

Mike Olive, a senior in Barrett, the Honors College, loves to poke around the Tempe campus, looking for hidden delights such as tiny courtyards, fountains in unexpected places, and historic signs and sites.

Olive loves the campus so much that he is writing his honors thesis about it, documenting the history of the past four decades.

“No one has written a history since Ernest J. Hopkins and Alfred Thomas published ‘The Arizona State University Story’ in 1960,” Olive says.

“ ‘The Arizona State University Story’ covers the middle to later 19th century before Tempe and the Normal School into 1960,” Olive says.

“The general void exists from 1960 to present as far as a comprehensive history is concerned.

“There are a few things like the ‘New ASU Story’ (created by former archives staff member Rose Minetti, at, and Thomas also put together a list of documents from 1960 to 1985, but I wouldn’t call it a history.”

Olive, from Oklahoma City, served in the Marine Corps for five years. He was sent to the Persian Gulf in 2003 before finishing his tour of duty in Yuma.

It didn’t take him long after he enrolled at ASU to realize how much the university meant to him.

“I’ve found myself exploring the campus, learning what this place is,” he says. “When I had to start thinking about my honors thesis, it occurred to me that I could serve both my own interest – the university – and give something back that the university could use.”

Olive asked university architect Ron McCoy to be his thesis director, and McCoy suggested that Olive contact university archivist Rob Spindler for help.

Olive begins his thesis with a brief summary of the history of the Tempe campus, and explores the growth of the campus from the 1960s on. The thesis concludes with a more personal reflection of his time at ASU, and his appreciation for the campus.

Olive hopes that his thesis will be used in University 101 classes, and that it will inspire students to “stop and smell the roses” – to take off their sunglasses and unplug their iPods and look around them to really see the Tempe campus.

College is “a finite period,” Olive says. “It’s something that needs to be cherished and absorbed. You can’t get it all without understanding where it came from. It’s not just a place, but a place with history.”