Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Esther Elizabeth Oliver

Esther Oliver headed SPC counterterrorism institute

ST. PETERSBURG — Years ago, Esther Oliver went roller skating with her son's family. She survived several trips around the rink, then treated her grandchildren to video games.

Dr. Oliver, who juggled motherhood and graduate studies without compromising either, liked being in the center of the action. She earned her doctorate in her early 40s and got her first teaching job soon after, at the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg Junior College (now St. Petersburg College). A decade later she was running the college's Allstate Center in St. Petersburg, which launched a seminal counterterrorism training institute for "first responders" to emergencies, such as police and firefighters.

Dr. Oliver, who served the last 10 years of a late-blooming career as the head of the Allstate campus, died Friday, of acute pneumonia. She was 70.

"She was dogged in getting the task completed," said recently retired St. Petersburg College president Carl Kuttler, who credited Dr. Oliver with helping to secure "tens of millions of dollars" in federal grants for programs to combat terrorism and drug abuse. "Like with a bone — if you gave it to her, she'd get it done."

Dr. Oliver was one of the nation's first women to lead a counterterrorism school, Kuttler said. Material at the National Terrorism Preparedness Institute covered subjects the English literature professor did not know well at first, such as how to protect yourself in the event of a biochemical attack. She hired experts, sought funding and supervised the creation of national television broadcasts that reached 5.5 million people worldwide, Kuttler said.

Among those trained were 250 New York City first responders in 2000, 14 of whom died the next year in the World Trade Center attacks.

Esther Stump grew up in Coatesville, Pa., an auto mechanic's daughter. She met her future husband, theologian Edward Oliver, while attending the first of two now-defunct bible colleges. She was good with names and called everyone by their first names. Her father's expressions had a way of creeping into her speech, such as, "It's raining forks and hammer handles."

She shuttled her two sons to music lessons and sports activities while getting a doctorate at the University of South Florida. She got her first full-time job at SPJC in 1983. The school made her dean of academic services for all campuses in 1988, then provost of the Allstate campus in 1994.

"She had two sides to her personality," said her son, Scott Oliver, 47. "She was the mom when she was with us, but then she was hard and no-nonsense in her professional life."

Dr. Oliver suffered a cold last weekend and skipped church. On Wednesday she walked Countryside Mall, her daily exercise, but complained she could not breathe well. A doctor Thursday morning referred her to Morton Plant Hospital. She died at 11 a.m. Friday.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.


Esther Elizabeth Oliver

Born: Feb. 24, 1939.

Died: Jan. 8, 2010.

Survivors: Husband Edward T. Oliver; father Vernon D. Stump; brother Vernon Stump; sons Scott and his wife, Tonya, and Gordon and his wife, Marjorie; and five grandchildren.

Esther Oliver headed SPC counterterrorism institute 01/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 8:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs-Bills journal: Breakout game for Bucs tight end O.J. Howard


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It's obscured by the final score and a disappointing loss, but Bucs rookie tight end O.J. Howard had a breakout game Sunday, exceeding his season totals for catches and touchdowns in one afternoon.

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) celebrates a touchdown catch with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Vladislav Namestnikov is Lightning's top-line 'secret'

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Nikita Kucherov is piling up the goals. Steven Stamkos is an assist machine. They make for an impressive pairing in a league that favors scoring pairs over the more traditional three-player scoring lines.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov (90) reacts after scoring during the third period of the game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.
  3. Bucs-Bills report card: Grading the Bucs' 30-27 loss at Buffalo


    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Hard to believe, but this was only the second time in their history that the Bucs played a regular-season game in Buffalo. After Sunday loss, they wouldn't mind going another 40 years without playing here again.

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, seen during the first half, had a heck of a day calling plays, Tom Jones writes. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Passing motorists pull three from burning home in Tampa


    TAMPA — Two men in a passing car rescued two children and a woman from a burning home late Sunday morning.

  5. Bucs-Bills: Social media reactions to the Bucs' 30-27 loss


    Here's a sampling of reactions from the media and fans to the Bucs' 30-27 loss Sunday at Buffalo:

    Buffalo Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka (4) is mobbed by teammates after kicking the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]