Olson participates in German event honoring Dirk Nowitzki

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (left) and Dr. Eric Olson

By Debbie Bolles

Some might say Dr. Eric Olson, Chair of Molecular Biology, has friends in high places. So high, in fact, that his admiration of the Dallas Mavericks led him to Germany recently to help present an award to 7-foot-tall Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki.

The 11-time NBA All-Star received the Transatlantic Partnership Award from the American Chamber of Commerce in honor of outstanding leadership and civic work through the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, a charitable children’s organization he founded.

“Dirk Nowitzki has captured the heart of Dallas, Texas, the United States, and Germany through his dazzling athleticism and contributions to the betterment of children. It was humbling and exhilarating to be able to participate in this event in recognition of Dirk’s contributions,” said Dr. Olson of the Oct. 5 black-tie gala in Berlin.

Dr. Olson presented the “Laudatio” or high praise of Mr. Nowitzki during the ceremony, leading to Mr. Nowitzki’s acceptance of the award. Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Coach Rick Carlisle also attended the event.

“I’m a big Mavericks fan. After the Mavs won the 2011 NBA title, Dirk’s wife, Jessica, had a surprise birthday party for him. I was invited and had a wonderful evening,” Dr. Olson said.

So what do a German-born pro athlete and a molecular biologist renowned for finding genes that control heart development have in common? Dr. Olson said the answer is simple: He studies the heart, and Mr. Nowitzki is an athletic superstar with the heart of a champion.


Dr. Olson is Director of the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Basic Research in Cancer and the Nearburg Family Center for Basic and Clinical Research in Pediatric Oncology. He holds the Pogue Distinguished Chair in Research on Cardiac Birth Defects, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Science, and the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research.