Former women’s associate AD to receive lifetime achievement award

This is the second year in a row that a former University of Minnesota women’s athletics administrator was honored.

Andrew Krammer

For the second year in a row, a former University of Minnesota women’s athletics administrator will be honored with a lifetime achievement award by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators. 

Donna Olson, who retired from Minnesota in 2001, is one of three women to receive NACWAA’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award.

She will receive the award at the NACWAA National Convention on Oct. 7-9 in Kansas City, Mo.

The award is given to administrators and professionals “who have dedicated their professional careers to advancing women in sport,” according to NACWAA’s site. 

Olson spent 30 years in athletics, 16 with the Gophers, and helped design facilities at Minnesota for women’s track and field, swimming and diving, soccer, basketball, hockey, tennis and rowing .

Chris Voelz, former Minnesota women’s athletics director, received the award last year. Voelz worked for 14 years at Minnesota until the men’s and women’s departments merged in 2002. Voelz served as Olson’s supervisor during her tenure. 

“NACWAA is honored to celebrate these inspiring trailblazers,” Patti Phillips, NACWAA chief executive officer, said in a release.  “[They] have dedicated their lives to helping women achieve success and ensure gender equity in athletics and the workplace.”

Olson was the tournament manager for six national championships held at Minnesota athletics facilities. 

“[Olson] was always a great organizer,” Gophers women’s cross country coach Gary Wilson said . “Her office always looked like a bomb went off in it, but she would always get it done.”

Wilson, now in his 28th season with the Gophers, worked under Olson from 1985 to 2001. 

Olson was integral in advancing women’s athletics during a time when Title IX was just getting off the ground.

She was responsible for scheduling the first women’s basketball games ever held at Madison Square Garden in 1974, 1978 and 1979. 

“Whatever award Donna [Olson] gets is very, very well-deserved,” Wilson said.