Arizona Daily Wildcat November 18, 1997
Olsons honored by Arthritis Center
UA's Arizona Arthritis Center surprised Arizona Basketball Coach Lute Olson and wife Bobbi yesterday by dedicating one of its central offices to the pair in a reception.
The Olsons were ostensibly invited to a small reception for donors who helped launch the Arthritis Center.
When Arthritis Center Board Chairman Saul Tobin announced the evening's real purpose - dedicating the Director's Office and Administrative Suite of the Arthritis Center to the Olsons - both expressed deep surprise.
"I thought this was just going to be a little reception. Whoever dreamt this up did a great job keeping it a secret," Lute Olson said.
Both Olsons were moved to tears as the plaque in their honor was unveiled.
"I think this is the greatest honor we've ever had," said Bobbi Olson.
The dedication was the center's thank you to the Olsons for helping them raise more than $900,000 to date through the Lute Olson Celebrity Charity Auction and Golf Tournament.
Now in its 11th year, the annual tournament includes an auctioning off of University of Arizona basketball coaches and players for a round of golf.
"If it weren't for Lute and the basketball team we wouldn't have an event - we rely on them for this event," said Tamra Frisch, director of development for the center.
The Wildcat basketball coach credited the Southern Arizona Home Builder's Association for raising the funds.
"They organized it and we just showed up," he said.
Still, Olson's support of the foundation was integral in securing the support of the Home Builder's Association, Tobin said.
Olson also credited his players for their support and time in raising funds for the center.
"We've had a lot of players do a great job. This dedication to Bobbi and I is really to the program rather than to two individuals," he said.
"It was a great way for us as a program to be involved with the community."
Mel Zuckerman, a center board member, said the Olsons' support is valuable in inspiring others to give.
Zuckerman, founder of Canyon Ranch Inc., recently made headlines with his $10 million contribution to the Arizona Prevention Center.
"When people are willing to give, it motivates others to give," Zuckerman said.
Tobin said the Arthritis Center was built entirely on private contributions and funds raised from benefits like the tournament.
Dr. James Dalen, vice president for health sciences, said the success of the Arthritis Center exhibits how private giving of time and resources strengthens UA programs.
"The secret weapon we have is the people of Arizona. They are extremely generous. The Arthritis Center is a prime example," he said.
The center is in the midst of raising funds for its second phase of construction, which will bring six more labs to the center.
Funds raised by this year's golf tournament will go toward the new construction.
The board has $400,000 and is looking for $500,000 more to meet the cost of the project, Tobin said.
"And then Lute can retire," he added.