Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship Established (2005)

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The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas established the Annie and Willie Nelson Professorship in Stem Cell Research.

“That’s a nice thing,” Nelson said. “I think everybody should do what they can to call more attention to that.”

Nelson and his wife received the honor after a benefit concert held March 4, 2000, in Grand Prairie, Texas, where Nelson performed with fellow Texan artists Los Lonely Boys in an effort that raised about $250,000 for the stem cell program, Kern Wildenthal, president of UT Southwestern said in a statement.

Eric Olson, chair of UT Southwestern’s molecular biology department, was selected to be the first Nelson Professorship recipient. As a guitar player and long-time admirer of Willie Nelson, Olson said that it “makes it such a special honor to be linked to [Willie] in this way.”

Olson described the evolution of UT Southwestern’s cooperation with the Nelsons.

“When an opportunity arose to meet with Annie Nelson, we described to her the power and potential of stem cell research and the plans for our new program. Willie was extremely generous in dedicating his time and talent to raising funds for our program,” said Olson.

Olson said he was pleased with the recognition the program has received because of the Nelsons contribution.

“The Nelsons’ generosity has brought attention to the importance of stem cell research in general and our program in particular.”

The year-old program is not currently researching controversial embryonic stem cells; instead, the program focuses on mouse stem cells to learn more about stem cells and “how their properties can be exploited to treat human diseases,” Olson said.

“Our goals are to understand how stem cells work and to eventually use that knowledge to develop new approaches to repair and regenerate tissues and organs,” he said.

The announcement of the Nelson Professorship came not long after the abandonment of a proposed bill to name a portion of the Texas 130 turnpike in honor of Nelson

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