Campus Life

Professor Jim Olson Named Inaugural 41 Award Recipient

The award recognizes a Texas A&M faculty member or administrator who exemplifies the values of the late President George H.W. Bush.
By Bush School of Government and Public Service Communications April 11, 2022

James Olson portrait
Professor Jim Olson is the inaugural recipient of the 41 Award.

Texas A&M Foundation

James “Jim” Olson, professor at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, was recently named the inaugural recipient of the Inspiring the Spirit of Aggieland – The 41 AwardDean Mark A. Welsh III announced the recipient at the Donor Appreciation Event April 1.

“Professor Jim Olson’s enduring commitment to his nation, Texas A&M University, faith and family epitomizes the kind of individual we are seeking to recognize with this award,” Welsh said. “Of the many well-deserved nominations we received from colleges and units across the university, I could not be more proud that our own Professor Olson was selected.”

The 41 Award recognizes a Texas A&M University faculty member or administrator whose leadership, example and character motivate others to share in their impact and exemplify the Aggie core values and the values of President George H.W. Bush.

“I do not have the words to express how deeply honored and grateful I am to receive this award,” Olson said. “President Bush personified what all of us in public service have tried to emulate.  It is, in fact, his spirit that guides us and that will live on forever at Texas A&M and the Bush School.”

The character Texas A&M University seeks to develop can best be defined by the Aggie core values — excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service. Because of these core values, the Aggie spirit and traditions, Bush chose Texas A&M to house his school, his library and his and former first lady Barbara Bush’s final resting place. He entrusted Texas A&M with carrying on his legacy. He believed strongly that “there can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others,” and his words continue to inspire and challenge us all to make the world a better place.

Texas A&M faculty and administrators have a crucial role in developing leaders who will live out these core values daily to positively impact our world.

Stephen ’73 and Linda Vincent have generously provided the support for the 41 Award.

“The Spirit of Aggieland lives on through the generations, inspired by countless Aggies who have ‘walked the walk’ of Texas A&M’s core values. President George H.W. Bush made Texas A&M University his final home because he believed and lived his life with these high ideals as his guide,” said the Vincents. “The 41 Award honors and recognizes professors and administrators who instill our students with these values that make the world a better place. Professor Olson is a perfect example of what the 41 Award represents.”

Since formally joining the Bush School faculty 22 years ago, Olson has guided hundreds of students seeking to enter careers of public service in the U.S. Intelligence Community. A former CIA operations officer whose tours of duty included the U.S.S.R. and other foreign assignments, Olson knows the pressure and immense privilege of risking one’s life in service of one’s country. His legacy and devotion have inspired Bush School students to do the same.

After serving in the U.S. Navy for several years, Olson earned his J.D. in international law from the University of Iowa and intended to spend his litigation career in a small Midwestern town. Instead, a CIA recruiter persuaded him to apply, and Olson entered what became an illustrious career in the CIA Directorate of Operations. Olson went on to serve as chief of Counterintelligence at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He is the recipient of the Intelligence Medal of Merit, the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the Counterintelligence Excellence Medal, the Donovan Award and other distinguished achievement awards.

In 1997, at the direction of former CIA Director George Tenet, the CIA assigned Olson to a stint as officer-in-residence at the Bush School. When the Bush School offered up a faculty position, Olson decided to retire from the CIA. Now he provides an invaluable practitioner perspective to the Bush School. His courses have included the Role of Intelligence in Security Affairs, and Counterintelligence. In addition, Olson played a key role in establishing the Intelligence Studies Program.

The Bush School congratulates Professor Olson on this well-deserved award. To learn more about the Inspiring the Spirit of Aggieland – The 41 Award, visit

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