Nelson earned his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Iowa State University in 1943. He later received his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri and his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University.
Hired as the dean of engineering at West Virginia Tech in 1956, Nelson became the University’s longest-standing president. During his tenure, Tech saw enormous change and growth.
He was a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honor Society and Sigma Xi Science Honor Society. He was a registered professional engineer in the State of West Virginia and a member of the American Society for Engineering Education. In 1975, he was inducted into the “Who’s Who in the United States” Honorary Society of America.
An active member of his community, Nelson served on the Board of Directors of the Laird Foundation, Inc.; Montgomery General Hospital; Montgomery Chamber of Commerce; Charleston Federal Savings and Loan Association, and was a member and vice-chairman of the West Virginia Capitol Building Commission.
Dr. Nelson passed away on August 23, 2017. He was the husband of Dr. Rita Wicks-Nelson, professor emerita of psychology, who resides in New York. Dr. Nelson was the father of Sherri McLean, Laurie Adams, Lise Poulos, Nicholas Poulos, Randall Nelson and David Nelson. He has 13 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren.
On March 2, 2018, members of the Tech community gathered to honor Dr. Nelson and his legacy during a memorial reception.