Dr. Tom Nelson, emeritus professor of civil engineering, touched the lives of countless students during his nearly two decades at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. To honor Nelson, who passed away in April of 2020, his family created the Dr. Tom Nelson Civil Engineering Memorial Scholarship.
“Tom had always intended to set up a scholarship,” said Carol Nelson, Tom’s wife. “It seemed to be a fitting memorial for him.”
Adam Mentink, a 2009 civil and environmental engineering graduate described Nelson as personable and someone who wanted to build strong relationships with students and watch them succeed.
“He was a fun guy to be around. I enjoyed developing the relationship I had with him. He cared once you were outside of school too. He wanted to know about you,” Mentink said. “Tom and I had a good connection. When I heard of his passing and this opportunity became available to donate [to the scholarship], it was a no-brainer.”
“Tom adored his students and always enjoyed reconnecting with them after they graduated and hearing about what they were up to,” added Carol. “He was incredibly proud of them and the things they accomplished. I believe he would be honored that some have made contributions to this fund.”
The scholarship criteria include students who are a sophomore, junior or senior pursuing a degree in civil engineering. It also highlights the Chi Epsilon honor society, an organization Nelson was closely involved with, according to Carol.
“He was the faculty advisor for local chapters. He served on the national council for 12 years, including terms as president and vice president,” she said.
Throughout his tenure, Nelson impacted so many students, including Mentink, as they navigated their coursework in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science. Mentink, who is a project manager in the industrial division at JP Cullen in Janesville, Wisconsin, recalls advice he learned from his mentor.
“[The importance] to get involved and develop relationships with people,” he said. “It’s not what you know all the time, but who you know. The importance of that relationship, it doesn’t have to be all business. It can be a personal relationship too. He taught me that through his actions in showing it and staying involved.”
Carol hopes the Dr. Tom Nelson Civil Engineering Memorial Scholarship will help current engineering students and future Pioneers as they embark on their educational journey.
“Tom would be delighted to know that they used the knowledge they gained through their education at UW-Platteville for the benefit of their employers and community,” she said. “Tom was incredibly proud of his affiliation with UW-Platteville and proud of the education the students received.”
To donate to the Dr. Tom Nelson Civil Engineering Memorial Scholarship, visit www.uwplatt.edu/give.