Reverend Carl O. Nelson became the first recipient of the Gustavus Medal when the honor was bestowed upon him by President Jack R. Ohle during a ceremony in late December.
The Gustavus Medal will be awarded to individuals or couples who are living examples of the Gustie Spirit and live out the College’s core values of excellence, community, justice, service, and faith. Gustavus Medal recipients, so designated by the College’s Board of Trustees, will be individuals who have a personal commitment to the College’s mission, quality, and character.
Rev. Nelson grew up in Madrid, Iowa, completed his undergraduate work at the University of Iowa before earning a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Augustana Theological Seminary. After serving two Lutheran churches in Massachusetts, Rev. Nelson devoted the last 40 years of his career to Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis before retiring in 1992.
His ministry at Mount Olivet began as a youth pastor, where he is remembered for building a strong sense of community among young people in the church. He later went on to serve as the education pastor, which allowed him to use his gifts to recruit and train Sunday School teachers for more than 2,000 youth.
Also during his career at Mount Olivet, Rev. Nelson took time to travel and share his faith with others around the world. He visited ELCA global outreach ministries in Japan, Hong Kong, and Tanzania. He also embarked on a three-month trip to Sweden, where he dedicated his time to learning more about seniors and the developmentally disabled.
He carried what he learned in Sweden home with him to Minnesota and incorporated his findings into the care facilities at the Mount Olivet Retirement Care Center and Mount Olivet Rolling Acres. As he entered retirement, Rev. Nelson remained dedicated to his faith and serving others as he continued his ministry by visiting elderly in the Mount Olivet Care Center and Fairview Hospital.
In addition to his contributions as a pastor, Rev. Nelson has affected the lives of many college students at Gustavus and other ELCA institutions by establishing the Carl and Edith Nelson Endowed Scholarships, which were established in honor of his parents.
“Reverend Nelson’s dedication to the College’s mission and core values is certainly evident throughout his life and will continue to live on for generations to come through the many endowed scholarships he has established at nearly all ELCA-affiliated colleges and seminaries,” President Ohle said. “Here at Gustavus, his strong spirit of philanthropy translates to helping hundreds of students obtain a quality education and seek ways to make their lives count.”