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EUGENE WALTER NELSON
Eugene Walter (Gene) Nelson, a distinguished long-time faculty member of The University of Texas, with the rank of Professor Emeritus, passed away on Thursday, February 20, 1997, in Orem, Utah, at the age of 82.
Dr. Nelson, the second son of Delia (Frederickson) and August K. Nelson, Sr., was born on October 19, 1914, in Austin. He grew up on the family farm located east of Austin just off the Old Weberville Road.
"Schooling" was very important to Gene. He graduated from Austin High School in 1931 and enrolled in The University of Texas that same year. The University of Texas was always very special to Dr. Nelson. As a boy, he could see the Tower of the old Main Building from his family's farm, and in the later days of his association with The University he once said "The University has been the center of my life."
As an undergraduate at UT he majored in Government and Economics. He said "I didn't exactly breeze through the University." The 1930s Depression had him dropping in and out of school, working to keep his educational hopes and plans alive by clerking in a grocery store, painting and wallpapering houses, measuring cotton farm land, and other tasks. He graduated with a Liberal Arts degree with highest honors in 1936.
Upon graduation with his undergraduate degree, he continued his scholastic excellence and background by enrolling in the School of Law and graduating in 1939 with a J. D. degree. He received numerous honors while in Law School. He was a member of the Law Review, Chancellors, Order of the Coif, and served as Chair of the Law School Honor Council.
From 1939-1942 Dr. Nelson practiced law in Austin, Texas, part of the time with the late Senator Yarborough. Also during this period he taught business law part-time at UT as an Assistant Professor. He loved to read and to broaden his educational knowledge. His knowledge of the writings of Mark Twain was outstanding. He was known for frequently attending seminars, auditing courses, and doing independent study in such fields as semantics and value judgment in legal decision making.
On June 25, 1941, he married Rose Helen Sussdorf, a marriage that lasted almost fifty-six (56) years. During this time, three sons were born, David, John, and Daniel. Two became attorneys, and the other a medical doctor. They and their families were one of the joys of Gene's life.
During World War II, from 1942-1944, he was a civilian instructor at the Coleman Flying School in Midland, Texas, where he trained airmen in the fundamentals of meteorology...an assignment which made use of his broad background of knowledge.
From 1944-1946, he taught in the School of Law at Southern Methodist University. During his tenure at SMU he taught eight different courses.
Friends and colleagues, who had long recognized his outstanding teaching talents, recommended him to the Dean of the College of Business Administration to teach business law at The University of Texas at Austin. Once the offer was made it did not take too much persuasion to lure him back to the University he dearly loved.
Hired in 1946 as an Associate Professor, he began a thirty-four (34) plus years association as a full-time faculty member at his University.
His teaching assignments consisted mainly in the teaching of the required business law courses, real estate law courses, and CPA Law Review courses. He was frequently called upon by associations to give seminars. He gave lectures to such groups as the Texas Association of Realtors, the Texas Savings and Loan League, the Texas Nursing Home Association, the Texas Electronic Association, the Texas Oil Jobbers Association, the Texas Ginner's Association, the Texas Social Workers Association and the Legal Secretaries Association. He also taught Bar Review Sections and for two years, 1968-1969, taught at the Colorado Graduate School of Banking at the University of Colorado - Boulder campus.
Teaching was his primary love. At his retirement, he estimated that he had taught more than 20,000 students. Gene's teaching excellence was recognized over the years by a number of awards. This was at a time when few such awards were available for recognition. In 1959 he received the College of Business Administration (CBA) Student Council Teaching Excellence Award. This was followed in 1967 by the Standard Oil of Ohio Teaching Excellence Award, in 1977 the Alpha Kappa Psi Teaching Excellence Award, and his overall-development of students culminated in his being appointed to the William D. Blunk Professorship for the 1979-1980 academic year. This later award is given to a faculty member who has demonstrated devotion to student achievement and personal interaction with students.
Dr. Nelson wrote two textbooks. The first was a business law textbook. The text, Business Law - Text and Cases published by Allyn and Bacon, had two editions. The second edition was published in 1968 with six authors (William R. Bandy, Eugene W. Nelson, Tannell A. Shadid, Gaylord A. Jentz, Jack W. Ledbetter and William L. Velman). The second, The Practical Aspects of Texas Real Estate Law by Lone Star Press, was single authored by him in 1978 in a field which he developed and in which he specialized.
Student organizations typically sought Dr. Nelson's advice and counsel. Over the years he served as advisor to the CBA Student Council, the Pre-Law Association, the Society for Advancement of Management, Omicion Delta Kappa, Sigma Chi, Little Sigmas, Students for Connally and as a Faculty Fellow for Andrews Dormitory, just to mention a few.
His availability to students was unmatched. Students sought his advice both on academic and personal matters, and despite his busy schedule he always found the time necessary to counsel each student in need. He was a professor whose door was always open to everyone. He listed his office hours as "whenever I am not in class."
Administrators of the University, colleagues, and others also sought Dr. Nelson's advice, counsel and service. His service record was envied by many, matched by few. A colleague once said that "Gene Nelson never learned the word ÔNo' in any language."
To list all the committees that he served on would be an embarrassment to Dr. Nelson. Just a listing and a word or two about those which we deem more significant tells a great deal about the man and the respect others held for him.
From 1954-1970, he was continuously reelected as Secretary of the General Faculty. This position not only required the taking, editing, and publishing of the minutes of all University faculty governing bodies, and acting as a parliamentarian for these faculty meetings, but the preparation of legislation for administrative and regent approval, publishing of memorial resolutions, and the list goes on. His faculty and Secretary of the General Faculty offices were one and the same, thus he was always available to students, faculty, the administration, alumni, and others. His sage advice on legal, financial, personal and institutional matters was freely given and gratefully received. He was frequently selected to serve on committees to advise the President or Board of Regents on Dean and President appointments. These administrative posts were and are extremely important to the University. The following list exemplifies the respect for his judgment and advice:
1956-1966 Chairman - Committee to advise the President on selection of the Dean of the College of Business Administration 1967-1968
Committee to advise the President on the selection of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences 1970-1971
Committee to advise the President on the selection of the Vice President for Academic Affairs 1973-1974
Committee to advise the President on the selection of the Dean of the School of Law 1974-1975
Chancellor's Committee to advise on appointment of the President of The University of Texas 1978-1979
Committee to advise the President on the selection of the Dean of the School of Law
Dr. Nelson served on numerous other University committees including the Commencement Committee, the Committee on Committees, the Student Discipline Committee, and numerous College and Graduate School of Business committees including the CBA Academic Development Council, which he chaired. One University committee he thoroughly enjoyed, particularly since all three of his sons played varsity tennis at The University, was the Men's Intercollegiate Athletics Council. He also served as a consultant to the University of Texas Development Board, in particular lending his advice on estate giving.
In appreciation for all his contributions through the years, the College and Graduate School of Business presented him with two of its most prestigious awards, in 1978 the CBA Foundation Advisory Council Distinguished Scholastics Contribution Award, and in 1991 election into the College of Business Administration Hall of Fame, the highest honor the College bestows on faculty, alumni, and business leaders.
On May 4, 1997, at a most fitting site, the College and Graduate School of Business Hall of Honors, a memorial service and tribute was held by family, colleagues, former students and friends to honor "Gene", and to welcome him "home".
Peter T. Flawn, President ad interim
The University of Texas at Austin
H. Paul Kelley, Secretary
The General Faculty
This Memorial Resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors Gaylord A. Jentz (Chair), Stanley A. Arbingast, F. Lanier Cox, and Charles T. Zlatkovich.