Nelson was president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary from 1974 to 1981 and interim president of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1984 and 1985. He helped shape the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s “Covenant Life” curriculum and was director of youth work for the Presbyterian Board of Christian Education. He published his last book, “Growing Up Christian,” at age 92.
Born in Texas to Lutheran parents, Nelson studied engineering and physics and later turned to the ministry and Christian education. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, a Master of Arts in educational psychology and sociology from the University of Texas and a doctorate from Columbia University. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1940.
Nelson joined the Austin Seminary faculty in the 1940s and later moved to Union Theological Seminary in New York. In 1987, the Presbyterian Outlook Foundation gave him the E. T. Thompson Distinguished Service Award.
He is survived by his wife, the former Nancy Gribble, his son, Ellis Stark Nelson, daughter-in-law, Veronica, and grandson, Brian; daughter, Karin, and her husband, John McAnlis, and grandchildren, Nancy, Ian, and Carolyn; and by his sister, Selma. Ellis and Nancy Nelson’s daughter, Joy Elizabeth, preceded him in death.
A memorial service was held in Austin June 17. Memorial contributions may be made to the Nelson Chair in Christian Education at Austin Seminary.