Honor Roll Spotlight: Norwood “Woody” Nelson

Photo of Woody Nelson, '60 Electrical GeneralWhen Woody Nelson graduated from Dunwoody in 1960 he could never have imagined where his degree would take him. The Electrical General degree not only landed him his first job doing electrical maintenance and repair work in the J&L Steel mines in Northern Minnesota, it also opened the doors that would eventually lead him into facilities management.

Before retiring in 1999, Nelson served as the Director of Corporate Facilities for all of Cummins/Onan — a global power generation leader. Nelson’s career at Cummins spanned more than three decades and took him all over the world. Even after retirement, Nelson has stayed active in his professional organizations and as a consultant.

Growing up on a small farm near Cloquet, Minnesota, Nelson said “fixing things was a way of life.” And during his senior year of high school he was a trainee working as an electrician for a paper company in Cloquet. The job appealed to him and after graduation he made the decision to move to Minneapolis and enroll at Dunwoody.

During the 18 months Nelson was at Dunwoody, he really enjoyed getting to know his classmates and knowing that he was learning a skill that he enjoyed doing.

Photo of Woody Nelson and classmates from 1960.

Woody Nelson (far right), 1960, with Dunwoody classmates.

After graduating, Nelson went to work for J&L Steel while his wife finished up her master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Minnesota.

Understanding that the career opportunities for both he and his wife were far greater in the Twin Cities, Nelson answered a general ad in the Star Tribune for an electrical tester and sent in a letter and resume. At the time, he didn’t know the position was with Onan Corporation, which would later be acquired by Cummins Engine Company. Nelson believes his degree from Dunwoody was one of the reasons he not only got an interview, but was offered a job the same day.

His career at Onan took a different path than the one he expected. He was soon tapped to take on the foreman position and that position led him into his career in facilities management. By 1971, Nelson was the Manager of Plant Engineering for Onan.

Nelson liked the variety and challenge of his work. His work not only meant managing the current facilities, but helping design the new ones. He also became active in several professional associations, including serving as President of the American Institute of Plant Engineers (now Association for Facilities Engineering – AFE) local chapter and serving on the National Board of AFE for 12 years, becoming National President in 1993. In fact, Nelson was honored professionally by his colleagues in 1996 when he was inducted into the AFE’s College of Fellows.

During all this time, Nelson has stayed active and connected to Dunwoody. He and his wife Muriel feel strongly about giving back and have made the decision to become Legacy Association members by including the College in their estate planning.

“Muriel and I have been blessed, so we want to give something back to the places that helped us,” Nelson said. “I hope that in doing so, someone else will have the opportunity to have as much fun as I did in this career and in this life.”

Read more feature stories in the 2015 Annual Report.