When Mark Nelson ’76 went to school, he worked in an iron foundry, a veterinary clinic, and at local Steak ‘n Shakes to make enough money to put himself through college.

“If it paid me 2 cents, I was going to do it to make money,” he said.

Although he graduated debt-free, he realizes working low-paying jobs won’t cover college costs these days with students paying more than $20,000 a year in tuition and housing. That’s why he and his wife, Marjie, included the University in their estate planning.

“God has blessed us in so many ways and there are so many kids out there needing help,” he said. “ISU helped me and it’s my opportunity to give back.”

Nelson’s mother was a strong advocate for education. Leola Lohr was in college during the Great Depression but had to drop out after 3 ½ years because of financial hardship. Even at 90 years old, her biggest regret was not finishing her degree. She encouraged her children and grandchildren to value education. When Nelson retired, he and his wife started the Leola Lohr Nelson Memorial Scholarship to assist students with college costs.

Nelson took his degree in biological sciences to the pharmaceutical industry. Three years later he went to MillerCoors, where he worked his way through the ranks, even studying in England before retiring as a brewmaster.
“It’s in my heart to give back to others who aren’t as fortunate as I’ve been,” he said. “I chose to help ISU because it gave me the foundation to be able to do the things I’ve done. The professors provided me wise counsel and helped me a lot beyond school.”