When Mark Nelson ’76 went to school, he worked in an iron foundry and as a car hop at a Steak ‘N Shake 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 summers to cover college costs isn’t an option for students anymore with tuition and housing topping $20,000 a year. That’s why he and his wife, Margie, included the University in their estate planning.

“I’ve been blessed 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 always a strong advocate for education. Leola Lohr was in college during the Great Depression and had to drop out after 3 ½ years because of the 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 she died, her family started the Leola Lohr Nelson Memorial Scholarship to assist students with college costs.

Mark 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. There were a couple of professors who gave me good, wise counsel and helped me a lot beyond school.”