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Featured Faculty: Coach Nelson

In this edition of Featured Faculty, we talk with Suffolk University’s Director of Athletics, “Coach” Jim Nelson. Coach Nelson has been a longstanding figure at Suffolk, a man who helped advance the Athletic program to what it is today. Coach Nelson is renowned for his kindness and dedication to Suffolk University, and its students. Coach Nelson has won multiple awards for his service, both as a head coach and as Director. Coach Nelson will retire at the end of August after serving Suffolk University for 46 years.

Coach Nelson started with Suffolk in 1966, serving as the Assistant Director of Athletics and an Assistant Basketball Coach. In 1975, Coach Nelson was named Director of Athletics and Head Coach for the Men’s Basketball team. During the 1975-1976 season, he guided the team to their first NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. He would lead the Rams to the NCAA Championship Tournament two more times in his 20-year head coach career. Since joining the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) in 1999-2000, the Rams have won 11 conference championships and made eight NCAA Tournament appearances. Currently, Coach Nelson is Chairman of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament Committee.

IMG_0134In 2010, Coach Nelson was named as the GNAC’S Executive of the Year. “He’s a mentor to all of us,” Commissioner of the GNAC, Joe Walsh said. “[He] has proven his dedication to sportsmanship and ethical conduct in everything he’s done.”

In 2012, Coach Nelson was named the Northeast region’s Division III Athletic Director of the Year.

Earlier this year, Coach Nelson was honored by the Suffolk Student Government Association with a Lifetime Achievement Honor.

When asked what he thought his greatest accomplishments were at Suffolk, Coach Nelson said, “I’m pleased that we have been able to continue the excellence of the sports that were already on campus, and then to add a significant number of additional sports, and in particular: to increase the number of sports for our women student-athletes.

“Suffolk is so ingrained in my everyday fabric. … Certainly,  I will miss the everyday opportunities and challenges that occur working at an athletic department. … Like any circumstance, it’s the people that you come in contact with each day – my colleagues here at the Athletic Department, and throughout such a wide range of the University,” he added. “[We] cannot forget the opportunities I have with students and student athletes on a daily basis. It’s a wonderfully exciting environment. … And as I say so often, I had four wonderful years at Boston College, but I’ve had over four decades of most memorable experiences at Suffolk. [In] so many regards, Suffolk is really my true alma mater.”                                  

Coach Nelson says his family has mixed emotions about his retirement.

“Suffolk has been such an enormous part of their life as well. Three of our five children hold degrees from this University. It was so much a part of my social life, with my family…and obviously bringing them over here for their classroom setting. We are, what might be said, a truly Suffolk family,” coach explained. “I’m so pleased that I’ve been blessed with good health. And could I go to fifty years at Suffolk? Probably with my eyes closed on that. … I hope to continue to teach my course on the History of Sport in the Olympic Games. The President has asked me to serve on a committee that will look at the long-range plan of Athletics and certainly, if I can be of assistance in any way possible I’m only a phone call or a shout away.”

Because Coach Nelson has been such a prominent figure at Suffolk, many people had only the best to wish of him:

“Coach Nelson is the true Mayor of Suffolk,” said Head Baseball Coach Cary McConnell. “He knows everyone’s name and when he stops to talk with you, he really cares about what’s going on in your life.”

IMG_0056Head Coach of the Softball team, Jackie Davis says, “My experience with Coach Nelson is that his love for Suffolk is unconquerable and you can read it all over his face and all over his actions, and gestures. He is the warmest, most dedicated man to these students. His door is always open for them. He makes the point to know all their names and to acknowledge their accomplishments. The love that he receives in return really makes a statement about what he’s done in his career here and how important he’s been to these student athletes- In their entire lives- not just their athletic careers.”

Suffolk University Hall of Fame Class of 2013 inductee Ron Mendez says Coach Nelson is “a gentleman that could have really been a Dean of Students if he wanted.  He definitely has the abilities and the experience to do it. But he chose to be the Director of Athletics. He took that with a lot of pride, passion, and dedication. He is a true encyclopedia of Suffolk sports, the tradition, all the legendary teams that came to it. Definitely going to miss him and wish him the best in his retirement of course, with his family.”

Coach Nelson, it has been great working with you, and we at The Suffolk Voice wish you and your family the best in the future.

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