C. Ellis Nelson, 9 June 2011

Ellis Nelson’s pioneering research and writing about forming Christian disciples through the life of a congregation, coupled with his deep wisdom, gentle wit, and genuine humility, endeared him to several generations and secured his place in the history of the American Presbyterian Church. The only son of Carl and Elizabeth Nelson of Beaumont, Texas, Nelson married Nancy Gribble in 1941. He earned degrees from Austin College, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, The University of Texas, and Columbia University, and was a research fellow at Oxford University in 1964 and 1972. Nelson was ordained by the Presbyterian Church and served as associate minister for University Presbyterian Church, Austin, and as chaplain to the State School for the Blind. Ellis Nelson’s contributions to church life in the twentieth century are noteworthy. In a career that spanned sixty years, he was a minister, researcher, author, consultant, as well as seminary professor, dean, and president. He taught, researched, and wrote well into his tenth decade (he published his last book at age 92). To the very end, Ellis Nelson’s meticulous scholarship, steady presence, and ever-present humor made him a trusted advisor and valued friend.  Nelson began his teaching career at Austin Seminary in 1940. He left in 1957 for New York’s Union Theological Seminary where he was named to the The Skinner and McAlpin Chair of Practical Theology and served as dean. In 1974 he became president of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and served until he retired. He and Nancy returned to Texas and he became interim president at Austin Seminary where he remained on the faculty until his death. He lectured or taught at many U.S. and foreign seminaries. He also served in the public sector: the Texas Legislative Council, the Fair-Housing Committee in Tenafly, New Jersey; and as a founder of the National Council on Religion and Public Education in New York.The Nancy Gribble and C. Ellis Nelson Chair in Christian Education at Austin Seminary was established in 2002. In addition to his beloved wife of seventy years, Nancy, survivors include his son, Ellis Stark, wife, Veronica, and son, Brian; daughter, Karin, husband, John McAnlis, and children, Nancy, Ian, and Carolyn; and sister, Selma. Ellis and Nancy’s daughter, Joy Elizabeth, preceded him in death.

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