ROLAND HILL NELSON, JR. - EIGHTH PRESIDENT, 1968-1970
Marshall University’s eighth president, Ronald H. Nelson was born on July 28, 1928, in Salisbury, Maryland. After graduating from Jarrett High School at Jarrett, Virginia in 1945, he attended Duke University and received a B. A. degree in English in 1949.
In the Fall of 1950 he enrolled at the University of Virginia to pursue a graduate degree and then transferred to the College of William and Mary in the Spring of 1951. His academic work was interrupted in 1951 while he served in the United States Marine Corps; he was discharged in 1953 as a captain.
After his military service, he taught elementary school in Albemarle County, Virginia, until 1955, while he also resumed his graduate work at the University of Virginia, receiving his master of education in 1955. In 1956 he traveled to New Orleans, where he was the headmaster of the Metairie Park County Day School, as well as a part-time professor of education at Tulane University. During this same time he attended summer sessions at Harvard University and completed his Ed.D. degree in 1960.
In 1961 he accepted the position as assistant dean of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, where he remained until 1965. That year he took a job as the dean of Department of Education at Duke University, remaining until 1968 when he became the president of the Richmond Professional Institute at Richmond, Virginia.
Nelson left the Richmond Professional Institute while it was in the process of merging with the Medical College of Virginia to become the Virginia Commonwealth University. As part of the merger, he declined the offer to become provost of the new University, instead coming to Marshall University as Stewart H. Smith’s replacement in the Fall of 1968. Nelson served as Marshall's president for nearly two years at a time of student unrest on college campuses across the country due to the Vietnam War and pressures of the Civil Rights Movement. He resigned in July 1970 and took a faculty position at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he remained until 1985.
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