Remembering David Nelson

Profile photo of David NelsonDavid Nelson, longtime La Follette School adjunct instructor and friend of the school, passed away on July 22.

Nelson served as an adjunct instructor for the La Follette School’s graduate-level Policy Making Process (PA 874) course for many years. He received a master of public policy from Georgetown University and a PhD in political science from UW–Madison. Nelson’s publications and research focused on interest groups, lobbying, and mental health policy.

La Follette School Director and Professor Susan Webb Yackee served as a mentor to Nelson while he completed his PhD. “Dave was terrific – fun, fun-loving,” says Yackee. “He was a former big-time lobbyist in Washington, D.C. and he loved to tell stories of his D.C. adventures. He brought the topic of lobbying and government relations alive.”

Nelson was the executive director of the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging. He previously worked for the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association as managing director of alumni engagement.

In past positions, he provided career advising for UW–Madison’s departments of International Studies, Political Science, and Sociology. In this capacity, he oversaw the Washington, D.C., Summer Internship and Research Program and taught courses on state legislative politics, career development, and internships.

Nelson also served as vice president of health care reform for Mental Health America, where he led public policy efforts and spearheaded a national “war room” supporting state advocacy on mental health parity, managed care reform, mental health budgets, and access to treatment. He also managed mental health policies for Bristol–Myers Squibb and oversaw company relationships with government agencies, nonprofits, and health-care organizations in Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan.

Nelson is survived by his wife and two children. Memorials may be made to Mental Health America. Online condolences may be made on the Gunderson memorial page.

David Nelson (right) with now alumni Mikhaila Calice (center) and Abigail Swetz (left) at Madison’s Pride celebration.

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