When Kent “Oz” Nelson cochaired Ball State’s 1958 Campus Chest giving campaign, he had no idea of the impact he would have on numerous organizations—including his alma mater—and hundreds of thousands of individuals through his charitable fundraising efforts over the next 50 years.
The United Way…The Carter Center…Jim Casey Youth Opportunity Initiative…Annie E. Casey Foundation…National Museum of Patriotism…Foundation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 1959 business graduate who went on to become the chairman and chief executive officer of UPS has touched all of these organizations and more in big ways and small, helping to raise millions of dollars to support their programs.
Today, Nelson lives in Atlanta with his wife, Ann, two cats, and a dog, and he is still raising money for causes he supports. “I try to limit the organizations I work for because I want to make a difference,” he says, noting that he retired in 1996 so he could dedicate his time to nonprofit work.
He chaired the Ball State Bold capital campaign, which raised $210.8 million.
“I have a great love for the university,” Nelson says. “I’m impressed and pleased with Ball State’s growth and impressed with the leadership. The university is moving ahead aggressively to create an organization even better than what we experienced while we were in school. It’s a wonderful time to step forward to make the gift of a lifetime to the university.”
Nelson did just that by personally committing $1 million to the campaign.
Nelson grew up in Kokomo where a fourth-grade classmate nicknamed him “Oz” after the much-loved character with the same last name in the popular family sitcom, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
Two days after Nelson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he began what would become a long and successful career at UPS. He started as a customer service and sales representative and worked his way up through the ranks.
When he took the helm as CEO in 1989, UPS was in transition. Although strong financially and known for excellent service, the technology end of the business was lagging. Nelson increased technology-related staffing from about 95 to 4,200, which allowed the company to improve its accuracy, speed up processing times, offer electronic tracking services, and obtain electronic signatures. UPS also went worldwide and started its own air operations during his tenure.
“I don’t take credit for any of these accomplishments, but I was there pitching for all of them,” he says. “That’s how we did it at UPS—we worked collectively.”
Nelson also leads by example.
“I know of no other volunteer who works harder for Ball State,” says Ben Hancock, vice president of university advancement. “When it comes to Ball State, Oz always says yes, and he expects others to also say yes.”
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