By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist
August 12, 2020 | 11 a.m.
On July 29, 2020, a group of 13 Bethel students and alumni spent much of the day in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, a town of about 2,000 people located 90 miles south of the Twin Cities. They gathered at the home of Brian and Lois Nelson, and they were there to laugh, to cry, and to remember. On that date just a year earlier, they had lost one of their own, when Anthony Nelsonson of Brian and Lois and a standout student, athlete, and business major entering his senior year at Bethelwas killed in a car accident near campus.
Anthony was kind, compassionate, fun-loving, and devoted to his friends and family. A talented athlete, he played football and basketball at Bethel before deciding to devote all his efforts to academics. As a business major, his high standards, focus, and drive helped him earn stellar grades, and he was also involved in BethelBiz (Bethel's business alumni network), a part of the Student Managed Investment Fund management team, and a key member of the business department's Deloitte Case Competition for accounting students.
Anthony's participation in the case competition helped him forge a connection with Deloitte, a top four international accounting firm with offices in Minneapolis. While participating in the firm's summer Premier Student Program, he met Jason Flinn, a partner with Deloitte, who subsequently offered him a full-time position at the firm after graduation. "In the short period of time I got to know Anthony," says Flinn, "he exemplified the characteristics and values that we seek in our employees."
When the unthinkable happened on July 29, 2019, Flinn attended Anthony's funeral. Later, Flinn contacted Bruce Olsen, associate professor of business, with an idea: a memorial scholarship honoring Anthony. "We wanted to do something meaningful to honor Anthony's memory in a lasting way," Flinn says. The fund began with a donation from Flinn, matched by Deloitte's corporate gift matching. Olsen challenged the business and economics faculty to make gifts and pledges, and business alumni soon joined in. Currently, 33 gifts and pledges totaling $25,485 have been contributed to the Anthony Nelson Memorial Scholarship, an endowed scholarship that benefits future accounting and finance students who demonstrate character traits similar to Anthony.
Alicia (Nelson) Levno '09, Anthony Nelson's sister
Anthony set the standard pretty high. He wasby all accountsan incredible person, student, and friend. "Anthony lived a life that was consistent with who he was as a person," says his sister, Alicia (Nelson) Levno '09. "He had a unique way of making everyone feel like they were someone special. He knew his priorities, and despite being involved in many activities, he always prioritized his relationships and made sure people felt seen, included, and loved."
Olsen recalls that same emphasis on relationship and engagement in Anthony's Bethel activities. "People wanted to be around him," Olsen says. "He was an exemplary student, engaged in the classroom, asking great questions and making sure he understood the most complex issues. He wanted to be involved in everything."
Levno agrees, remembering that after some initial hesitation about attending Bethel, Anthony arrived on campus and flourished. "He found amazing friends, an excitement for business, and a passion for exploring everywhere and everything," she says. "His plan was to take over the family farm in the future, so he committed to learning accounting skills that would benefit him. When he set his mind to something, he was focused on becoming the best, and Bethel's business program gave him opportunities to be challenged, learn, and develop the skills he would need as an accountant and eventually as a farmer entrepreneur."
Anthony's generosity of spirit and heart for people live onin his legacy, and in the scholarship that bears his name. "We are humbled and grateful," says his mother, Lois Nelson. "Anthony loved Bethel more than any kid ever could. He grew so much as a person and in his faith while he was there. Now his memory will live on there and help others to have a great Bethel experience like he did. He always made us so proud, and he still does."